WASHINGTON – BAE Systems last week completed crucial tests aboard its new prototype amphibious combat vehicle with Italian company Iveco Defense Vehicles in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Italy.
John Swift, director of BAE System’s LCA program, told Defense News at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Md. On Wednesday that the company and its partner Iveco demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform consecutive ship launches and recoveries and operate the vehicle in waves of six to eight feet and white caps in a wind of about 10 to 15 knots.
BAE Systems and SAIC build prototypes of ACVs for the Marine Corps in competition. The Marine Corps awarded each company approximately $ 100 million in December 2015 to build 16 prototypes each for the service to be tested.
In independent tests at sea last week, Iveco’s vehicle was able to demonstrate an objective capability that the Marine Corps wants for its next ACV variant beyond the original version: the ability for the vehicle to return to the boat up a ramp, Swift mentioned.
Due to the vehicle’s unique 8×8 wheeled configuration, it has traction that mimics a tracked vehicle and enough torque to pull back onto the ship. The capacity also helps the vehicle’s transition in loose soil coming onto a beach, he noted.
And the vehicle also came ashore by going from surf to land, according to Swift.
Tests in the Ionian Sea mark a key event in which the Italian Navy and Marine Corps were present to generate “some energy” to fund Italy to start its own phase of engineering and manufacturing development of a stroke program he started over five years ago.
The Italians have yet to reach the engineering design and manufacturing phase with an amphibious assault vehicle replacement for its amphibious battalions residing in the Navy, Army and Marine Corps due to lack of funding. and global commitments to NATO, where funding has been diverted.
BAE presented its first ACV prototype to the Marine Corps in December and has delivered six vehicles to date, Swift said. Two more will go to the Marines next week. There are currently four tests with the service: two at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, one at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and one at Camp Pendleton, California.
BAE and SAIC are required to deliver 16 vehicles each to the Marines by June 15.
A final request for proposals is expected in December with a response expected in January 2018, Swift said, adding that he expected a low-rate production decision in June 2018.
The Marines plan to put 204 vehicles into service by 2020. The total contract value with all options exercised is expected to be approximately $ 1.2 billion.
Some of the features BAE finds particularly attractive for a new AFV is that it can accommodate 13 embarked Marines and a crew of three, which keeps the rifle squad together. The engine power is 690 horsepower compared to the 560 horsepower of the old engine, and it runs extremely quiet. The vehicle has a V-shaped shell to protect against underbody explosion, and the seat structure is fully suspended.
SAIC’s vehicle, which is built in Charleston, SC, offers improved traction through a central tire inflation system to automatically increase or decrease tire pressure. It also has a V-shaped shell certified in testing at the Nevada Automotive Test Center – where all prototypes will be tested by the Marine Corps – and has explosion-proof seats to protect occupants.
Jen Judson is the Ground War Reporter for Defense News. She covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a journalist for Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club’s Best Analytical Reporting Award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards’ Best Young Defense Journalist in 2018.