Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos told a group of reporters to expect his service to issue a request for proposals for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle in the next couple months, according to a Defense News report.
The Marine Corps’ top modernization priority, Amos plans to brief Navy Secretary Ray Mabus with the results of a “deep dive” study that Amos ordered on the program. The Marine Corps finished the Analysis of Alternatives study in June 2012. The additional study gave Marine acquisition officials more time to review the amphibious tractor’s requirements.
“I think all of this is going to happen over the next couple of months because we’re anxious to get money in the budget that we’re working on right now, the  budget,” Amos said Monday according to Defense News. “We’ve got [the money], so we just want to keep it there.”
The Amphibious Combat Vehicle is the program stood up by the Marine Corps following the cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle in 2011. Better known as the ACV, Marine officials plan to build it to replace the Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
Of all the armored vehicles in the US fleet, arguably the one most in need of replacement is the current Marine AAV-7 family of vehicles. Approaching 40 years of service, and after two major Service Life Extension Programs, there’s just not a lot of room for growth left.
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was intended to replace the AAV-7, but the stupendous cost of the program, as well as lingering concerns about the complexity of the vehicle, and how maintainable it would be, led to its cancellation right about the time they got most of the subsystems to work.
The problem is one of physics. Any amphibious landing vehicle is going to either move very slowly through the water, or very quickly on top of the water. Obviously, the second is preferred. But that means an enormous powerplant to achieve those kinds of speeds. Further complications include having to reconfigure the vehicle while underway to achieve that planing capability. That all costs weight and money.
Presuming the program eventually fields some new vehicle to the Marines, at least half the Marines will hate it. It will either be a competent amphibious vehicle, which means its capabilities ashore will be compromised, or it will be optimized for operations ashore, in which case, it will be a lousy boat.
But all design is a series of compromises. The Marines have a particularly challenging environment to operate in. That means some compromises will just have to be endured.