Amphibious Combat Vehicle
|Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV)|
|Type||Amphibious assault vehicle|
|Place of origin||United States|
The Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) is a program initiated by Marine Corps Systems Command to procure an amphibious assault vehicle for the United States Marine Corps to replace the Assault Amphibious Vehicle. The program replaces the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program canceled in 2011.
The ACV should have countermeasures able to contend with a full range of direct fire, indirect fire, and land mine threats. Visible and thermal signature reduction technologies will also be utilized. Modular protection can be applied as necessary.
The vehicle must have the capability to transition from water to ground operations without tactical pause. It must be able to maneuver with the M1A1 Abrams in a mechanized task force. It must have the capability to destroy combat vehicles similar to itself. Weapons must have sufficient range to engage targets from a standoff distance. Weapons will apply precision fire from a stabilized system. It must provide direct fire support for dismounted infantry in an attack. The Marine Corps had identified speed on water as a top requirement, even at the cost of troop carrying capacity.
The ACV must be able to self-deploy from an amphibious assault ship at least 12 miles from shore with 17 Marines aboard. It has to be able to travel 8 knots or faster through seas with waves up to three feet. The vehicle was to be operational between 2020 and 2022, with 573 vehicles planned to be procured.
Given the budget environment, the ACV program was split into two separate phases. The ACV 1.1 will consist of 300 commercial off-the-shelf wheeled armored vehicles each costing $3–$4.5 million. It will rely on connectors to get it from ship-to-shore, like the Landing Craft Air Cushion and Joint High Speed Vessel. Relying on connectors to bring the ACV 1.1 to a breach allows the sea base to be located 100 miles from enemy threats. ACV 1.2 is the original high water speed effort for a vehicle to self-deploy from 12 miles from shore and travel 13-15 knots on water, each costing $12–$14 million. The less ambitious ACV 1.1 will be fielded in the interim, while research and development will commence to refine the features of the ACV 1.2. The first phase of procurement will buy wheeled personnel carriers. The second phase will include mission-role variants like command-and-control and logistics, and weapons variants; these iterations may reintroduce tracks or stay wheeled.
A request for information (RFI) was issued to industry on 17 February 2011. The document outlined expected requirements and asked industry for informal design proposals and program methodology feedback. Responses were due by 22 April 2011. An industry day was held on 6 April 2011.
In August 2012, General Dynamics was awarded an ACV Hull Survivability Demonstrator contract for the design, fabrication, and test support of a full-scale hull to demonstrate crew-protection technologies. In November 2012, they conducted simulated mine-blast tests on their ACV ballistic hull design, successfully meeting mine-blast survivability requirements. Work concluded by May 2013 and will be used to refine requirements for effective protection against under-vehicle threats.
In April 2013, DARPA awarded a $1 million prize to a team in the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) contest. The team beat out 1,000 other competitors to submit their design for a drivetrain for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle. The FANG initiative is to demonstrate a way to procure working systems better than the current defense acquisition process, which frequently leads to delays and cost overruns. The Marines are in charge of the ACV program, so there is no guarantee that the Darpa-crowdsourced mobility drivetrain will result in a vehicle bought by the Corps.
At a roundtable discussion on 26 June 2013, Marine Corps General Jim Amos told the media that the program was still being pursued, and that a request for proposals (RFP) would be issued in early 2014. The Corps has secured and saved a “moderate amount” of money for early development. With the previous Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle cancelled from cost overruns, the Marines are being cautious to identify trade-offs between requirements and cost for the platform. Amos noted that they were working with contractors to see which type of vehicle would meet requirements without proving too costly.
