In his 2012 “Report to Congress on the Posture of the United States Marine Corps,” Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos identified the programmatic priority for Marine Corps ground forces as “the seamless maneuver of Marines from the sea to conduct operations ashore, whether for training, humanitarian assistance, or combat.”
A key to that seamless maneuver is the Marine Corps Ground Combat Tactical Vehicle (GCTV) Strategy. The strategy is focused on achieving the right mix of assets while balancing performance, payload, survivability, fuel efficiency, transportability, and cost across the Marine Corps combat platform fleets. Key elements of that strategy include the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), and the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC).
Two of those three systems – ACV and MPC – are found in the Program Management Office for Advanced Amphibious Assault (PM AAA).
In the aftermath of the cancellation of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program in early 2011, the service took a fresh look at how it could ensure the nation’s ability to “conduct operations ashore whether for training, humanitarian assistance, or combat.” That fresh look resulted in a three-pronged strategy focusing on the ACV and MPC noted above, as well as complementary enhancements to the aging Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) fleet that performed such remarkable service in the ground assault on Baghdad during the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Throughout 2011 and informed by cost, we conducted a comprehensive systems engineering review of amphibious vehicle operational requirements,” Amos noted in the 2012 posture statement. “The review evaluated the requirements for water mobility, land mobility, lethality and force protection of the future environment. The identification of essential requirements helped to drive down both the production and the sustainment costs for the amphibious vehicles of the future.”
The Amphibious Combat Vehicle, for example, is a new start, pre-Major Defense Acquisition Program (pre-MDAP) that will provide an advanced generation, armored, amphibious combat vehicle. The ACV will be the primary means of tactical mobility for the Marine rifle squad – both at sea and ashore – and will autonomously deliver the assault echelon from amphibious shipping at launch distances at or beyond the visual horizon, with speed to enable the rapid buildup ashore, and provide combat-ready Marines at the objective. The ACV will possess superior ground mobility and speed to keep pace with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) during sustained operations ashore and will provide organic, direct fire support to dismounted infantry in the attack. The ACV will protect the force during offensive and defensive operations, providing 360-degree protection against direct fire, indirect fire, mines, and improvised explosive device threats.
In his 2012 posture statement, Amos pointed to an ongoing “Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) on six ACV options, the results of which will help to inform the direction and scope of the ACV program.”
Aspects of that AoA were first identified in a February 2011 request for information (RFI) that outlined “a collaborative approach with industry in order to produce a more affordable amphibious capability.”
The announcement urged “interested partners” to “look at the Marine Corps amphibious requirements for an Amphibious Combat Vehicle, Marine Personnel Carrier and AAV legacy upgrades as discussed in this and the other amphibious RFIs as a Family of Systems. The Marine Corps would like to see industry focus on affordability by designing/proposing solutions that will reduce the operational and support costs over the life cycle and consider such things as commonality, modularity of proposed solutions and interoperability among Systems of Systems.”
“These solutions should take into consideration emerging technologies and provide for growth over the next 15 years,” the RFI stated. “Additionally, the Marine Corps is interested in hearing from industry strategies they would use to lower their procurement costs for their proposed solutions.”
Acknowledging that “the Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) fleet is aging,” it cautioned, “Should the current AAV Family of Vehicles (FoV) not be replaced operations that assure access would become either single dimensional operations, relying entirely upon air assault of infantryman, or be required to use a mid-20th century means of surface transport that lacks needed capabilities such as firepower, autonomous ship to shore movement, ground mobility, and over the horizon range.”
“The current AAV does not meet the needs of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) developed in response to the emerging threat environment,” it read. “Use of such equipment and tactics could result in unacceptable loss of life or mission failure.”
“In response to a validated operational need and an aging fleet of assault amphibian vehicles, the Marine Corps requirement for an amphibious vehicle that will provide increased force protection, water speed, land mobility, lethality, and survivability, while balancing capacity, mobility, transportability and total ownership costs over the current AAV is enduring.”
As these pages go to press, the ACV is in the Material Solution Analysis Phase of the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System process. The recently completed AoA is being briefed to senior leadership, with formal results anticipated in late fall 2012. The scope of the AoA included development of life cycle cost estimates for each alternative considering major cost drivers, acquisition and sustainment strategies, and fully burdened cost of energy.
Most observers anticipate that the AoA findings will match budgetary realities in depicting the ACV new start program as a much-needed capability, but with the reality that the current system will need to be upgraded as a bridge to the arrival of the ACV. Initially fielded in 1972 and subsequently upgraded to “A1” configurations in the late 1980s, the AAVs remain the primary general-support armored personnel carrier for Marine infantry.
The AAV FOV consists of the AAVP7A1 RAM/RS armored personnel carrier (APC) and two supporting mission-role variants: AAVC7A1 RAM/RS Command and AAVR7A1 RAM/RS Recovery. The AAV7A1 RAM/RS family of vehicles provides ship-to-shore-to-objective mobility as well as direct fire support with organic weapons.