Lightweight vehicle is put to the test by 173rd Airborne Brigade ahead of multinational exercises
By NORMAN LLAMAS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 16, 2021
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The 173rd Airborne Brigade trained its drivers over the past week on one of the Army’s latest infantry vehicles, ahead of participation in the large-scale Defender-Europe 21 and African Lion exercises later this year.
The Vicenza-based unit has been using the Army Ground Mobility Vehicle — described as a “21st century Jeep” — since 2018. But members of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment are now training a new batch of AGMV operators at an Italian army base in Pordenone, located just a few miles from Aviano Air Base.
Army officials consider the all-terrain AGMV a much-needed addition to global quick response forces like the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 82nd Airborne Division. The General Dynamics vehicle can be slung beneath a UH-60 Black Hawk or carried inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, and delivered to a landing zone along with the unit’s troops.
Weighing 6,000 pounds, it can carry a nine-member infantry squad and all their gear from the landing zone to their destination. This allows the troops to be dropped further away from potential enemy fire and then use the AGMVs to find an off-road avenue of approach that an adversary isn’t expecting. The troops themselves also wouldn’t be fatigued once they reach their destination.
“This vehicle’s very versatile, said Sgt. Devin L. Cook, a section leader. “It can manage going up to 45 degrees sideways and up to 60 degrees uphill, without rolling over.”
The vehicle has its share of fans and like many new systems, its critics, who have said the occupants inside the unarmed, unarmored vehicle would be vulnerable to small arms fire.
First Lt. Bandon C. Vance, a platoon leader, said there are plans to mount weapons such as machine guns on the vehicles.
“The way our AGMVs are configured at the moment, it’s not possible to mount a turret ... unless a kit was installed to allow for that to happen,” he said.
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems was awarded a $33.8 million contract in 2018 for the production of AGMVs and their associated kits. This was the first award for the production and fielding of the first set of vehicles.
“We awarded, in total, about $55M for 168 A-GMV 1.1s and associated kits. The 168 vehicles are spread across three airborne [brigades]. With 59 going to the 173rd, 59 to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, and 50 going to the 4th Battalion, 25th Infantry Division,” Steven M. Herrick, the GMV product lead for the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said via email.
The Defender-Europe 21 exercise this spring will include about 30,000 U.S. and allied troops in the Balkan and Black Sea regions. African Lion, which is scheduled to kick off in June, will be a multinational exercise in Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Ghana.
Sgt. Devin L. Cook, of Company D, 1st Battalion, 503rd Regiment, Vicenza, Italy, drives an Army Ground Mobility Vehicle during training at La Comina Italian army base in Pordenone, a few miles south of Aviano Air Base, April 15, 2021. The AGMV's versatility allows it to drive at steep angles without rolling over.
NORMAN LLAMAS/STARS AND STRIPES