In January 2013, the ACV team was created and tasked to evaluate the feasibility of building an affordable, survivable amphibious high water speed vehicle. The team includes representatives from over six Department of Defense commands. Their initial requirements and engineering analysis evaluated 198 requirements for the platform. From July 9–11, 2013, 25 Marines gathered at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia for a Warfighter Requirements Workshop to review the team's capabilities analysis and determine the value of various capabilities. 30 requirements with cost and weight implications were considered "tradable," including armament and armor protection. Safety and design-specific capabilities, like transportability (fitting on an amphibious ship) were considered non-tradable. The point of the workshop was to get input from fleet Marines about what capabilities they wanted to prioritize with current financial pressures. Over the next month, the team ordered the preferences and applied actual cost and weight data to determine feasibility recommendations for Marine Corps leaders by the fall.
The Marine Corps feels they have only one opportunity to get the ACV program right, partly from the previous EFV program being cancelled in 2011 after using $3 billion in development and also from severely reduced budgets for the rest of the decade compared to the previous one. They may not even know exactly what they want and can afford from the vehicle. Trade studies began in January 2013 and were to be conducted for six months, but they were extended another six months. With the service's normally tight budget combined with sequester cuts, giving priority to the ACV may take funding and resources from other programs. The plan to begin buying 5,500 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles around 2019 could have been replaced with retaining and modernizing up-armored Humvees and keeping the large numbers of relatively young Oshkosh M-ATVs. The Corps' preference of the ACV over the JLTV and willingness to sacrifice it is partly to maintain their amphibious assault culture. The amphibious-capable Marine Personnel Carrier is a program to create a better vehicle to transport Marines after they come ashore. In June 2013, budgetary pressures forced the MPC program to be suspended for up to a decade to focus funding on other priorities.
General Amos received an analysis of ACV alternatives in November 2013, so it was unlikely he could make a decision on whether to develop or buy a vehicle in the Marine's FY 2015 budget request, due February 2014. Despite the Marine's ship-to-shore amphibious landing role and the ACV being declared the service's number-one priority, there are factors that put its future in doubt. Options for vehicle capabilities were to create a high-speed platform that meets desired goals which may come out to be too expensive like the previous EFV program, create a low-speed platform with reduced performance for affordability which may not be enough of an improvement over the AAV it is replacing, or delay the effort for more research and development time to refine requirements and wait for budget problems to pass. If creating a new amphibious vehicle were delayed, the Marines would have to rely more on the MV-22 Osprey and other helicopters in the near-future for moving troops to a breach, which cannot support them on the ground or protect them under armor. A high-speed vehicle may not even be viable for future assault landings, as even though it would be made to deploy further out to sea to give stand-off protection of transport ships from anti-ship missiles, the ACV itself would then be vulnerable to those missiles. Methods of traveling on water are limited to current and slow methods through it or traveling on top, similar to a jet ski, which is expensive. How an amphibious vehicle will perform fighting on land is uncertain. AAVs had mixed success in Iraq and were vulnerable to improvised explosive devices, which endangers more troops with the higher carrying capacity of amphibious vehicles over regular infantry fighting vehicles. The U.S. Army faced the same threats, and their Ground Combat Vehicle program aimed for the greatest protection without excessive weight or costs. The Marine ACV is attempting to be fast and as protected as it can while keeping costs down. Electrical power generation is important given the growing number of dismounted electronics. The Army Stryker can generate 50 percent more electricity than the M2 Bradley, but that requires a larger engine and higher costs. General Amos had previously wanted to procure the JLTV as fast as possible to be ready for ACV production, but with sequestration giving up buying the JLTV for the Marine Corps was seriously being considered. There was speculation that the ACV would be less favored over the F-35B VTOL fighter in the service already in operational testing, but the ACV has been reaffirmed as their priority and the F-35 has enough support in Congress, the Defense Department, and other services to ensure its future. The ACV is strictly a Marine Corps program without a basic design settled upon yet. Its best hope is to show it can be part of the military's AirSea Battle strategy to seize and defend island bases, which is primarily the Marine Corps' mission.
