The first four of 16 amphibious combat vehicle 1.1 prototypes made by BAE Systems was ceremonially delivered to the Marine Corps for testing Tuesday as the company celebrated a rare achievement for defense acquisition: meeting a milestone ahead of schedule.
The amphibious combat vehicle is planned to replace amphibious assault vehicles that date from the end of the Vietnam War. Unlike the AAV, which runs on tracks, the ACV will have eight sturdy wheels. There are two companies competing to build the vehicle: BAE, a British defense company, and SAIC, based in McLean, Virginia. Both were selected from a field of competitors in late 2015, and worked through a contract protest in order to stay on schedule so they could deliver 16 vehicles each to the Marine Corps for a year of testing beginning in early 2017.
BAE partnered with Italian company IVECO Defence Vehicles to build the ACV offering, which comes with a 700 horsepower engine, making it more powerful over land and water than its predecessor.
John Swift, BAE's director of the ACV program, told an audience at BAE's manufacturing facility in York, Pennsylvania Tuesday that the company had a legacy of building vehicles for the Marine Corps that dated back to World War II, when LVT-4 amphibious landing craft, made by BAE predecessor FMC, stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima.
Thanks to a Marine sergeant who assaulted the beach in one of those vehicles and brought back a unique souvenir, every BAE-made ACV would have a piece of that history, he said.
"Every single vehicle that we make we’ll put a vial of Iwo Jima sand to remind them of the legacy of what’s gone before," he said.
While the ACV 1.1 is supposed to excel at all-terrain mobility, with a 1.2 version expected to add additional speed and capacity, and a notional ACV 2.0 envisioned swim at high speeds in the water, Marine Corps Advanced Amphibious Assault Program Manager John Garner said BAE's ACV 1.1 may be able to accomplish ACV 1.2 tasks as well.
"Once we test it we’re going to know and we’re going to know this time next year," he said. "There’s a very good possibility that vehicles of this type with potentially some modifications will be capable of filling this assault role and the armored combat mobility ashore."
The sturdiness of the Marines' amphibious vehicles and their longevity meant that the vehicles now being delivered to the Marine Corps
"Marines who are not born today will ride in these vehicles," Garner said.