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 supplement and ultimately replace the aging Assault Amphibious Vehicle. The program replaces the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program canceled in 2011. Originally a plan to develop a high-water-speed vehicle, the program has expanded into a multi-phased approach to procure and develop several types of amphibious-capable vehicles to address near and long-term requirements.
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 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 first phase will consist of several hundred 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 vehicle to a beach allows the sea base to be located 100 miles from enemy threats. The second phase is the original high water speed effort for a vehicle to self-deploy from ships and travel 13–15 knots on water, each costing $12–$14 million. The less ambitious Phase 1 ACV will be fielded in the interim, while research and development will commence to refine the features of the Phase 2 ACV.
The first increment of Phase 1 of procurement will buy wheeled personnel carriers. The second increment of Phase 1 will include mission-role variants like command-and-control and logistics, and weapons variants; these iterations may reintroduce tracks or stay wheeled. ACV 1.1 vehicles will be an operational and commercially available design that is "good enough" to operate. Its water performance will be comparable to the AAV, and will have survivability attributes of an MRAP including high-ground clearance and a V-shaped hull, with the ability to drive with a wheel blown off. For the second lot buy (1.2), engineering and design changes will be made to meet roughly half of desired amphibious vehicle fleet size requirements. The last phase of ACV procurement would be purchasing a high-water-speed vehicle, but only if technologies make it achievable without sacrificing armor and weapons.
The ACV 1.1 is to carry 10–13 Marines, have a swim capability similar to the AAV, and have equal or greater mobility to the M1 Abrams tank. Although tracks are traditionally considered better for all-terrain mobility, the Marines believe wheeled vehicle technology has advanced enough to enhance survivability and mobility in a 35-ton-class platform; the Marine Personnel Carrier technology demonstrator used "in-line" drive technology that enabled all four wheels on each side to pull together much like the way a track does which, combined with a higher ground clearance and central tire inflation system, substantially closes the maneuverability gap and results in equal or better maneuverability than the M1A1 and better performance over the AAV. Improved technology used to inform requirements to build ACV 1.2 vehicles will later be applied to delivered 1.1 versions to upgrade them to 1.2 standard. Each ACV 1.1 vehicle will have a 3-man crew, and two vehicles will carry a reinforced rifle squad. Armament will consist of an M2 .50-caliber machine gun in a remote weapons station, with the potential to install a stabilized dual-mount M2/Mark 19 grenade launcher turret. Potential water speeds are for a 12 nmi (14 mi; 22 km) ship-to-shore capability at 8 knots.
This section may be too long and excessively detailed. (January 2015)
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 was 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 was no guarantee that the Darpa-crowdsourced mobility drivetrain would 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 for the ACV over the JLTV and willingness to sacrifice it is partly to maintain the ability to make amphibious landings. 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. 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 led 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.
The Marine Corps plan to modernize its amphibious invasion force has three parts: upgrade 390 AAVs; buy 600 troop transports as part of ACV Phase 1; and do research for an ACV 2.0 "high-water-speed" option. 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 vehicles 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. 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. 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 1, 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 no 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.
On 11 July 2014, General Dynamics was awarded a contract extension to continue work on determining the best option for developing an affordable, survivable, and high water speed ACV platform. The effort includes analyzing the flexibility and modularity of requirements, concept refinement, and experimentation planning to help the Marine Corps understand risks and determine the best approach for ACV development.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle developments are incorporated into the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Force 21 future amphibious assault strategy, which rely on launching 65–100 miles from shore in small landing teams to exploit gaps in enemy defenses, rather than previous methods of deploying a large contingent across a beach in a major assault. A future Marine expeditionary brigade operation would require 400 AAVs and 700 ACVs distributed through a series of naval connectors over a series of phases; due to the smaller vehicle manning capabilities of the ACV, fleet size would need to increase by one-quarter to one-third to move one company. About 400 AAVs will be upgraded with MRAP-level protection features including enhanced underbelly armor, seating, fueling systems, and fire protection, which will begin deliveries in 2019; AAVs will still be part of the initial wave, while ACVs arrive in subsequent waves. ACV 1.1 includes the four competitors of the previous Marine Personnel Carrier program and their entries, as well as a fifth unnamed company. Results of ACV 1.1 vehicles will be used to generate requirements for ACV 1.2, an enhanced capability version of the original vehicle with potentially greater speed or carrying capacity, and available in probable mission variants. The ACVs will mainly be deployed using naval connectors to get from ship to shore, as will JLTVs, which the Marines will begin buying 5,500 of in 2015 as part of their wheeled vehicle modernization strategy. ACV Phase 2 is a planning construct to develop a high-speed, independently deploying vehicle, but there are several other options including creating two vehicles, another wheeled or tracked vehicle, and another high-speed naval connector. If ACV Phase 2 becomes infeasible, the Marine Corps fallback plan is the ACV 1.3, with a 600-vehicle buy to replace the AAV fleet.
