Marines Select BAE, SAIC to Build Amphibious Combat Vehicle Prototypes

By Allyson Versprille and Jon Harper

 The Marine Corps on Nov. 24 chose BAE Systems and SAIC to build 32 prototypes of a new fighting vehicle designed to replace its fleet of aging amphibious assault vehicles.

They were two of five competitors on the amphibious combat vehicle program. Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Land Systems and Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems did not make the cut on the engineering development and manufacturing (EMD) phase.

The $1.2 billion program aims to build 204 vehicles. BAE’s EMD contract is worth $103.8 million and SAIC’s is for $121.5 million, a Marine Corps statement said. Marine Corps documents call for the two winners to provide 13 vehicles each, with an option for an additional three each depending on future funding.

This is the Marine Corps’ third attempt to replace the aging amphibious assault vehicle. The service ultimately wants vehicles that can be launched from beyond the horizon, swim at high speed toward a landing area, then continue to fight on land with enough armor to protect them from such weapons as roadside bombs.

This wish list has proven to be a technological bridge too far, so the service decided on an incremental approach with ACV 1.1 featuring some of the desired capabilities, and other more challenging requirements tackled later.  

Col. Rodger Turner, director of the capabilities development directorate for the Marine Corps, said in a press conference prior to the announcement that the ACV 1.1 "will allow us to be lethal, mobile, expeditionary and it provides MRAP-level protection to the forces, which is a key attribute of the future operating environment, or even the current operating environment."

The testing phase for the ACV 1.1 will inform requirements for the ACV 1.2, he said. The ACV 1.1 is expected to have the same swimming capability as the legacy amphibious assault vehicles and also be capable of being transportable by connectors.  The AAV travels in water at a little over 8 mph.

The Marines expect the first delivery by the fall of 2016, with a 24 to 30 month period when Marines will put the prototypes through operational tests. The final winner for low rate initial production will be decided in late spring or early summer 2018, with initial operating capability expected in 2020, Marine Corps officials said.

Deepak Bazaz, director of new and amphibious vehicles at BAE Systems, in a statement said: “Our vehicle was designed to be fully amphibious with exceptional ground mobility and protection. Our ACV solution will provide the Marine Corps with a mature, cost-effective solution with significant growth capacity.”

BAE is partnering with IVECO Defence Vehicles of Turin, Italy, which has manufactured some 30,000 armored military vehicles. The BAE prototypes will be built “from the ground up,” the statement said, and can carry a crew of three and 13 troops.  

James Hasik, a senior fellow for defense at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security said: "Both winners are working with highly mature foreign designs. The decision "makes a heck of a lot of sense for the Marine Corps. They're going to get something that works and they're going to be highly assured that it is going to work."
He said the win would be a boon for both SAIC and BAE. 
"BAE could definitely use the work," he noted.
Executives at SAIC, which is more often considered a services company, "probably were very strategic about figuring out where they wanted to bid to be a system integrator." They were most likely looking for a program where they would be believable and convincing as a prime contractor, he said. "And they have found it."
"The folks that probably are most discomfited by the decision would be Lockheed Martin," he said. "They have had … big aspirations to get into the armored ground vehicle business." The joint light tactical vehicle seems to have not worked out although the protest is spending, and now this hasn't panned out for them, he said.
"They are having a problem entering into a market that has excess capacity in which multiple companies have a reputation for quality products," which can be really hard, Hasik said. "They may think twice about this and decide that helicopters are more profitable."  

Testing of the swim capabilities for the vehicles will occur at the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch in Southern California, said John Garner, program manager for advanced amphibious assault. Other facilities at Aberdeen, Maryland, Yuma, Arizona, and the Nevada Automotive Test Center will also be used during that phase.

In testing, "We're going to focus on the swim capability. We will do blast testing so we clearly have to demonstrate the protect capability." Ground mobility and carry capabilities will also be tested. Each of those four factors were treated with equal importance in the ACV 1.1 selection, he said.

However, in addition to those four factors, the Marine Corps identified other requirements that companies could work toward, which would act as "extra credit,” Garner said. "Those emphasis areas were weighted toward the amphibious capability of the vehicle because there are some very capable ground vehicles out there, but fundamentally this vehicle has to be an amphibious vehicle," he noted. "That's what makes it different from other vehicles that are currently fielded of this type."

Meanwhile, the Corps will be looking at the 1.2 version, which can be launched and recovered from ships independently and a 1.3 version that can reach higher water speeds.

The Marine Corps plans to buy 490 of the second iteration, which would include a mix of personnel, command-and-control and recovery variants, the officials said.


Topics: Combat Survivability, Combat Vehicles, Expeditionary Warfare

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