A Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicle. The Corps is eager to replace the aging AAV with a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle, but can it afford it?

A Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicle. The Marines want to replace the aging AAV with a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

Marine Commandant James Amos must make a tough call this year on a program that will define the future Marine Corps: whether to develop and buy the Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

“The Commandant considers a replacement craft for his aging AAV7 Amphibious Tractor to be his number-one priority,” said Gen. Amos’s spokesman, Lt. Col. David Nevers, in an email to me this morning. “He will soon make a decision on the future of the ACV.”

The Marines come ashore from ships and fight their way inland from the beaches. That is what they believe is their military DNA. That’s why ACV is the  commandant’s number one priority,

While it may be his top weapons system issue, we aren’t sure how soon “soon” will be. Nevers declined to define it. Given that Gen. Amos didn’t receive the in-depth analysis of aldternatives of ACV options until November, it’s unlikely he can make the much-deferred decision in time to affect the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2015, theoretically due out next month. (Or he’s made a decision and doesn’t want to telegraph it, which would give time for contractors etc. to influence the decision.)

The Amphibious Combat Vehicle is meant to replace the aging and vulnerable Amphibious Assault Vehicle, aka the LVPT-7, which entered service in 1971, ceased production in the early 1980s, and fought with mixed success in Iraq. The AAV, in turn, is the successor of the famous World War II Amtrac, which revolutionized the military role of the Marine Corps. In layman’s terms, these are swimming tanks that carry Marine Corps foot troops  — 24 in the AAV — over water, onto the beach, and deep inland.

The Marines tried to replace the AAV before, with the ambitious Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. EFV was essentially a water-skiing, transforming tank, able to skim over the water like a speedboat at 30 miles per hour — three times as fast as the AAV — and then reconfigure itself for combat ashore. The idea was a troop transport so fast and long-ranged that Navy ships could launch it from 25 miles offshore, beyond the range of coastal anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) launchers. But missile ranges got longer, the EFV got more expensive, and the program was cancelled by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2011. Ever since, Gen. Amos and the Marine Corps have labored to come up with an alternative.

The Marines face a dilemma with no easy answer. Amos has essentially three options: go high, go low, or go slow.

Go high: a high-speed ACV that meets the ambitious performance goals the Marines hold dear — which critics will immediately declare to be too expensive and doomed to meet the same fate as the cancelled EFV.

Go low: a lower-speed ACV that reduces performance to keep down costs —  which critics will immediately argue is too marginal an improvement over the existing AAV to spend money on.

Go slow: a delayed ACV that spends more time in research and development in the hopes of reconciling high speed and low cost — or at least waiting out the current budget crunch.

“Those sound like the generic options to me,” agreed Loren Thompson. “The Marine Corps is not of one mind on ACV, but the path of least resistance at the moment is to keep the effort in R&D.”

But delaying ACV raises near-term dangers, warned Thompson, a well-connected defense consultant, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute thinktank, and a member of our Board of Contributors. “If the service does that,” he told me, “it will have to rely more on tilt-rotors” — the V-22 Osprey aircraft — “and conventional helicopters to get over the beach.” But aircraft, especially Ospreys, cost a lot themselves, and they can only drop off the riflemen and fly away, not drive them overland under armor.

The problem, said Thompson, is that “amphibious vehicles that lack the agility of a planing design” — the water-skiing approach of the high-speed EFV — “are becoming too vulnerable to perform opposed landings.” Even if anti-ship missiles can’t hit the Navy’s transports before they launch the amtracs, anti-tank missiles can easily hit slow-moving vehicles in the water — and even a non-state “hybrid” force like Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has effectively employed both types of missiles.

Once ashore, there is the risk of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which took a fearsome toll on AAVs in Afghanistan and Iraq: With 24 riflemen and three crew packed into a relatively lightly armored vehicle, a single well-placed blast could kill or maim dozens of Marines. By contrast, the Army’s M2 Bradley carries only three crew and six or seven infantrymen under much heavier armor. Even the Bradley proved too vulnerable to sophisticated Iranian-built IEDs, however, and the Army wants to replace it with a much heavier Ground Combat Vehicle — which is also likely to be put in R&D limbo.

