Marine Corps Selects BAE Systems to Build New Amphibious Combat Vehicle
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps has chosen the BAE Systems proposal for the future amphibious combat vehicle 1.1 (ACV 1.1) to replace the Corp’s current assault amphibious vehicle (AAV7), the service announced June 19.
In a teleconference with reporters, John Garner, program executive officer, Land Systems, said that the prototype of the BAE Systems entry for ACV 1.1 won the competition and that the company will be awarded a $1.98 million contract to build 30 ACVs under low-rate initial production (LRIP), with the first deliveries to be made in fall 2019.
“The contract for all ACV 1.1 options could be worth up to $1.2 billion, which will buy the acquisition objective of 204 vehicles, and begin the much-needed modernization of its more than 40-year-old amphibious assault fleet,” the Marine Corps said in a June 19 release.
Garner said the BAE Systems ACV 1.1 would “provide performance, protection and payload at an affordable price.”
Col. Wendell Leimbach, the Marine Corp’s program manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault, also speaking to reporters, said the BAE Systems ACV had “landward mobility on par with a modern battle tank along with the remarkable survivability that the system has for under-body blast and other threats. We truly have a game-changing capability in the ACV that will allow the Marine Corps to operate across all of its mission profiles, including that extremely challenging littoral region that includes the surf and the open ocean.”
“The ACV provides exceptional mobility in all terrains, and blast-mitigation protection for all three crew and 13 embarked Marines, along with other improvements over currently fielded systems,” BAE Systems said in a June 19 release. “The new vehicle is an advanced 8x8 open-ocean-capable vehicle that is equipped with a new six-cylinder, 700-horsepower engine, which provides a significant power increase over the assault amphibious vehicle. The ACV is also adaptable to accommodate growth for future technologies or requirements.”
“The ACV 1.1 will be the primary means of protected ground tactical mobility for the Marine rifle squad,” the Marine Corps release said. “The ACV will also be outfitted with a precision weapons system, which will provide significantly enhanced lethality.”
“We are well positioned and ready to build the future of amphibious fighting vehicles for the Marine Corps, having already produced 16 prototypes,” said Dean Medland, vice president and general manager of Combat Vehicles Amphibious and International at BAE Systems, in the release. “Through this award, we are proud to continue our partnership with the Marine Corps by providing a best-in-class vehicle to support its mission through mobility, survivability and lethality.”
BAE Systems is teamed with Iveco Defence Vehicles, which has “designed and built more than 30,000 multipurpose, protected and armored military vehicles in service today,” the BAE release said.
Garner said that of the first 30 production ACVs, four will be full-up system-level testing vehicles that will be provided for blast testing, while the remaining 26 will support operational testing and ultimately will be fielded into the 3rd Assault Amphibious Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California. The 30 purchased in the second LRIP lot, scheduled in approximately one year from now, will all be fielded to operational units
“Pending successful completion of the IOT&E [initial operational test & evaluation] in the second quarter of [fiscal] ‘20, we would make a full-rate production decision,” Garner said. “That’s predicted for the third quarter of [fiscal] ‘20.”
The Corps said the ACV1.1 also satisfied the requirements of the next iteration, ACV 1.2, which will take on additional capabilities and introduce variants that will perform additional missions, including with lethality upgrades. High water speed is being deferred to a possible future phase.
The Corps currently fields approximately 870 AAV7s, some of which have been in service since the early 1970s, and hopes to replace them with ACVs by the mid-2020s.
The IOT&E likely will be held at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton, both in California.
Leimbach said the 16 ACV 1.1 prototypes built by BAE Systems will continue to be used in the developmental test process “to continue to validate the entire requirements set” and “as test beds as necessary to evaluate some of the potential modernization requirements under development with CD&I [Combat Development and Integration] for [ACV] 1.2.”
Leimbach also said that the Corps “has collected user feedback for some features that would need to be improved and we would feed that to BAE as part of the post-award process so they can make modifications to the design before they go into production for the LRIP vehicles.
“By and large, the design has proven extremely reliable and robust, so the types of modifications we’re talking about are rather insignificant,” he said.
“The good news is that, from our perspective, [for] the fundamental things that would involve major rework of the vehicle, or survivability, or power train, there are no issues,” Garner said. “Quite frankly, we could field the vehicle right now the way it is, but we will always, as we do with any program, continue to do improvements to it.”
“This is an important milestone in the process of modernizing our ground combat element,“ Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, said. “A core capability of our expeditionary forces is the ability to project forces from amphibious platforms and maneuver once ashore. The ACV does both, and brings protected mobility and firepower.”
“Today’s decision to move the ACV program to the next phase is a direct reflection of the commitment of our Navy and Marine Corps acquisition team and all of our partners, who are dedicated to expediting the process of getting much needed capability in the hands of our warfighters,” said James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, in the Marine Corps release. “By taking an established vehicle design and modifying it to meet the future needs of the Corps, the ACV team was able to drive affordability and schedule at the speed of relevance; an acquisition process that would normally take five to seven years, was done in three.”
Work on the ACV program will be performed at BAE Systems’ facilities in Aiken, South Carolina; Sterling Heights, Michigan; Minneapolis; Stafford, Virginia; San Jose, California; and York, Pennsylvania.