MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO , Va. – For the third year in a row, dueling wheeled amphibious combat vehicles (ACVs) are center stage at the Modern Day Marine expo here.
The two 8×8 armored amphibious personnel carriers – one each built by BAE Systems and Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC] – sit side by side in the competing companies’ booths. Their orientation is appropriate, as the vehicles are undergoing parallel test programs in an ongoing effort to become the Marine Corps ACV 1.1.
Both teams hold contracts that require them to deliver 16 test vehicles to the Marine Corps, which is in the midst of performing thorough developmental testing. Both team’s vehicles are being tested at the Marine Corps Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
SAIC has delivered 14 ACVs so far, missing the original June deadline to put 16 engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) vehicles in Marine Corps hands.
Tom Watson, SAIC senior vice president and general manager of the Navy and Marine Corps programs, said the final two ACVs will be delivered “soon.”
“We had some supply chain issues on the last few,” he told Defense Daily at Modern Day Marine. “One of them is done and is just standing by for delivery. But none of that is impacting test.”
“The game for us right now is to keep the vehicles available, because it’s an active competition,” Watson added. “You’ll perform well or not during the test, but you have to be available to be in the test. Maintaining vehicle availability is an absolute critical for us.”
BAE has tracked slightly ahead of SAIC throughout the EMD phase. It has delivered all 16 of its EMD vehicles and is meeting the Marine Corps’ published test schedule, John Swift, BAE’s ACV program manager, said. He added the vehicles will finish developmental testing in the next two to three weeks.
“We are on a trajectory, then, to be prepared to start operational testing as defined by the contractual schedule. Operational assessment will start in January,” Swift said.
Each company should get final official test results at the end of November. A request for proposals (RFP) is scheduled for release on Dec. 5, then both companies have until Jan. 4 to submit their proposals. In mid-June 2018, the Marine Corps is expected to choose one vehicle to take into production.
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.
The Marine Corps will move into the production phase of ACV 1.1 in 2018 with a single vendor. Initial operational capability is expected by the end of 2020 with all 204 ACV 1.1 vehicles fielded by the summer of 2023.
BAE brought a surprise to Modern Day Marine. Using internal research and development dollars, the company fashioned a command-and-control (C2) ACV out of its initial personnel-variant prototype. The work took about 90 days, Swift said.
Taking the same hull it displayed at the 2017 Navy League conference at National Harbor, Md., BAE unbolted its seat structure from the ceiling and bolted back in a custom seven-seat arrangement configured for command and control. Each forward-facing work station has its own ruggedized laptop computer that is connected by satellite to the tactical network up to division.
The Marine Corps has not defined its requirement for ACV variants, but the final 490 vehicles called for in full-rate production is “inclusive” of two variants: personnel and C2.
“We wanted to display the flexibility in our vehicle’s core design,” Swift said. “It’s literally a bolt-in, bolt-out design, so it can be an engineering change proposal to take a ‘P’ variant and make it into a command variant.”
The screens can share or transfer information with anyone inside the vehicle, including the three-man crew. The C2 ACV on display also sported a distributed exterior camera system that provides 360-degree full motion video to passengers and a dedicated unmanned aerial system that can provide an aerial view of the vehicle for its occupants as they ride into battle.
SAIC’s personnel vehicle, based on the Singaporean-built Terrex 2, comes standard with multiple interior multi-function screens and a 360-degree distributed-sensor system for the passengers and crew. A major element of the company’s pitch is the situational awareness provided to occupants so Marines can assess the situation outside before exiting the vehicle into combat.