More Marine units will see their decades-old amphibious assault vehicles upgraded after a new deal was struck that will move production of the long-awaited amphibious combat vehicle into a new phase.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE Systems a nearly $185 million contract for full-rate production of 36 amphibious combat vehicles. The agreement, according to the Marine Corps, means the service can now build and field more ACVs "at a sustained rate over the next several years."
This first lot of full-rate production, according to BAE Systems, is expected to jump to 72 vehicles in early 2021, with the option of manufacturing 80 vehicles annually over five years.
Col. Kirk Mullins, program manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault at PEO Land Systems, said the new vehicles will be more survivable than the Marine Corps' Vietnam-era AAVs.
One of those AAVs was involved in a fatal accident off the coast of California this summer. Eight Marines and a sailor died with the vehicle rapidly taking on water on its way back to a ship, sinking with several personnel trapped aboard. The accident remains under investigation, and AAV water operations were paused in its aftermath.
"We're providing Marines with a modern, armored personnel carrier that offers tremendous capability with respect to survivability," Mullins said in a statement about the ACV now replacing those vehicles. "The ACV gives the Marine Corps a capable platform operational across the full range of military operations."
The new ACV reached initial operational capability last month. A platoon with 1st Marine Division, based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms in California, was first in line to receive one of the new vehicles, Military.com reported in September.
The eight-wheeled vehicle is designed to move Marines from ship to shore. The contract issued last week is for the variant designed to carry personnel.
Three other variants are in the planning phases, said Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for the Marine Corps' Program Executive Officer Land Systems. Those include a command-and-control vehicle, one with a medium-caliber 30mm turret and, eventually, a recovery variant, she said.