Erika I. Ritchie
The Orange County Register
CAMP PENDELTON — A new Amphibious Combat Vehicle – billed as a better way to protect Marines against explosives in the open ocean, the surfline and on land — will replace the aging Amphibious Assault Vehicles that now take Marines from ship to shore, and the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton will be the first to receive the upgrade.
The U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., announced last week that it struck a $198 million deal with BAE Systems of Stafford, Va., to build 30 of its eight-wheeled armored vehicles. Deliveries will start at Camp Pendleton in late 2019.
Another 204 ACVs are to be ordered after the initial purchase for a total of more than $1 billion. The acquisitions will begin the transition of the Marine Corps’ Assault Amphibious Vehicle fleet.
The purchase of the vehicles — which military officials say is a much-needed modernization to the Marine Corps’ ground combat operation — will help phase out the more than 40-year-old vehicles currently in use. The AAVs require 15 hours of maintenance for every hour of service and many of their parts are no longer manufactured.
“The vehicles are becoming increasingly costly and difficult to maintain,” said Manny Pacheco, a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. “The changing environment in which Marines find themselves plagued by the improvised explosive device threat, has produced a need for a new, more survivable combat vehicle that can maneuver from ship to shore and beyond.”
The new vehicle, which holds up to 16 Marines, swims at 6 knotts, can reach speeds of up to 70 mph on land, and has 360-degree sensors and remote weapons stations.
A prototype of the BAE vehicle was shown in February during a technology expo at Camp Pendleton. Prior to its debut there, that vehicle and a similar product from another manufacturer were tested by Marines at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Station Twentynine Palms.
Marines analyzed the vehicles’ reliability and its ability to protect those in combat, Pacheco said.
The two vehicle prototypes also were tested at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland, the Yuma Test Center in Arizona, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Mississippi, and the White Sands Missile Range Army Base in New Mexico. Their capabilities to launch from amphibious ships was tested aboard the USS Somerset and the USS Anchorage.
“In order to be a step ahead of our adversaries in the future, the Marine Corps needed to find a modern vehicle at an affordable price range that provided significant capability enhancement and performance over the AAV,” said Col. Kirk Mullins, a product manager in Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “It isn’t maintenance intensive because of its increased reliability, and it also provides greater protection against threats we encounter on the battlefield.”
©2018 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)