In January 2014, General Amos signaled a "phased approach" to creating the ACV in which he lessened the importance of speed on water as an immediate requirement for the vehicle. Speed on water had been identified as a crucial need to quickly reach the beach so Marines could fight inland. Given budgetary pressures, Phase 1 of the program would consist of creating a vehicle they can afford quickly to replace the AAV, which are around 40 years old. Phase 2 would include future science and technology developments like higher speeds. The Phase 1 ACV seems to be an improved AAV that will drive straight through water like its predecessors, while attempts to create a sea-skimming vehicle lead to the ill-fated EFV. While a high-speed amphibious vehicle is believed to be feasible and affordable, there would be too many trade-offs in performance capabilities. The main purpose of the ACV is to move Marines from ship-to-shore, but after that they primarily fight on land, asserting the need for ground fighting capabilities. Conventional ground fighting vehicles can be transported by landing craft like the Landing Craft Utility and Landing Craft Air Cushion, but amphibious landing ships are able to carry many times more amtracs than they can other landing craft or hovercraft carrying vehicles. LCACs can move to a beach faster, but cannot travel inland and are not able to take enemy fire. Moving vehicles with few LCACs would require multiple trips, taking up time and leaving the hovercraft vulnerable for longer.
Shortly after the Marine Corps submitted their FY 2015 budget request in February 2014, General Amos decided to postpone development of the ACV and return funding to the Marine Personnel Carrier program. Originally, the Marines planned to buy both the ACV and MPC to replace outdated vehicles to complement each other for different missions. During an amphibious assault, a limited number of ACVs would carry the initial landing force from ship to shore and further inland. After the beach was secured, a larger number of MPCs would be landed by landing craft to reinforce the first wave. When budgets tightened, the ACV was taken as the priority and funding was removed from the MPC, with the service figuring they could buy an off-the-shelf wheeled troop transport later when money was available. Technical challenges to the proposed ACV continued to mount as funds kept getting constrained, so the decision was made that wheeled APC advancements where significant enough to address needs quicker. Marines still want a high-speed fully amphibious vehicle to move troops from the ocean to a beach with enough armor, mobility, and firepower to fight while on land, which was proposed as ACV Phase 2.
In what was described as a "drastic shift," the MPC effort was combined with the ACV and designated ACV Increment 1.1. Increment 1.1 will fill the role of what the MPC was of a wheeled assault vehicle requiring a connector to get it from ship-to-shore with its own limited swim capabilities; 200 vehicles are to be bought. ACV Increment 1.1 is to be acquired during the Milestone B Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase in FY 2016, with prototype contracts awarded and a downselection to one vendor in FY 2018. ACV Increment 1.2 will be a tracked version developed from high-speed water studies, and currently has no program timeline; 470 vehicles are to be bought. While the previous Corps acquisition strategy was to buy the JLTV first, ACV second, and MPC last, now the JLTV will be bought first, the ACV 1.1 bought second, and the ACV 1.2 developed last.
The Marine Corps plan to modernize its amphibious invasion force has three parts: buy 600 troop transports as part of ACV Phase I; upgrade 390 AAVs; and do research for an ACV 2.0 "high water speed" option. The Phase 1 ACV will be 200 modified versions of an existing U.S. or foreign armored vehicle to enter service around 2020. It will have limited amphibious capabilities to cross rivers and coastal inlets and be carried on a landing craft miles from shore, which will deploy it 5 mi (8.0 km) from the shoreline to swim the rest of the way. Seaborne requirements are likely for operation in sea state 3, against modest winds and 2 ft (0.61 m)-high waves, taking about one hour. ACV 1.1 will likely have a higher swim standard than the previous MPC. ACV 1.2 is to buy an additional 400 amphibious vehicles in multiple variants including troop transport, command, and fire support. Upgrades to the AAV will be added to around 392 vehicles (carrying one Marine brigade) out of the fleet of 1,062, including “limited survivability upgrades” of blast-resistant seats, additional armor, and a new transmission. Having AAVs self-deploy directly from ships is quicker than loading vehicle onto a connector, but long-range anti-ship missiles will force future amphibious invasion forces to stay between 25–75 mi (40–121 km) from shore. A high-speed connector can make that trip in 1–3 hours, while an AAV on water would take 15 hours to travel that distance. A Phase 1 ACV that can self-deploy without a landing craft would have an advantage, but that capability is not a requirement. ACV 2.0 is research for a new amphibious vehicle, a new fast landing craft for the ACV I, or some undecided alternative. Aside from wartime amphibious assaults, the Marine Corps has other needs for amphibious vehicles. In relief operations during the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, there was not combat but ships could not dock in the country's damaged ports, and helicopter could not move the amount of cargo necessary, so AAVs were relied upon to transport supplies ashore.
