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Why the Marines Love Their LAV-25 "Destroyers"

Kyle Mizokami

Technology, Americas


A spunky and useful vehicle.

Key point: The LAV-25 has served in many conflicts and proven its usefulness.

The LAV-25, the U.S. Marine Corps’ main armored reconnaissance vehicle, has its origins in an effort to develop a new, highly mobile strike force for the Middle East. Fast, lightly armored and armed with a Bushmaster chain gun, the LAV acts as the marines’ cavalry, scouting ahead of other friendly forces and seeking out the enemy. Over the past thirty-five years the nearly 1,000 LAVs have served from Panama to Iraq, where it earned the nickname “The Destroyer.”

In 1980 it was clear the political situation in the Middle East was deteriorating. Citing the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Carter administration established the so-called Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Designed to quickly deploy U.S. air, sea and land forces across the world into the Middle East, the RDF (which later evolved into U.S. Central Command) demanded strategic mobility and firepower.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps examined a new generation of light armored vehicles that could be used to equip their contributions to the RDF, including the AAI RDF/LT, or Rapid Deployment Force Light Tank, equipped with the ARES 75-millimeter automatic cannon, dune buggies armed with TOW missiles and heavy machine guns, and the new M1047 LAV. Based on the GM Canada Light Armored Vehicle, itself based on the Swiss Mowag Piranha, the M1047 was an eight-by-eight wheeled armored vehicle with a turret armed with a 25-millimeter Bushmaster automatic cannon and a 7.62-millimeter medium machine gun.

While the army declined to adopt the M1047 the Marine Corps embraced the new vehicle. The marines would use what they called the LAV-25 as an infantry fighting vehicle, a kind of Bradley lite, and made room for six infantrymen to sit inside. The Marines created four Light Armored Vehicle battalions, one per marine division.

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