View Full Version : Fort Knox houses Marine Corps’ new weapon

12-10-07, 12:14 PM
FORT KNOX — Combat engineers of the Marine Corps soon will have a new weapon in their arsenal.
Known as an assault breacher vehicle, the first two to roll off the assembly line in Anniston, Ala., now are sitting at Fort Knox.

The vehicle allows combat engineers, who are responsible for mobility missions in the Marine Corps, to detonate a minefield from a safe distance then clear the debris while simultaneously marking the alley of safe passage for vehicles or people to follow.

“We’re extremely excited about this vehicle,” said Lt. Col. Roger Angel, commander of the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Knox. “It’s the first time we are giving the people with the mission (the combat engineers) the equipment they need to do their jobs of mobility and counter-mobility effectively.”

In a tactical environment, when troops encounter a minefield, the ABV commander can engage the Linear Demolition Charge System, which raises a rocket launcher. The operator can fire one of two linear demolition charges. Once the charges are in place, the vehicle commander can detonate them from as far away as 62 meters. The charges can clear a swath 16 meters across and 90 meters long.

Once the explosives have blown the mines, the vehicle can drop its blade to plow the area while the lane marker system shoots three-foot-tall rods into the ground from dispensers on the rear of the vehicle. This effectively delineates the lane of safety for other vehicle drivers.

“They’ll know where the cleared path is,” said Gunnery Sgt. Bradley Gill, the ABV instructor who teaches operators and mechanics. “They just need to stay between those (rods).”

The vehicle is constructed on an M-1 tank’s hull, so it looks much like a tank.

“It drives just like a tank,” Gill said.

Many of the parts already are in the system, because it shares many common parts with tanks.

Like its tracked cousin, the ABV has reactive armor panels that can deflect the force of incoming rounds. However, this vehicle does not sport the big guns of an M1A1; its only weapon is the .50-caliber machine gun for the vehicle commander’s use.

The ABV can eliminate explosive or nonexplosive obstacles by attaching different blades to the vehicle’s front.

Four front-end attachments are available, including a full-width mine plow for removing buried mines, a surface mine plow, a rapid ordnance removal system for clearing improved surfaces such as runways or roads and a normal dozer blade that can push cars or earthenworks out of the way. Gill said the blades only take about five minutes to change and the vehicle’s usual two-man crew can easily accomplish the task.

The decision to implement the first two ABVs at Fort Knox was made after considerable deliberation, Gill said. The factors probably included the maintenance support structure already is in place at Fort Knox, and training space for the vehicles.

Further, the Marines train their tank crewmen and mechanics at Fort Knox.

“Plus the fact that there must be centuries of experience with track vehicles here,” Gill said. “So the Home of Armor is probably the best place to train it.”

Although the first ABVs are at Fort Knox exclusively, the fleet Marine force should be getting its vehicles early next year, Gill said.

“Testing is completed, the vehicle has been purchased and they are being manufactured as we speak,” Gill said.

Even though the vehicles look like tanks, they will not go to tank units.

“Mobility is a combat engineer mission, so (the ABVs) are going to combat engineers and will be operated by combat engineers,” Gill explained. “They will be maintained by tank mechanics and these ABV mechanics that I’m training right here.”

While the ABV has been purchased solely by the Marines to date, Angel doesn’t think it will stay that way for long.

“The Army will probably end up buying this,” he said with a smile.