A critique of the ACV effort authored by retired infantry officers and armor experts and published by Marine Corps Times in June 2014 were critical of developing a new amphibious personnel carrier. Due to the proliferation of anti-ship missiles, Navy ships will have to remain some 100 miles from a landing area. The critique claimed that an armored ACV would swim too slowly through the water and that the Marines would be relying on the Navy for the use of connectors to travel from the stand-off distance, despite the fact that no connectors currently exist to transport a mid-sized landing force. It recommended scrapping the ACV, modifying current Light Armored Vehicles, and emphasizing procurement of the CH-53K King Stallion to transport them. In response, General Amos defended the program and his decision to re-focus its priority from speed on water to ground performance. Since the mid-2000s, MRAP vehicles set a new standard for combat vehicle armor protection. With the ACV actually fighting on land, ruggedness and survivability are main features, so using a lighter and less-armored vehicle is not feasible. To transport them, Amos has suggested modifying Navy Joint High Speed Vessels with a ramp to deploy the ACV; a JHSV with a ramp can carry up to 30 of the vehicles, go from the fleet to the coast at 50 mph, and drop them off to swim the rest of the way to shore. Assistance could be provided by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research to add more technologies and capabilities to existing or future connectors.
The three basic variants include the Squad Maneuver/Fighting Vehicle, the Command and Control Vehicle, and the Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle.
- Marine Corps Systems Command (17 February 2011). "A--Amphibious Combat Vehicle". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- Marine Corps Insists on High Speed ACV - DoDBuzz.com, May 14, 2013
- Amphibious Combat Vehicle Stalled Amidst Budget, Requirements Uncertainty - Nationaldefensemagazine.com, February 2013.
- Marine Corps Scraps Tracks for Amphibious Combat Vehicle - Defensetech.org, 4 April 2014
- Marines Favor Wheeled Ship-to-Shore Vehicles - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 26 June 2014
- General Dynamics Amphibious Combat Vehicle Hull Design Meets Marine Corps' Survivability Requirement - Prnewswire.com, 5 November 2012.
- This Is the Million-Dollar Design for Darpa’s Crowdsourced Swimming Tank - Wired.com, April 22, 2013
- RFP For Marine Corps ACV Expected In 2014 - Aviationweek.com, 26 June 2013
- ACV team seeks Marines’ insight into vehicle requirements - MarCorSysCom.Marines.mil, 15 July 2013
- Marines Tread Carefully in Search for New Amphibious Vehicle - Defensenews.com, 20 September 2013
- Marines 2014: Year Of Decision For Amphibious Combat Vehicle - Breakingdefense.com, 9 January 2014
- Amos Says Marines To Drop High Speed ACV, For Now; Phased Approach Likely - Breakingdefense.com, 29 January 2014
- Marines Budget Scramble: Commandant Resurrects MPC, ACV In Limbo - Breakingdefense.com, 17 February 2014
- Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress - Fas.org, 19 March 2014
- A Sneak Peek At Marines’ New Amphibious Combat Vehicle - Breakingdefense.com, 2 April 2014
- Amos rejects recent critique of amphibious combat vehicle - MarineCorpstimes.com, 25 June 2014
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amphibious combat vehicles.|
- Feickert, Andrew (2 January 2013). "Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. R42723. Retrieved 7 January 2013.