An RFP for ACV 1.1 was issued in November 2014. Even though the Marine Corps has spent $3.5 billion on four failed high-water speed amphibious vehicles over the past 25 years, such a vehicle is still a requirement for the Corps. Creating a vehicle that can travel on water at 25 knots is technically feasible, but it requires tradeoffs to be made survivability and lethality. Three possibilities are being explored to create a vehicle that can balance required capabilities for ACV Phase 2. One is to upgrade the ACV Phase 1 vehicle or another existing vehicle to have high-water speed. Another is the desired creation of an entirely new "clean sheet" design. If neither of those paths can develop technologies for a vehicle, the last effort involves further development of ship-to-shore connectors to bring vehicles ashore. The ONR, industry, and Navy personnel are exploring these possibilities and are to report their findings by 2025.
In March 2015, the Marines revealed that the separate ACV 1.1 and 1.2 increments may be merged into a single vehicle. Given that the winner of phase 1.1 will likely be awarded the 1.2 contract, industry is already planning to make their submissions meet the later requirements early. The main differences between the phases is the 1.2's greater self-deploying capability and more seating capacity. Merging the two phases to meet higher requirements earlier could speed up the acquisition timeline and drive down price, since the quantities for both would be bought in bulk. The Marines released the final RFP for ACV 1.1 on 26 March 2015.
In July 2015, Lockheed Martin revealed it had ended its association with Finnish company Patria on their previous collaborative Havoc offering for the program. Lockheed unveiled their new ACV offering in September 2015.
In October 2017 deputy Marine commandant Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault stated “We have to find a solution to getting Marines to shore, from over the horizon, at something greater than seven knots (8 mph),” the swimming speed of the existing Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) and its Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) replacement. Continuing, he said “we must find a high-water-speed vehicle on the surface. We must.” 
The deputy commandant's statements seemly contradict the phased approach to having a non-self deploying vehicle in the ACV 1.1 and then a fully amphibious vehicle in ACV 1.2. The question remains if the Marines are still interested in procuring a high speed connector vehicle after merging ACV 1.1 and 1.2.
In May 2018 a former Marine officer, Jeff Groom, published an article concerning the Amphibious Combat Vehicle. Both BAE System's and SAIC's ACV 1.1 test vehicles could self-deploy and swim from a ship in contradiction to General Dunford's testimony in March 2015. However there is apparently no longer a need for speed on water as both test vehicles move through the water at 7 knots using traditional water propellers, the same speed as the legacy 1970s AAV. The article questioned the acquisition decision of a vehicle that swims at the same speed as the vehicle it replaces, carries fewer troops, and is more expensive.
On 24 November 2015, the Marines selected the BAE Systems SuperAV and SAIC Terrex to move on to the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the ACV 1.1 program, beating out Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems. The Marine Corps valued swim operations, land operations, carrying capability, and force protection equally in the selection process, but the two winners were chosen for emphasis focused on amphibious swim capability, since the ACV is "fundamentally an amphibious vehicle." Each company was awarded a contract to build 16 vehicles by late 2016, 13 initially and three more when funding becomes available, with testing beginning in early 2017 and lasting one year. A winner is planned to be selected in 2018 to build 204 vehicles, with the first entering service in 2020 and all delivered by 2023.
Selection and contract
In June 2018, the BAE design was selected, with an initial order or 30 ACVs.
In June 2019 BAE Systems and Iveco were awarded a contract to develop Command and 30mm gun armed variants.
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- Media related to Amphibious combat vehicles at Wikimedia Commons