Marines ditch amphibious assault vehicle upgrade in favor of newer vehicles

Pictured here in an undated photo is the SuperAV, developed by BAE Systems and Iveco Defense Vehicles for the Marine Corps' amphibious combat vehicle. The Corps will speed up production of the new vehicle and their delivery to forces by 125 to 150 vehicles per year, according to Marine Corps Combat Development Command.


By WILL MORRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 25, 2018

Marine ground troops will say goodbye to the venerated amphibious assault vehicle much sooner than planned, after the Marine Corps torpedoed a program to upgrade the vehicles for future use.

The Marine Corps ordered the company contracted to perform the upgrade to halt work on Aug. 27 after the service sank $125 million into the program.

Instead of extending the service life of the legacy vehicle, the Marines will speed up production and delivery of the new amphibious combat vehicle, Marine Corps Combat Development Command said in an email to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.

It hasn’t been determined how the remaining $96 million in funding for the upgrade project will be spent, but Manny Pacheco, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, said one option would be to spend the money on developing the vehicle’s successor.

In June, the Marines awarded a $198 million contract option to BAE Systems to begin low-rate initial production of 30 amphibious combat vehicles, dubbed ACV 1.1, after its design beat a prototype by SAIC in competitive trials. The contract’s total value, if all options are executed, could amount to $1.2 billion.

The first vehicles are expected to be delivered by fall 2019 to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The “AmTrac,” as the amphibious assault vehicle has been known, entered the fleet in 1972. It has been a mainstay of the Marine Corps, serving in combat operations around the world.

The AAVs will be replaced incrementally as the ACVs arrive at units, with 150 to be produced each year, up from initial projections 125 annually. The Marine inventory will cleared of the AAV by the mid- to late 2020s, up to 10 years earlier than originally slated, officials said Tuesday.

The cut aligns with the new National Defense Strategy and congressional guidance calling for reduced investment in legacy programs and increased focus on modernization to compete with the conventional armies of potential adversaries, Pacheco said.

“Additionally, this decision was influenced by the mobility and survivability demonstrated by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, along with the planned lethality, which will ensure that our Marines have the firepower and survivability to succeed in the future fight,” Pacheco said.

There are 877 AAVs in service in the Marine Corps, and some 360 of them had been slated for upgraded armor, blast-mitigating seats, new engines and transmission system improvements, Marine Corps officials said. Most of the improvements came from lessons learned in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Rather than continue to invest in a vehicle that, even in upgraded form, will not provide adequate maneuverability or survivability, the Marine Corps believes these funds would be better used elsewhere to support modernization initiatives across the force,” Pacheco said.

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U.S. Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit drive an AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle to a staging in preparation for operations during Baltic Operations 2018 in Ustka, Poland, June 8, 2018. Instead of extending the service life of the AAV, which has been in use since 1972, the Marines will speed up production of the new amphibious combat vehicle.

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