Young Marines have big impact on assault breaching vehicle design

22 Sep 2004 | Mr. Bruce Scott

A team of young Marines from around the Corps is putting the Assault Breaching Vehicle (ABV) through final stages of limited user evaluations at the Army Test Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Aberdeen, MD, and helping to make final improvements to the vehicle before it is fielded next year. 

The ABV is a tracked, armored combat engineer vehicle built to breach minefields and obstacles. With an assortment of compatible plows and implements available, the ABV is a powerful and versatile solution to complex tactical problems.  Built on an M1A1 Abrams chassis, it puts a new engineering capability in the Marine Corps arsenal, and brings with it the mobility and survivability of a main battle tank.

Thirteen combat engineers and tank repair technicians from 1st Forces Service Support Group, Twentynine Palms, CA, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA, and 2d Combat Engineer Battalion, Camp Lejeune, NC, are at the Aberdeen Proving Ground to assist Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Ponikvar, MARCORSYSCOM’s ABV Project Officer. According to Ponikvar, 41, of Akron, OH, they have been involved in all aspects of developing the vehicle from design to fabrication, and their suggestions have proved invaluable to its completion.

According to the APG test director, Dave McCartney, the Marines made many suggestions that were subsequently implemented to improve the design and functionality of the ABV.   For example, Marines found that the original remote control system was too bulky and suggested it be modified.  Its designers, from Pearson Engineering, went to the electronics section of a local discounter and purchased a commercial off-the-shelf video game controller.   According to Marines, this lightweight and familiar device was the perfect solution.

Marines helped design the “SL3 box” for storing extra gear, and came up with a design for the turret penetration box.  Marines also suggested an external telephone be added to the back of the ABV, allowing dismounted troops the ability to talk with Marines in the ABV without exposing themselves by climbing on it. 

According to 21-year-old Corporal Robert Lord from Cedar Lake, IN, of the 2d CEB, “It’s new to me to have had so much input on a project like this. This is something that I can look back on twenty years from now and say I participated in.  From an engineering standpoint, the equipment will make the job easier.”

According to Mercerd, CA’s Corporal Jeremiah Johnston, 22, of 2d CEB,  “Driving a 63-ton, 2.7 million dollar vehicle was a rush.   But we don’t think about it that much.  They tell us what to do and we go do it.” Johnston explained that their job at Aberdeen is to push the vehicle to its limits.   “We are not out here for recreation.  We are testing the vehicle.  Since the vehicle can be operated robotically, you would not put anybody’s life at risk.”   Corporal Carlos Lopez of 1st CEB who is 23-years old from McAllen, TX, added that, “It’s really easy to use”.  Corporal Josh Rickey, 21, from Chillicothe, IL, also of 1st CEB, who has worked on the ABV with the other Marines since February said, “Once we get it to 100% it will be a good vehicle (to have) in the field.”

Marine Corps Systems Command