Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command announced Wednesday that they have begun rolling out new upgraded Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank, or LAV-AT, weapon systems to its fleet Marine force.
The program office achieved its initial operational goals in September by completing field tests for four upgraded LAV-ATs with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, which is based out of Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The new anti-tank weapon system fires tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided BGM-71 anti-tank missiles, or TOW missiles, that are produced by defense contracting company Raytheon and have been in service since the Vietnam War.
TOW missiles provide long-range stand-off distance for LAV crews engaging enemy up-armored vehicles such as troop transports and tanks. Light Armored Reconnaissance units frequently work with conventional infantry forces and have the ability to provide ground observation intelligence in all climates, including during periods of limited visibility.
Jim Forkin, team lead for the Program Manager's Office for LAV-AT, said the goal was to "get a new turret on the LAV-AT platform that was easy to maintain, reliable and effective."
"Compared to the legacy version, the new turret is unmanned, it fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and it can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight," Forkin said.
Additionally, the Marine Corps says the new anti-tank system has a "Far Target Location system, new commander and gunner video sight displays, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which helps rotate the weapon system onto a target."
"The turret is important because it protects Marines and gives them an enhanced capability that they didn't have before," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael S. Lovell, Ordinance Vehicle Maintenance officer on the PM LAV team. "The new turret on the LAV-AT helps us watch over other vehicles and target enemies with increased vision."
LAV crews receiving the new weapon system receive two weeks of training by the program office. Improvements in training technology allow LAV crews to practice operating and firing the turret without wasting resources -- a feature that the previous LAV turrets were not equipped to do.
"This function is new to the LAV-ATM platform and will enhance sustainment training while in garrison or the field without wasting resources," said Forkin. "With new technological advances, the overall design and functionality has improved."
Complete fielding of the new weapon system is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, according to the Marine Corps.
"Marines who serve as anti-tank gunners will be able to do their job better," said Lovell. "We're providing a product that gives Marines an enhanced anti-tank capability improving their forward reconnaissance and combined arms fire power on the battlefield."