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Gates and Co. to Axe Marine Corps EFV?

by Greg on June 9, 2010

Yesterday at a reporter’s roundtable, House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Ike Skelton said he expects SecDef Robert Gates and his merry band of program killers in OSD will try to terminate the Marine Corps armored amphibian, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).

Skelton said he’s pretty agnostic on the EFV and that the HASC would give the Marines time to conduct further tests on the vehicle. He did expect the Marines to fight tooth and nail to keep the program alive. I’m hearing the same thing from inside the Navy department; the Marines really, really want their EFV.

I’m also told that the Marines are embarking on a PR blitz in think tank land and among reporters to try to pre-empt Gates’ move and sell the EFV along with amphibious warfare writ large; for example, a couple of weeks back EFV program manager Col. Keith Moore did a “bloggers roundtable” (transcript here).

Gates told the Marines to explain how the EFV fits into the big strategy picture, I’m told, and, more importantly, he’s asking the Marine’s for their “vision” of how they fit into the overall force, beyond amphibious assault.

He contends that the EFV is a gold plated “niche” capability designed for a highly unlikely repeat of the Inchon landing.

The Marines say… well here’s how Moore put it:

“[S]o many of the capabilities that are in the EFV are specifically designed so you never have to do another Inchon, you never have to do another Iwo Jima, but you can still do that forcible entry mission when it’s required or provide a credible threat of a joint forcible entry so that you open up other opportunities for other capabilities that are within the suite of American military capabilities, whether that’s other surface means, aviation means or whatever, that by having a credible threat in one area you open up a window of vulnerability in another area that we can exploit.”

I’m told that planners in the Navy department are eyeballing the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) as a more versatile means of delivering troops and vehicles ashore. Obviously it doesn’t have the “forcible entry” capabilities of an armored amphibian, but the idea is to use recon to find an empty beach and land there, instead of into the teeth of enemy defenses.

The feeling is that the LCAC, which is due for an upgrade, can deliver more relevant troops and material ashore much faster (carrying up to 75 tons at 40 knots) than a gaggle of EFVs.

– Greg Grant

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