The Marine Corps held its second Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) industry day at the Modern Day Marine military expo at Quantico, with plans to release two draft requests for proposals (RFP) later this year before putting out the final RFP in the spring and moving quickly into prototype production and testing.
Col. Wendell Leimbach, the deputy program manager for the Program Management Office for Advanced Amphibious Assault (PM AAA), told Defense Daily at Modern Day Marine that, “while we understand that the program is on an aggressive timeline, we think that it’s a very achievable timeline based on previous knowledge that we have.” Leimbach himself was the deputy program manager for the Marine Personnel Carrier program, which was canceled and then resurrected as ACV 1.1 earlier this year.
The requirements remained virtually unchanged from MPC to ACV, he said, though “if there’s been any real change in the requirements from the MPC to the ACV 1.1, it’s been primarily in the emphasis we’ve put into growth capacity for future enhancements for the vehicle.” He said ACV 1.1 was meant to get vehicles to Marines quickly so men and women in the field could provide feedback and help refine the requirements for ACV 1.2. Though many of the changes will be based on that feedback, Leimbach said that the second increment would possibly be heavier–since combat and tactical vehicles tend to suffer weight gain as new armor, new weapons and new electronics are added to improve the vehicle over time–and it would need to be a better swimmer.
“In the MPC requirement, we emphasized a shore-to-shore swim capability, and we successfully demonstrated that,” he said, saying the vehicle would have to cross rivers, inlets and other bodies of water, as well as perhaps enter sea surf to safely move to a new location on the beach. “But we want to have the potential for growing that swim capability to even greater extents, so it will be on par with the current AAV’s level of swim capability,” which is a ship-to-shore capability spanning several miles.
Leimbach said the Marines would release a draft RFP in October, a second draft later in the winter, and the final RFP in the spring. Two contracts will be awarded to companies that will build 16 prototype vehicles each for extensive testing.
In deciding which two contractors will move forward, Leimbach said growth capability will be a key focus area, since the Marines will have this vehicle for a long time.
“Price is always a variable in every source selection, however we, the Marine Corps, want to ensure we have the best possible capability,” he said. “So lowest price will not necessarily be the primary source selection [deciding factor]. It’s capability and value.”
Once the two are selected, “we will be doing a robust test plan to include developmental and operational assessment testing and live fire,” he said. PM AAA spokesman Manny Pacheco said that typically for a program this size, only eight vehicles would be needed for testing. But to compensate for the aggressive acquisition schedule, the Marines will concurrently conduct “a full-blown test cycle” with half the vehicles and turn the other half over to Marines in the field to begin developing tactics, techniques and procedures.
Leimbach said the Marine Corps will hold a full and open competition for the two contracts, but at this point the four contractors openly competing are the four that participated in MPC before its cancellation: BAE Systems, General Dynamics [GD], Lockheed Martin [LMT] and SAIC [SAIC].
BAE Systems’ offering, based on the Iveco Defense Vehicles SuperAV, holds the most Marines of any of the competitors–meeting the objective 13 Marines, rather than the threshold 10 Marines, in addition to the three-man crew. Redesigning the interior to create more space was the key change BAE made as the Marines changed from the MPC to the ACV programs. MPC had requirements for the passenger area to be built for “95th percentile Marines” whereas the ACV does not have the same requirement, program manager John Swift said, so the seating area was rearranged to allow enough space for additional people of varying sizes to fit.
The SuperAV, which takes the chassis and other features from the highly survivable Freccia 8×8 combat vehicle and added ship-to-shore swim capabilities, is the right balance of protection and mobility, Swift said. The vehicle hits about 6.8 knots in the water, with room for growth.
“The idea is, what the government has always informed us of is, put as much capability in 1.1 so that path to 1.2 is as short as possible. We at BAE … understand that path, we have a very, very short path from 1.1 to 1.2 because we are offering a lot of capability in that 1.1 initial offering–a very robust ship launch and recovery, very robust growth capability and reserve buoyancy, and a very robust swim capability,” he said.
General Dynamics Land Systems
“Our vehicle is basically another family member of the most experienced 8×8 armored vehicle on the planet, the most combat experienced…from Strykers to Canadian LAV-3,” program manager Gary O’Brien said. “We built the MPC off the LAV-6.0 chassis, so it comes with all that credibility from the start.”
GDLS believes its ACV competitor is the most survivable light armored vehicle it has built, saying that it meets or exceeds many of the ACV requirements already. It swims above expectations, at 6.5 knots, and has 25 percent buoyancy.
O’Brien said the company’s MPC offering performed very well in testing but “was ugly as sin,” so GDLS hired a team to redesign the exterior and make it look sleeker. The vehicle was also lengthened to accommodate more Marines–meeting the threshold 10 Marines–but overall the vehicle design was kept the same from MPC to ACV.
O’Brien said his vehicle has 15 percent growth capacity built into it, the company has its supply chain in order, and “what we’re doing now is just basically confirming and bringing all the data together for the RFP.” He said he was comfortable he was prepared to move forward quickly if selected despite the tight schedule. “It’s up to the Marine Corps to maintain its schedule. They’ve set a very aggressive schedule, whether they can maintain it or not will be for them to say. We’re very agile” and ready to begin work quickly if chosen.
Lockheed Martin teamed with the Finnish company Patria for its ACV bid, modifying its 8×8 Armoured Modular Vehicle to create the Havoc vehicle that accommodates Marine-specific needs. Frank Bohlmann, director of ground combat vehicles, said that Patria had produced more than a thousand AMVs that are so well protected they’ve met the Marines’ objective requirement for survivability.
Bohlmann pointed to the mobility and quality of ride of the vehicles as its strong point. Not only has the Polish army deployed the vehicles to Afghanistan and seen success in the mountainous terrain there, the company tested Havoc at the Nevada Automotive Test Center’s Butte Mountain Trail course in August, which “represents probably some of the most aggressive terrain worldwide” in a one-mile, 1,000-foot elevation change course.
Bohlmann said he was happy with the swim capability added to the vehicle–it can swim at 6 knots and seamlessly transition from sea to land in sea state 2 conditions–but its overall ride quality is what he thinks the Marines like best about it.
During the August demonstration, “it was very clear that they liked the ride quality, it was very clear that they liked the handling capability, it was very clear that they liked the internal compartment and the noise levels and the lack of diesel fumes,” he said.
SAIC program manager Bernie Ellis said the company learned a lot from the MPC tests in 2013 and used lessons learned to refine its ACV design.
“We did the analysis for lessons learned–from survivability testing, water testing, water mobility testing, land mobility demo–and we’ve incorporated those changes into our offering for Terrex,” he said, though he did not want to elaborate on what aspects of the design were changed.
SAIC, who partnered with ST Kinetics, is now working on finalizing its supply chain before the bids are due. Though the Terrex was originally manufactured in Singapore, Ellis said that American companies built the engine, transmission and other key components, and those contractors would remain part of the Terrex team. SAIC is still investigating ways to bring more American suppliers in in lieu of foreign companies.
Ellis said he was confident in his ACV bid, saying only that “we provide a best value solution in terms of capabilities of the vehicle. At this point I don’t want to get into specifics of what that is.”