Effort to retrieve AAV under way off Okinawa

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Amphibious assault vehicles are heavier than water, that’s a given.

And when AAVs, also known as amtracs, fill with water, they are even heavier and bound to sink.

Marines on Okinawa are investigating the accidental sinking of an amtrac April 17 during a loading exercise in the waters off northeast Okinawa, near Camp Schwab.

“During routine ship-loading operations in the afternoon, an AAV became disabled,” said Marine 1st Lt. Amy Malugani. “While being towed, the AAV took on sufficient water to sink.”

Malugani said the amtrac was being towed back to the USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) when it sank in about 155 feet of water. It sank in the water surface training area outside the reef at Camp Schwab, Malugani said.

“There are no signs that this incident will cause environmental problems,” she said.

She also said the sunken vehicle was not a navigational hazard.

An amtrac weighs about 24 tons when empty and is valued at $2.5 million, Malugani said. The AAVs typically have a crew of three and can carry up to 21 fully equipped troops or 10,000 pounds of cargo.

No one was injured in the incident.

The loading exercise was in preparation for Land Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise 2003, Malugani said. CARAT is an annual series of bilateral training exercises with Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Malugani said the sinking of an amtrac is a “very rare occurrence” and the Marines might be able to salvage the vehicle.


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