The danger for both programs is that no amount of R&D can square their respective circles. For the Army GCV, that’s upping protection without excessive weight and cost. For the Marine Corps ACV, that’s increasing speed and, if possible, protection without breaking the bank.

Without some improbable breakthrough in amtrac technology, however, “there’s only two ways to travel: ploughing through the water, as current vehicles do, which limits speed, [or] a giant jet ski,” said Thomas Donnelly, a national security expert at the American Enterprise Institute and a hardcore armored-vehicle advocate. “If you wanna go faster, you have to get up on top of the water,” he told me — and that ain’t cheap.

There are other significant choices the Marines must face that could trade performance for affordability. “There’s the question of what the thing does once it gets ashore,” he said. Does it have a cannon or not?  Either answer is legitimate, but there’s no free lunch.  And lastly, and also like the Army [programs], how much electricity does the thing have to generate?  Is it a charging station for dismounts and their gear?”

A major advantage of the Army’s eight-wheel drive Stryker troop carriers over the older Bradley is that it has almost 50 percent more electrical power, letting it power both more onboard equipment — most importantly IED jammers — and the ever-increasing amount of electronics that modern foot troops carry. But generating big kilowatts requires big engines, as does carrying heavy armor and weapons, and all this costs big bucks.

So Donnelly is deeply pessimistic about the ACV. “Either it’ll turn out to be a replay of the EFV — which I thought was the right vehicle, but isn’t affordable under current budgets — or they’ll drop some of the capabilities to try to make it affordable,” he told me. “Most likely outcome is they’ll opt for a dumbed-down vehicle but still won’t be able to afford it.”

The Marine Corps’ original plan was to power through its procurement of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, an uparmored Humvee replacement, as fast as possible to free up funding to buy ACVs in bulk as soon as JLTV was done. That plan seems to have fallen victim to the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

“The plan had been to make the Marine buy of JLTV quickly in order to clear the decks for ACV production early in  the next decade, but that thinking may have lapsed as budget pressures mounted,” Thompson told me. “Gen. Amos was seriously considering giving up the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to pursue ACV until budgeteers realized there just wasn’t enough money available.”

Even so, Amos insists the ACV remains the Marine Corps’s top priority for the future force, exceeded only in importance by keeping the current force trained and ready for combat. There had been speculation that Amos was softening his stance and putting the Marine Corps variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B, ahead of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle. Not so, said Nevers: ACV is “number one.”

“While the ACV and JSF are at far different stages of programmatic development” — one yet to settle on a basic design, the other already in operational testing — “the capabilities represented by these two platforms are both critical to our sea-based expeditionary mission sets,” Nevers told me.

What Nevers didn’t say is that, as a practical political and budgetary matter, the F-35’s future is secure, supported by Congress, the highest levels of the Defense Department and by three armed services, two of them — the Navy and the Air Force — much larger and more influential than the Marines. A new amtrac is primarily a Marine Corps priority.

Primarily, but not exclusively. While discussion of potential war in the Pacific have focused on a long-range, high-tech exchange of missiles and cyber attacks with China, Marine amphibious forces would be crucial to seize and defend island bases, especially on the flanks of the main “Air-Sea Battle.” And in a lesser conflict, long-range firepower is less important than the capacity to kick the Chinese off a disputed island — and that takes Marines.

If Gen. Amos can convince the Navy, the Air Force, and the Secretary of Defense that a new amtrac is essential to the scenario that worries them most, the ACV program will have a much better chance.

 

[Corrected 10 January: The original version of the article mistakenly said AAV-7s were deployed to Afghanistan; this is incorrect.]

Comments

  • idahoguy101

    The only troop carrier that relatively safe for the occupants is the Israeli built Namer APC. And it isn’t amphibious. A craft that can carry Marines from twenty five miles offshore to a beach, at high speed, is a boat. Not a Armored Personnel Carrier. The two functions are incompatible.
    The Navy has operated for decades high speed landing craft to bring Marines and vehicles onto a secure beach. It can transport a sixty ton Battle Tank!. Buy the Namer APC or equivalent. But it’s not going to swim to shore.

    • FormerDirtDart

      The “high speed landing craft” a LCAC, that you would have the Marines use to carry the grossly overweight, and under armed Namer ashore are not used to conduct opposed landings. They must shut down, on the beach, to offload their cargo.

