Many LAV IIIs-so new to the Army-came straight from the factory painted UN white and rolled onto a ship bound for Eritrea and their first deployment. Eritrea has presented a challenging proving ground for the LAV III. This mountainous country has narrow, winding roads and is often extremely hot and dusty.
The LAV III, however, has been pushed almost non-stop since the deployment began, and the vehicle has been exceeding expectations from very early on, said Capt Damon Dyer, Operations Officer, H-Company Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2 RCR).
Although 2 RCR has been one of the first infantry battalions to train on the new vehicles, and the first to receive a full complement, there was a certain amount of "breath-holding" over how they would actually fare on deployment.
"We're very impressed with the vehicle," said Capt Dyer. In the first seven weeks of the operation, LAV IIIs have had only two very minor mechanical failures.
Although the LAV III is quite large, perhaps even cumbersome in appearance, it has excellent mobility. Equipped with powerful engines, they manoeuvre up grades exceeding 60 degrees on daily patrols.
"About the only place it can't go are the places mountain goats can't go," said Capt Dyer.
One of the most useful systems on board has proven to be the thermal imaging, enabling the Canadian troops to "own the night." While on night patrols, dismounted soldiers followed by a LAV III can "see" everything around them, much to the surprise of the local forces. The soldiers in the LAV III have identified local troops outside the normal line of sight and have been able to radio ahead to the dismounted patrol with key information.
Night vision has also had other benefits. "When we first got on the ground, we got a lot of reports of pillaging and looting in nearby towns," said Capt Dyer. However, as they began to conduct night patrols, the soldiers of H Company were able to approach the perpetrators the next day with an amazing amount of detail about the crimes and successfully discourage further incidents.
Three months into the tour, the LAV III passed another important test: performing exactly as designed during a mine-strike incident. The crew walked away from the blast with only minor concussion injuries. In a theatre of operations where mines present one of the greatest risks, this is definitely a comfort to all who drive in it.
"As a driver, I'm totally impressed with the LAV III over here because of the terrain we've been driving over," said Cpl Scott MacFarlane of H Company. "It handles really well."