Marine Commandant Renews Call for Amphibious Vehicle, Offers Development Funding
SAN DIEGO — Less than a month after conceding that the Marine Corps could not afford a high-speed amphibious tracked vehicle, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos renewed the call for industry to provide an affordable “connector” that can move Marines from ship to shore.
He went so far as to offer government research and development funding. “I’m committed. I just told my money guy… we’re willing to put some money in [research and development] for the future technology with regards to connectors," he said Feb. 13 at the AFCEA West 2014 conference.
In January, Amos said the Marine Corps could not afford a high-speed ACV and would opt instead for something less expensive. The amphibious combat vehicle — itself a rebranding of the now-defunct expeditionary fighting vehicle — soared in price because the Marines sought a vehicle with long range and high enough speeds to plane like a speedboat.
Amos insisted the Corps needs a vehicle that can “haul a lot of stuff” and “can move at high speed. He would like the vehicle to travel at 35 to 40 knots.
“What we need is to change the paradigm,” he said. “We think of connectors as something you carry in the bowels of an amphibious ship. We’re going to need that, I’m not saying we don’t need that."
He suggested future connectors could be folded and stacked on the deck of a ship.
The Marine Corps has already funded a replacement program for its landing craft air cushions called the ship-to-shore connector. The Corps wants to replace the landing craft-utility, a vessel capable of delivering personnel, gear and tracked vehicles.
“That’s not going to be enough,” Amos said.
He envisioned vehicles that can move from ships or from "sea bases" from 80 miles from shore and deliver Marines and gear. As military bases around the world become less accessible, Amos said, forces will have to come from the sea.
“If a base is going to be out at sea, connectors are going to be very important,” he said. Allies are "going to want to train with us … but they’re not going to want us to build bases. Those days are gone,” Amos said.
The Marine Corps also needs more amphibious ships, Amos said. The amphibious combat ship is the ideal platform for international engagement at sea as well as emergency disaster response, he said.
“They can do quite a lot of what the world is going to need us to do over the next two decades,” Amos said. “We don’t have enough amphibs. We are meeting less than half of the needs of combatant commanders.”
Amos also said it was unfortunate that more Navy ships do not have the ability to carry connectors. He said the Navy’s new joint high-speed vessel was a “phenomenal” design but building 10 of them without the ability to disgorge Marines in amphibious vehicles was a mistake.
“Imagine if we could load vehicles from a seabase on a joint high-speed vessel and discharge them … and yet we’re building these with no capability to do that."