By Sgt. Lena Wakayama, Marine Corps Base Quantico
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Virginia --
The Marine Corps awarded contracts to two manufacturers to build prototypes for the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle Phase 1, Increment 1, worth a total of $225 million Nov. 24 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
BAE Systems Land & Armaments L.P., of Sterling Heights, Michigan, and SAIC, of McLean, Virginia, were selected from a field of five competitors to build 13 EMD ACV 1.1 prototypes, with an option for three additional, following a rigorous and thorough evaluation of their proposals. BAE’s contract is for $103.8 million, while SAIC’s is for $121.5 million.
“This has truly been a monumental team effort, at all levels,” said William Taylor, the Program Executive Officer Land Systems, Marine Corps. “From requirements determination, to acquisition strategy development, many organizations and even specific individuals played critical roles in ensuring that the ACV program remains on an efficient and effective path to success. That path has been navigated with one primary goal in mind, that of ensuring that we field the best capabilities that our Marines deserve, as quickly as possible, and at an affordable price.”
In addition to the collaboration and engagement at all levels the Marine Corps was very aggressive in its engagement with industry.
“We made sure that the vendors were fully aware of what they were asked to do and that it was in their realm of capability,” said Col. Wendell B. Leimbach Jr., the deputy program manager for the Advanced Amphibious Assault Office.
According to Leimbach, a selection board made up of subject matter experts thoroughly scrutinized the proposals and selected the best solution based on the vendors’ ability to meet the requirements set for ACV 1.1 while remaining within an affordable price range for the Marine Corps.
“ACV 1.1 is the first phase of eventually replacing the [assault amphibious vehicle] with a truly amphibious, armor-protected personnel carrier to support the infantry ashore,” said Col. John B. Atkinson, the director of Fires and Maneuver Integration Division. In subsequent phases of the ACV program, recovery vehicles are expected to be developed along with command and control variants of the vehicle. Lessons learned from ACV 1.1 will inform the development of improved capabilities in the following phases of the program. The Marine Corps will continue to study the potential for developing a high water-speed capability based on knowledge gained from the ACV program, continued research and development efforts, and evolving technological advancements.
The AAV has been in service for more than 40 years and many of its components and parts are obsolete and are no longer being manufactured. Because of this, the vehicles are becoming increasingly costly and difficult to maintain. That, along with the changing environment in which Marines are expected to fight, has produced a need for a combat vehicle that can maneuver the ground combat element in any terrain.
The ACV will be an eight-wheeled vehicle that will provide protection akin to the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles with landward maneuverability and mobility that is superior to that of the AAV. The ACV will also be outfitted with a precision weapons station, which will provide significant enhanced lethality, and will have a robust swim capability, allowing it to operate within the littorals.
The vehicle will go through substantial testing to determine its ability to protect Marines, the accuracy of its weapons, ease of repair and whether it will meet the requirements for survivability and reliability. Ultimately, the Marine Corps will choose one vehicle to go into production.
The ACV is scheduled to reach initial operational capability in 2020, which means one platoon of ACVs will be ready to deploy. It is scheduled to reach full operational capability in 2023, which means all 204 vehicles from ACV 1.1 will be ready to be deployed.
According to Lt. Col. Brian L. Strack, the AAV advocate for Headquarters Marine Corps, there will be an in-depth look across the organization to ensure ACV transition is as seamless as possible.
“The whole point is to avoid surprises,” Strack said. “In 2020, when the first platoon of ACV Marines are paired up with their vehicles, we want to make sure they have a place to maintain them, the right number of Marines are there to crew the vehicles and that they have been trained properly.”
While the ACV is being developed, 392 AAVs will receive upgrades as part of the Survivability Upgrade Program. These upgrades will include increased protection from mine blasts, improved engines and power supplies, improved seating, better fuel protection and select improvements for water and land mobility.
The purpose of the upgrade program is to mitigate the risk involved in transitioning to the ACV and to ensure the Marine Corps retains appropriate lift capacity for Marine Corps’ forcible entry requirements. The Marine Corps has a requirement to be able to support 12 infantry battalions with its AAVs, and will maintain that lift capability through a combination of AAVs and ACVs.
“To ensure we maintain an amphibious assault capability, we’re investing in the AAV to keep it as a viable platform through 2035,” said Atkinson.