Five companies have submitted proposals for the swimming personnel carrier that will replace the Marine Corps’ aging Vietnam War-era amphibious assault vehicles.
The deadline for bids in the amphibious combat vehicle program was Monday. Industry heavy hitters Lockheed Martin [LMT], BAE Systems, General Dynamics [GD] and Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC] each submitted bids. The outlier is relative newcomer Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems, or ADVS, based in Lake Orion, Mich.
With fewer than 1,000 employees, ADVS would seem out of its league in the ACV competition. However, the company told Defense Daily on May 20 that it will act as prime but has brought Textron [TXT] and IR Technologies on board as subcontractors, which should add some industry gravitas to its bid.
The Marine Corps is in the market for a wheeled personnel carrier that can match land speed, maneuverability and survivability with the M1 Abrams tank. It must be able to carry at least 10 Marines fully loaded from the well deck of a ship offshore onto an unprotected beach and into combat in sea states with waves up to two feet tall.
The Marine Corps wants to buy about 204 ACV 1.1 vehicles at a unit cost of up to $7.5 million. Plans are to equip six battalions by 2023 with ACVs while modernizing 392 existing AAVs with survivability and communications upgrades. SAIC is on contract for the upgrade work.
The service plans to downselect to two competitors in November and award contracts for 16 vehicles to each, Pacheco said. It will then pare the program down to a single vehicle manufacturer for the 200-plus ACVs in increment 1.1.
An initial effort to develop a high-water-speed tracked vehicle called the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was scuttled after it became evident that the Marine Corps could neither afford a vehicle to meet the requirements nor stomach the capability sacrifices necessary to bring it within budget.
After a year of soul searching and reevaluations of its needs, the Marines decided on an incremental approach to ACV, said Manny Pacheco, a spokesman for Marine Corps Program Executive Office Land Systems.
ACV 1.1 is the first iteration and will be a non-developmental personnel carrier. Later increments will include communications variants, higher water speed and larger carrying capacity, Pacheco said. It also will fulfill the Corps’ need for a true ship-to-shore connector that can transport Marines from a ship stationed beyond the horizon, at high speed, onto land.
The service already hosted demonstrations of several wheeled vehicles competing for the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC), a less-capable, slower version of the ACV with a displacement rather than a keeled hull.
“We learned a lot from those demonstrations,” Pacheco told Defense Daily. “Given the fact we were doing those MPC demos, the Marine Corps did another study for about a year and what they found was we could build a high-speed vehicle, but trade-offs were too great for the MC to bear at the time, but we had this thing that had almost the same requirements already being tested. We also found their swim capability was really robust .”
SAIC, Lockheed Martin, BAE and General Dynamics all participated in the MPC demonstrations, which included blast trials and amphibious operations. That could put ADVS at a disadvantage. The company’s flagship product is the Desert Chameleon APC, which comes in 4-, 6-, 8- and 10-wheeled variants with or without a top-mounted 20mm remote-controlled turret. Nowhere on the company’s website is amphibious capability listed.
The Chameleon originally was developed as an armored personnel carrier for the Kuwaiti military. Because of “competitive sensitivities,” ADVS would not say what vehicle it is offering.
Pacheco could not comment on specific submissions, but said that of the five ACV candidates, four participated in the MPC demo. He said that program was a learning exercise but would not factor in the ACV submissions.
“It is not necessarily playing a direct role in this ACV program, even though those vehicles had close to the same requirements,” he said. “We have five competitors and not all five played in those demonstrations. That process not only educated us, but it educated industry on what they’re doing
For the MOC demos, Lockheed Martin teamed with vehicle manufacturer Patria to offer the 8-wheeled armored modular vehicle, also called the Havoc. Lockheed Martin would not confirm that it is still hooked up with the Finnish firm.
Lockheed Martin spokesman John Kent said the company delivered its ACV proposal May 18. Without specifying what vehicle was being offered, Kent said Lockheed Martin’s “modular, easily upgradable vehicle design allows a wide range of configurations, weapons, sensors and communications options.”
BAE is offering an ACV that is “built from the ground up to be a truly amphibious vehicle.” It is offering a version of the IVECO Defense Superav, which at 63,000 pounds can carry 13 Marines at 65 miles per hour on land and 5-6 knots in the water.
SAIC will offer the eight-wheeled Terrex, which can swim through four-foot seas and weighs in at about 62,000 pounds.
General Dynamics confirmed it has submitted a proposal for ACV but did not disclose which vehicle it would offer. It is expected that GD will pitch the light armored vehicle (LAV) 6, a 45,000-pound, eight-wheeled APC with a 62 mile per hour land speed, topped with a 25 mm cannon turret.