The Marine Corps received the second of two competing prototypes of its future amphibious combat vehicle today, a month before the start of its next testing phase.
Manufacturer SAIC delivered the first of a lot of 16 vehicles in its ACV 1.1 design, featuring a remotely operated .50-caliber machine gun turret, cameras mounted on the vehicle that provide 360-degree visibility to operators, and a 'V-over-V' hull design to offer blast protection to the Marines inside the vehicle.
It's based on the eight-wheeled Terrex vehicle design by Singaporean company ST Kinetics, which partnered with SAIC to develop the ACV 1.1 offering. A version of the vehicle is already being used by the Singapore Armed Forces.
SAIC, which is currently under contract with the Marine Corps to develop survivability upgrades for the Corps' 40-year-old assault amphibious vehicles, is competing with British manufacturer BAE to build ACV 1.1.
In a rollout ceremony today in Charleston, South Carolina, Marine Corps Advanced Amphibious Assault Program Manager John Garner said the legacy AAVs had a critical defect in that they were designed before roadside bomb-proofing became a battlefield necessity.
"Those vehicles were designed before the era of the [improvised explosive device]," he said. "When an IED would go under the vehicles...you could lose 17, 19 20 Marines, and that happened a couple of times and Marines leadership said that just couldn’t go on."
The ACV program, Garner added, was the number one ground combat priority for the Marine Corps.
In addition to added survivability, SAIC's prototype can swim through four-foot waves and six-foot plunging surf, said Bernie Ellis, program manager for the vehicle.
BAE delivered the first of its ACV 1.1 models to the Marine Corps in mid-December, partnering with Italian company IVECO Defence Vehicles to offer a 700-horsepower vehicle that can travel up to 70 miles per hour over land.
Next month, the Marine Corps will kick off a year of testing on both vehicle models, with a downselect to one manufacturer planned by 2018. Garner said the fielding process for the ACV 1.1, which began in 2015, is progressing five to seven years faster than a typical defense acquisition program, due in part to both companies efforts to keep the program on schedule, even despite a contract protest.
The Marines may build 600 or more of the vehicles over the next several years, with plans to field the first ones by 2020, he said.