The Marine Corps prides itself on being able to project power from sea to shore. But its land vehicles are just too heavy for its key airborne ship-to-shore connector, the MV-22 Osprey to carry. In a report released yesterday by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, authors Bryan Clark and Jesse Sloman say increased protection requirements are making new vehicles even heavier than the old ones they're replacing.
As one solution, they say, the Marine Corps needs to invest in small, light vehicles that fit inside the Osprey. Currently, there are two systems that fit the bill: the internally transportable vehicle, or ITV, which is similar in appearance to a civilian all-terrain vehicle; and the Expeditionary Fire Support System, a trailer-carried 120mm mortar that can be towed behind the ITV.
But perhaps because of its small 4-passenger size and lack of armor, the ITV never really took off in the Marine Corps.
The Marines only bought 411 of the vehicles, Clark and Sloman wrote, halting acquisition in 2010.
"The combination of the ITV, the EFSS, and the V-22 have proven their value in exercises. Small vehicles allow company-size units transported via tilt-rotor to bring more fires, [command and control] equipment, and supplies to an operation than a purely foot-mobile element could manage," they wrote. "...To capitalize on the mobility the MV-22 permits, the Marines must continue to acquire vehicles and fire support systems small enough to fit aboard the Osprey."
They also recommended that the Marines engage in new vehicle protection technologies that offer survivability without as much weight.
"The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have both lagged behind other nations in their adoption of active protection systems (APS), which make use of kinetic interceptors to destroy incoming rounds before they hit a vehicle," they wrote. "APS can substitute for heavy armor on ground vehicles, driving down their overall weight without sacrificing survivability."
Camouflage, concealment and decoy technologies, they said, could also help the Marine Corps protect Marines in ground vehicles without heavy armor.
It's not clear if the Marine Corps plans to do more with its Osprey-carried vehicle, but the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab has recently experimented with new uses for the system, including casualty evacuation, speed and maneuver, and logistics.