Marines from 1st LAR Battalion prepare to move out in their LAV-25A2 to the range on Al Asad Air Base. The Marines first have to calibrate the sights on their small-arms prior to going on real-world operations, February 2, 2009.
An up-armored program was successfully completed in April 1991 utilizing Light Appliqué System Technique (LAST) ceramic tile armor kits developed by the Foster-Miller Inc. The $2 million contract was awarded for 75 prototype kits to add additional armor for LAVs deploying to Saudi Arabia. The appliqué armor within the LAST kits utilizes a hook and loop attachment system and can be installed by the crew to add protection from .50-caliber/12.7mm and 14.5mm rounds. Yet the kits were developed too late to see action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. After the war, the LAST kits were split, equipping Marine LAV units on the East and West Coasts.
In 1998, Marine LAV units started to receive passive armor systems with protection against 20mm armor-piercing rounds fired from 15m away. Known as the Composite Ceramic Armor (CCA) system, the kits were produced by the Ordnance Systems Division of Rafael, Israel.
In 2000, the Marine Corps selected Metric Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to perform a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) for the branch's remaining 770 LAVs. The program was initiated to increase survivability, reliability, and bring down the operational and support costs. To increase the LAV survivability, add-on camouflage panels were used to reduce the vehicle's visual signature, as well as heat emissions. The vehicle's exhaust system was treated to improve thermal reduction. Electrical and electronic systems with high failure rates were upgraded, and corrosion control was improved, decreasing the operational cost per vehicle. A heads-up display (HUD) was integrated into the driver's compartment to improve safety during operations. LAVs assigned to fleet locations had the SLEP kits installed by contractors. Depot personnel located at Albany, Georgia, and Barstow, California, would also install the SLEP kits as needed when an LAV underwent inspections. Once an LAV had received the SLEP upgrades, it was designated an LAV-A1, the first of which was ready for service in May 2003.
In 2005 a Marine Corps force structure review board added five companies to the four LAR battalions, with a goal of increasing the LAV inventory to 1,005 vehicles. Additional procurement began in 2006, with 125 vehicles needed to field the additional companies. The new vehicles would incorporate lessons learned from experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, these conflicts contributing to significant survivability upgrades within the Marine Corps' LAV program. The changes gave the vehicle a new A2 designation. The A2's external changes include a three-kit armor system designed to increase survivability against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and kinetic energy weapons. The additional weight of the new armor dictated a change in the LAV's suspension. The upgraded suspension consists of improved shocks, struts, torsion bars, drive shafts, and steering knuckles.
Internal changes include an automatic fire suppression system and better ballistic protection within the hull. The turret upgrade utilizes electric power to traverse, replacing the hydraulic system. A Raytheon AN/PAS-13 Improved Thermal Sight System (ITSS) allows for increased lethality in all-weather day/night conditions. The sight incorporates a new laser rangefinder, fire-control solutions, and improved target acquisition, giving the A2 enhanced first-hit performance. In February 2006, a contract was awarded to General Dynamics to produce the LAV-A2s, with multiple variants, the first of which was accepted on October 12, 2007. The majority of the 893 LAV vehicles within the Marine Corps' inventory as of 2011 have been brought up from the LAV-A1 baseline to the A2 standard. The last of the LAV-A1 variants within the inventory will be upgraded as they are rotated from maritime prepositioning ships.