A look back

The RAM/RS program continues history of successful Marine Corps systems

When FMC management realized in 1940 that U.S. involvement in World War II was inevitable, they had a decision to make. Because they wouldn’t be able to continue making peace-time goods, they would either be forced to close plants, or become involved in producing a war-time product. The decision to manufacture a war-time product led to the company’s first attempt at producing amphibious vehicles.

FMC entered into a competitive program to develop an amphibious landing vehicle for the Marine Corps. The only prototype for this LVT (Landing Vehicle, Tracked) was a rescue vehicle designed by John Roebling, used on mercy errands in the Florida swamps. FMC engineers redesigned the Roebling Alligator, adapting it for combat.

The new LVT, named the Water Buffalo, proved very successful and was judged superior when compared to other vehicles.

The Water Buffalo’s success led to a multi-million dollar contract from the U.S. Marine Corps. FMC built more than 11,000 amphibious landing vehicles, which contributed significantly to the successful completion of the war in the Pacific.

Evolution of the Water Buffalo

After World War II, FMC continued producing amphibious landing vehicles for the Marine Corps, and also expanded into ground vehicles for the Army, developing and producing the M113 Family of Vehicles.

In the early 1970s, after an aggressive development program, FMC and the U.S. Marine Corps introduced the LVT7 Vehicle. "The LVT7 replaced the LVT5 to provide significant improvements in water and land mobility and survivability," said Ron Costella, Engineering Manager RAM/RS.

In 1982, FMC was contracted to conduct the LVT7 Service Life Extension Program, which converted the LVT7 vehicles to the improved AAV7A1 vehicle by adding improved suspension and power train and improved the overall maintainability of the vehicle.

Need still exists for AAV

In the mid 1990s, the U.S. Marine Corps recognized the need to maintain the AAV7A1 fleet to bridge the time before the new AAAV vehicle would be fielded. The Reliability, Availability and Maintainability/ Rebuild to Standard (RAM/RS) Program was initiated by the U.S. Marine Corps and contracted to United Defense.

The RAM/RS contract, awarded to United Defense in 1998, rebuilds the Marine Corps’ fleet of AAV7A1s with new, more powerful engines and an improved suspension system.

This program integrates existing Bradley Fighting Vehicle parts, that are readily available, into the AAV7A1, resulting in the restoration of optimum vehicle performance characteristics that had been diminished by several weight increasing improvements. In addition, the Technical Engineering and Management Support team established United Defense as the engineering/logistics support contractor for the AAV7A1 Vehicle.

In addition to United Defense resources, United Defense subcontracts with Advanced Engineering and Research Associates, Inc. (AERA) and VSE Corp., the two previous support contractors, to assure that the full spectrum of AAV7Al support is captured and used to support the AAV7A1 and the Marines.

The hull modifications are being performed at both the San Jose and York United Defense sites, with components being supplied by our Aiken, S.C. and Anniston, Ala. plants. The hulls being modified at GSD-San Jose are being delivered to the Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base in California.

York will be modifying hulls coming from the Albany, Ga. Marine Corps Logistics Base until June 1999 when a United Defense-run facility on the Albany, Marine Corps Logistics Base will be up and running. The facility is a government/industry partnership located at the Logistic Base.

"The program is doing very well. We have modified over 35 hulls at the San Jose and York sites with the Albany site on schedule for operation in June," said Rob Ronconi, RAM/RS Program Manager.

"The formal rollouts for the first vehicles produced at the Logistics Bases in Albany and Barstow are scheduled on April 28 and May 6. We are also very proud that the RAM/RS Program was the only Department of the Navy recipient of the prestigious Packard Award for excellence in program acquisition."

Next story: A look at the new Albany, Ga. facility.

-- Jacquie Garces