Companies Submit Final Amphibious Vehicle Designs To Marine Corps

Final proposals for the next Marine Corps amphibious combat vehicle (ACV) are in ahead of an operational assessment of two prototype designs, one of which should win contract approval in June.

BAE Systems and Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC] – the two contenders to build the ACV 1.1 wheeled ship-to-shore troop carrier – were issued a formal request for proposals (RFP) for the vehicles on Dec. 5. The RFP was sent directly to the companies and was not published on the government’s contracting website. The deadline for responses was Jan. 4.

BAE delivered its formal proposal to the Marine Corps a day early on Jan. 3. SAIC confirmed it also submitted its proposal Jan. 3. 

"Our final vehicle solution does not have any substantial changes," SAIC spokesperson Lauren Presti told sister publication Defense Daily in an email. "We made some modifications over the course of EMD and we will be production ready to meet the required delivery schedule."

John Swift, BAE’s ACV project manager, said no significant changes were made to the company’s offering for the RFP response. BAE’s ACV is based on a design by Italian vehicle manufacturer Iveco Defense, but all of its 16 EMD units were built on BAE’s York, Pa., production line. That facility will move onto a production footing as soon as the week of Jan. 7, when the company will begin ordering long-lead materials in preparation for delivering vehicles to the Marine Corps if it is selected in June.

Swift said BAE’s proposal detailed its pricing model and plans to build the first 204 vehicles under low-rate initial production (LRIP) and full-rate production and how it could fulfill an additional not-to-exceed option for another 490 vehicles.

Based on the industry feedback it received when looking for a less-capable Marine Personnel Carrier, the Marine Corps launched ACV 1.1 with strict requirement guidelines and a weather eye to requirements creep that could scuttle the effort. Both companies have praised the program for keeping to a tight schedule and adhering to published vehicle performance parameters, which Swift said has kept it on track.

“The requirements stayed consistent and one of the benchmarks of the Marine Corps’ successful program is their adherence to what they have professed for requirements and schedule,” Swift said. “As far as vehicle requirements and performance requirements, those have stayed consistent and were all validated through test.”

The companies each built 16 engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) vehicles that underwent an extensive test campaign at several Marine Corps installations to validate their relative at-sea and overland performance.

That testing is nearing completion and Marine crews have finished training to drive the vehicles during an upcoming operational assessment of the two designs that should lead up to a final downselect on or about June 20, according to Manny Pacheco, a spokesman for the Marine Corps land systems program office.

“We are full-speed ahead on testing,” Pacheco said Dec. 3. “The crews have all their training now and we are now taking Marine from operational forces to put them through their paces during an operational assessment over the next two to three months.”

During the operational assessment – scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 7 at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. – the trained crews will drive the vehicles through a series of simulated combat scenarios on land and at sea while completing a regime of land miles, swims from both ship and shore and other benchmarks, Pacheco said.

Performance data from government testing will be most heavily weighted in deciding which vehicle will secure a low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract in June.

ACV 1.1 is designed to partially replace the assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) fleet that the Marine Corps has relied on for decades to ferry them from ship to shore and then inland through battle. ACV 1.2 and 2.0 will introduce progressively more and more sophisticated requirements, including high water speed and possibly tracks instead of wheels.

Initial operational capability is expected by the end of 2020 with all 204 ACV 1.1 vehicles fielded by the summer of 2023.

Because the program has been through several draft RFPs and extensive EMD testing, the Marine Corps is familiar with both vehicles. Lockheed Martin [LMT] and General Dynamics [GD] designs were not selected to participate in EMD. Responses to the final RFP will focus mainly on refined pricing and production capacity estimates, Pacheco said.

“The RFP gives them an opportunity to address a couple of modifications to some of the requirements that resulted from EMD,” Pacheco said. “They have had time to develop their manufacturing analysis and more accurately predict how much it will cost to build X amount per month, mainly updates to cost projections and manufacturing capabilities.”

“They are both great vehicles, but they each have their own particular things that they bring to the table – that’s what those offers from industry will inform us of,” he added.

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