The Marine Corps is building a new wheeled amphibious assault vehicle that can swim through waves and perform a wide range of combat functions on land, service officials said Sept. 24 at the Modern Day Marine symposium, Quantico, Va.
The Corps is poised to intensify an ongoing competition to select several vendors to begin building its new Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or ACV 1.1, Corps officials said.
The ACV 1.1 vehicle, which will carry between ten and 13 marines through land, water and rough surf, is slated to be operational by 2020, Col. Wendell Leimbach, deputy program manager, advanced amphibious assault program office, told Military.com in an interview.
The Corps plans to use the ACV 1.1 to complement its existing fleet of 1,046 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs -- older armored amphibs which have been part of the Corps for roughly 40 years.
“The objective for the ACV 1.1 is for it to have the mobility equal to an M1 Abrams tank. The vehicle will have enhanced ground mobility and a robust swim capability. We are looking to have a swim capability on par with the AAV,” he said.
The technology for the ACV 1.1’s wheeled armored vehicle that could swim has its origins in a previous Corps program called the Marine Personnel Carrier, or MPC. The MPC program was cancelled in 2013 – only to be resurrected as the current ACV effort, Corps officials said.
“The Marine Corps created a technology demonstrator years ago where we demonstrated that the fundamental technology in wheeled vehicles was mature enough such that we could incorporate it together into a single platform with greatly enhanced survivability and mobility,” Leimbach explained.
The existing AAVs are tracked vehicles, however technological advancements in wheeled vehicle technology have allowed the Corps to develop the ACV 1.1.
“In the last 10 to 15 years wheeled vehicle technology has improved dramatically in the weight class that we are pursuing which is about 35 tons. We have been able to prove that wheeled vehicle technology developed in the civilian marketplace could be put into a single combat vehicle,” Leimbach added.
While the ACV 1.1 is being engineered with what the Corps calls a “robust swim capability,” the tactics, techniques and procedures for how the vehicle will get to the shore are still being evaluated, Leimbach explained.
The vehicle may swim or possibly travel on a surface connector vehicle such as a Landing Craft Air Cushion, or LCAC, which launches from an amphibious assault ship to move personnel and equipment from ship to shore.
The Marine Corps’ development ACV 1.1 is part of a long-term strategy to modernize its fleet of ship-to-shore amphibious vehicles. The Corps plans to build 204 ACV 1.1s and then follow on the effort by building 490 improved additional amphibious combat vehicles called ACV 1.2, according to Corps spokesman Manny Pacheco.
Ultimately, the Corps plans to upgrade all of the ACV 1.1s in order to make them ACV 1.2s, Pacheco said.
After working closely with industry on a developmental phase for the technology, the Corps plans to release a formal Request For Proposal to industry in October, asking would-be vehicle makers to submit their designs, Leimbach said.
“We want to make sure industry is well-informed as to our requirements and make sure they know the timeline. The requirements are pretty solid. The plan is to down select to two vendors. They will each build 16 vehicles. We will use those vehicles to demonstrate their capabilities and help inform the final requirements for ACV 1.2,” he added.
So far, at least four vendors plan to compete in the ACV 1.1 competition. They are SAIC, Lockheed, BAE Systems and General Dynamics.
Alongside its development of ACV 1.1 and ACV 1.2, the Corps is concurrently in the early phases of discussions for a next-generation high-speed amphibious technology called ACV 2.0, Leimbach and Pacheco explained.
“ACV 2.0 is a high speed capability designed to get greater standoff distance from the beach,” Pacheco added.
ACV 2.0, which could be a surface connector vessel of some kind or an amphibious vehicle that swims, will be engineered to travel as far as 60 to 100 miles through the water from ship to shore or shore to shore, Pacheco said.
BAE Systems is basing its ACV 1.1 offering off of the Iveco Superav, an eight-wheeled amphibious vehicle made by an Italian vehicle company called Iveco.
“The vehicle was designed initially for a full amphibious mission which we believe is an optimum balance between amphibious mobility, land mobility and survivability. The vehicle is designed specifically to be launched from amphibious ships, transit the surf zone, complete a mission profile and come ashore,” said John swift, BAE program manager for ACV 1.1.
BAE’s ACV 1.1 swims through the water with two counter-rotating propellers-- each with 65,000-pounds of thrust per propeller, Swift added.