KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Marine Corps has deployed a new weapon to fight Afghan insurgents’ roadside bombs.
The 62-ton Assault Breacher Vehicle — built from a refurbished M1 Abrams tank chassis — can be equipped with a plow and bulldozer blade to dig up roadside bombs and breach obstacles.
The $3.7 million ABV also can be equipped with a line charge packed with about 1,750 pounds of C4 explosives that can be launched from the vehicle and detonated to clear a path through mine fields and other obstacles.
The vehicle can even lay stakes in the ground to mark the cleared path.
The Marine Corps sent five of the vehicles to Afghanistan in September. In early December, the vehicles played a pivotal role in an operation in Now Zad in northern Helmand province by clearing a path through a Taliban stronghold.
"It basically took the fight out of the belly of the insurgents when it got there," said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Kirk Cordova, commander of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. "It was unbelievable (in Now Zad). It performed better than expected."
Marine 1st Lt. Jody Stelly, who commanded a 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion platoon that used the ABVs, said once the enemy realized what they were up against, they tried to flee.
"It did very well against the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) we encountered," Stelly said.
"It will be coming to a town near you in the very near future," Cordova said.
The vehicles were rebuilt at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.
Usually the depot partners with a defense contractor on projects, but it worked with the Marines on the ABV, said Michael Burke, general manager for production operations.
The biggest part of building the ABV was fabricating a new turret to replace the M1’s main gun, he said.
The Marine Corps is purchasing 52 of the vehicles and the Army is getting 187, Burke said.
Army officials could not be reached for comment.
Before the ABV was developed, Marines used bulldozers, tanks with mine plows and other vehicles to do what the new vehicle can do, said J.F. Augustine, mobility counter mobility team leader with the Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va.
"We spent about five years in development, test and evaluation," Augustine said. "This is a completely new way of doing business."