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Marine Corps Plans Amphibious Vehicle Industry Day

In the aftermath of cancellation of its Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program, United States Marine Corps Systems Command is planning an “industry day” to update interested parties in its emerging Assault Amphibious Vehicle System (AAVS), Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) programs.

Although the government had previously released sources sought/requests for information (RFI) on the three programs in mid-February, the stated purpose of the upcoming gathering, now planned for April 6, 2011, is “to encourage exchanges of information to improve understanding of Government requirements and increase efficiency in future proposal preparations, and thereby enhance the Government’s ability to obtain quality supplies and services at reasonable and affordable prices.”

The combined industry day reflects Marine Corps desires for industry partners to look at the three RFIs as a “Family of Systems,” with the announcements adding that 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.”

AAV7 recovery variant leaves well deck

An amphibious assault vehicle recovery variant (AAVR7A1) assigned to Alpha Company of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion leaves the well deck of the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). The cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) has triggered efforts to improve the survivability of the Corps’ elderly AAV7s as well as a program that will attempt to approach the capabilities of the EFV canceled by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund

The AAVS, which is part of an interim strategy for Marine Corps amphibious capabilities, will focus on sustainment, survivability, and future enhancement upgrades for elements of the service’s existing Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) Model 7A1 (AAV7A1) Family of Vehicles (FOV).

The current AAV7A1 FOV includes three variants: personnel carrier (AAVP7A1); command and control variant (AAVC7A1); and recovery variant (AAVR7A1). The fully tracked armored amphibious LVT-7 [landing vehicle tracked] platforms were originally developed in the 1960s, with fielding beginning in 1972 and subsequently upgraded to LVT-7A1 [renamed AAV7A1] capabilities in the late 1980s.

The current fleet size includes 930 AAVP7A1s, 76 AAVC7A1s, and 51 AAVR7A1s, for a total of 1,057 vehicles.

Under the emerging AAVS concept, industry is being asked to offer sustainment and survivability upgrades that could be fielded beginning in 2017 to sustain the fleet until its eventual retirement. Marine Corps Systems Command hosted an initial industry day in early November 2010 to provide additional information on the AAV7A1 FOV and the requirements for AAVS sustainment and survivability upgrades. Input received from interested parties at that event continues to be reviewed and considered.

In addition to the AAVS sustainment and survivability upgrades, the RFI has recently been expanded to reflect Marine Corps interest in exploring the possibility of further enhancements – to the Command, Control and Communications (C3), lethality systems, propulsion system, litter mounting-medical evacuation, habitability, and water mobility – for a portion of the AAVS fleet.

Options for lethality enhancements, for example, “include but are not limited to” replacement of the current Up-Gunned Weapons Station with a 30 mm Remote Weapons Station.

Upgrades of the propulsion system and supporting components would provide better performance in terms of reliability, availability and maintainability, along with improved range and mobility and reduced total ownership cost.

Habitability upgrades would improve the environmental conditions within the troop compartment in order to maintain the combat effectiveness of embarked Marines during ship-to-shore and landward operations.

An AAV7 returns to the well deck

Amphibious assault vehicles assigned to Security Cooperation Task Force (SCTF) return to amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), under way for Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 Feb. 20, 2011, in the Caribbean Sea. Along with searching for an EFV replacement, the Marine Corps plans to make urgently-needed protection, habitability, firepower, and mobility upgrades to the AAV7. U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Kevin L. Pruitt

Finally, water mobility upgrades could include mature technical modifications to the legacy water jet system in order to increase system efficiency and vehicle water speed.

As part of its longer term amphibious strategy, the Marine Corps Systems Command overview of ACV acknowledges that “the Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) fleet is aging,” cautioning, “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 infantrymen, 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.”

It adds, “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.”

The emerging ACV is seen as “a combat vehicle that is capable of performing across the full Range of Military Operations.” In terms of amphibious characteristics, it is seen with an “ideal capability” to  “transit from well over the horizon at a high rate of speed.” However, noting that this capability “may prove to be unaffordable,” planners desire a “minimum capability” to “autonomously deliver a Marine infantry squad from amphibious shipping at launch distances at, or beyond the horizon (minimum of 12 miles) with a speed to enable the element of surprise in the buildup ashore, and provide combat-ready Marines at the objective.”

The vehicle must be able to execute a seamless transition from sea to land and maneuver with a mechanized task force for sustained operations ashore, avoiding “a tactical pause from the waterline.”

The final element that will be covered by the April 6 industry day “Family of Systems” is the MPC, which “will complement the Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) and its replacement within the Assault Amphibian (AA) Battalion by providing a modern armored personnel carrier capability and capacity to the Ground Combat Element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.”

In addition to the three systems noted above, the Marine Corps also released a recent RFI for a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) Survivability Improvement Initiative (HSII) program. It remains to be seen whether the separately issued RFI reflects any change in publicly stated postures that the Army and the Marine Corps were “arm in arm” as they move forward on recapitalizing their HMMWV fleets.


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...