USMC-AAV7

The US Marines AAV7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle will not receive the upgrades that were planned which would allow it to be a viable combat asset through 2035 until the new Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) can be fielded.

On 19 June, the USMC announced its intent to terminate the survivability upgrade contact which had been competitively awarded to SAIC in late 2015. This upgrade included protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a new power pack, suspension and swim improvements that restored both ground and water mobility.

Manny Pacheco, speaking on behalf of PEO Land Systems, stated that the action was based on “National Defense Strategy and Congressional guidance to reduce investment in legacy programmes and focus buying power on modernisation” which led the USMC to make the decision to divest the AAV SU programme.

Around $125 million had been expended on the upgrade of the AAV7 which was first fielded in 1997. SAIC had already delivered 10 vehicles to the Marines and will still deliver an additional four under the contract. Even if the programme had been continued it would have only provided 392 SU production vehicles, less than half the numbers necessary to fill the Corps’ full needs.

Pacheco further shared that “this decision was also influenced by the mobility and survivability demonstrated by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), along with the planned lethality that it will provide.” The ACV, which is a wheeled platform, will provide the Marines with its future squad carrier through significantly enhance land performance with water operations equivalent to the AAV7. The SuperAV, a vehicle developed by Iveco specifically to address the balance between amphibious and extended land operations anticipated future battlefields, was offered by BAE Systems. It was selected over the Terrex 2 offered by a collaboration between ST Kinetics and SAIC. The $198 million June 2018 award to BAE provides for low rate production of 30 vehicles which will be provided by the fall of 2019. The total current contract with options provides for 204 vehicles with a worth of $1.2 billion.

SuperAV ACVs have been provided for evaluation of their performance and capability are continuing field testing. Several improvements that were projected for later in the schedule are already been incorporated. The ACV has a crew of three and will carry 13 Marines which represents just over an infantry squad.

It will initially be armed with a Kongsberg Protector .50 calibre remote weapon station with a ‘lethality upgrade’ to be incorporated as ACV1.2 into the production schedule. Schedule 1.2 also includes development of command and control as well as maintenance and recovery variants. The ACV has inherent survivability in its armoured monocoque capsule and mobility in its height adjustable hydro-pneumatic suspension, and unique H-shaped drive line with ideal power to wheel distribution and exceptional redundancy. Together these make the ACV much more a combat vehicle than a troop carrier.

The ACV also better enables the Marine Corps emphasis on utilising maneuver as a key element to achieving success on future battlefields. It can swim ashore where an opponent does not anticipate and then move rapidly to distant objectives. Further, its ground capability allows it to link up with V-22 Osprey helicopter and inserted as assault forces far inland. These capabilities are part of the evolution being made in amphibious assault doctrine and execution to adjust to new threats and the changing nature of warfare. Given this role, it is likely that the ACV programme will be expanded, with more numbers and even an accelerated delivery schedule, although the Marines indicte that the 2020 Initial Operational Capability (IOC) fielding goal remains.

by Stephen W. Miller