The Marine Corps is walking away from the high-speed Amphibious Combat Vehicle it envisioned – at least for the time being – but Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said a wheeled version will have to do in this budget environment.
“We elected to switch and go to a wheeled vehicle,” Amos said on April 1 during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “These are commercial off-the-shelf … they’re already being made by several different manufacturers.”
Unlike the planned ACV, the vehicle the Corps now calls the ACV 1.1 will not be able to deploy quickly from ship to shore from up to 12 miles out and it will not move on treads once landed. But what makes it a sound alternative is that the Corps already has other means to deploy it over water rapidly, Amos said. And the fact it will move on wheels makes it more survivable in a combat theatre.
Following it’s now cancelled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Marine Corps seem to have abandoned efforts to quickly develop an amphibious vehicle that can both swim at what the Corps calls high water speeds of 13 to 15 knots and survive substantial land threats once ashore. Instead, the Corps plans to field a less-ambitious interim vehicle and simultaneously work on research and development aimed at reaching the desired combination of attributes for the future , senior leaders have said.
And then there’s the cost. Amos said the 300 ACV 1.1s he anticipates buying will cost about $3 million to $4.5 million each. The original ACV, the Corps had envisioned, would have cost between $12 million and $14 million each, he said.
“It’s the way to go, and they are highly mobile, and that’s the direction we’re going,” Amos said.
It does not appear that the Corps thinks it is technically feasible or cost-effective to attempt quick delivery of a vehicle that can both swim at faster speeds for ship to shore missions and also function as a sufficiently survivable land vehicle.
The ACV, as initially conceived, would be able to swim to shore from as far out as 12 miles. While the ACV 1.1 will not do that, Amos said the Corps’ fleet of connectors can. These include some 81Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, that are capable of transporting up to 150,000 pounds and as many as 180 Marines. Powered by four gas-turbine engines and two four-bladed propellers, the LCACs can travel over water, ice, snow, sand and tundra.
Additionally, Amos told lawmakers during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Corps has two Joint High Speed Vehicles currently out at sea and another eight under contract.
“Those will go fast, they will haul a lot of Marines and vehicles,” he said. “That gives us the ability to maneuver from a sea base that could be pushed out as far as 100 miles because of an enemy threat.”
“So what we’ve done is we’ve changed the paradigm in the way we thought, in that we have to swim all that way in our amphibious combat vehicle,” he said. “Well, it’s impractical now. Can we get on a connector, and the connector take us in? And the answer is yes.”
Amos still plans for the Corps to get the ACV it originally wanted. That’s now called ACV 1.2.
Amos said he came to the tough decision a few months ago to scrap original plans for the ACV. What made it more difficult is that just two years earlier the Corps called it quits on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle after spending about 15 years and more than $3 billion in research, development and testing.
Amos has not identified the companies who may compete for the ACV 1.1 contract, though in the past Lockheed, General Dynamics and BAE Systems have done so, according to Manny Pacheco, a spokesman for the Corps’s Program Executive Office Land Systems Equipment Modernization.
Pacheco said an RFI for the ACV 1.1 is still a few months off.