      • Gary Church

        Grossly overweight? There is no free lunch. Armor is heavy and there is NO substitute. If you are being “opposed” and are on a flat sea coming in from one direction, guess what?

      • ycplum

        While it has to power (not shut) down to offload, it is still better than being in the water, for me at least. I would rather do 45 mph on water and then sit for a minute or two minutes (at most) instead of doing 8 mph over water.
        PS. What is a Namer? I am not familiar with that name.
        They usually carry a M-1A1 Abrams. That or two LAV-25’s.

    • Gary Church

      I have to agree with potato man; even the 60 and 70 ton vehicles now appropriate for transporting infantry are vulnerable and represent the minimum acceptable level of protection. The aluminum armor of the past just burns and makes a shaped charge more destructive. I remember many people wondered why the Bradley was aluminum when it entered service. The AAV and 113 were never meant to go toe to toe- only to stop artillery fragments and the very lightest small arms fire. Even a heavy machine gun is sure death to these aluminum troop taxis. I know this because the M-113A1 I drove in Korea in the 80’s had bullet holes in the drivers compartment that had been repaired. If anyone was in it whenever it had been hit (must have been in Vietnam) they were probably chopped into pieces. So this whole scenario of the AAV being designed to go up against any determined opposition is a myth to start with.

      • ycplum

        Just a minor point. The M113’s (and AAVs) would not stop a .50 cal. (12.5 mm) Its armor was designed to resist 7.62 mm. The Bradley M2/3’s were designed to resist the former Soviet 12.7 mm without uparmoring.
        But your basic contention that thesese light vehicles are not tanks is correct . It annoys me to no end when they call an APC or light armoured vehicle a “tank”.
        However, a light armored vehicle would be helpful in pushing past infantry. It offers more protection than my shirt, carry heavier weapons than I can, and move faster than my boots. LOL

        • Gary Church

          Every soldier I ever talked to about it was VERY impressed with the firepower of the Bradley. Tankers were of course very unimpressed. No matter how thick the aluminum armor the fact is it just makes a shaped charge hit worse. Should have used a version of Chobham. I am not a fan of any vehicle with wheels instead of tracks and “light armor” so do not even ask me what I think of the stryker. Ugh.

          • ycplum

            I was a 19D (armored reconnaissance). I trained on the Bradley. I also trained on the M1113, HMMWV and the M901 ITV. It was originally intended to be air deployable, but that kind of fall through with increase weight. As an Armoured Fighting (AFV) and APC vehicle, it was a decent design.
            However, it was not that good as a scout vehicle. The M3 was taller than the M1 main battle tank, it was louder than the M1 battle tank, and it was slower than the M1 battle tank. Now you see why I am not in favor of it as a scout vehicle.
            As for HEAT rounds, the use of aluminum or steel doesn’t really come into play. Both will be toast unless you have space armor or explosive plate armor. The length of the jet is over kill.
            The armor on a M2/3 simply isn’t thick enough to utilize effectively Chobham armor and would dramatically up the cost.
            FYI
            Interestingly enough, aluminum does not have a “direct” savings in weight over steel. The area density is the same. Basically, 1″ of aluminum has the same resistence to rounds as 0.25″ of steel. However, a 1″ plate of aluminum weighs teh same as a 0.25″ plate of steel. The reason they use aluminum is that the extra thickness of aluminum means it doesn’t need stupporting structures to maintain its rigidity. The lack of supporting structures (braces, etc.) results in about 10% savings in weight.

  • Don Bacon

    the ACV and JSF are at far different stages of programmatic development” — one yet to settle on a basic design, the other already in operational testing

    No. The initial operational test and evaluation of the JSF hasn’t started yet, and it won’t start for several years. The JSF is currently in development testing, with many problems included incomplete software design on this flying computer.

    “it will have to rely more on tilt-rotors” — the V-22 Osprey aircraft

    The Osprey troop delivery system is highly vulnerable to even low-caliber enemy fire as demonstrated recently in South Sudan by a CV-22. So the Marines should decide on an ACV.

    • Gary Church

      I would not rely on tilt-rotors for anything except being too few, broke when you need one, and useless for anything except getting votes in the districts that make a part.

      • plusnine

        So you didn’t read anything about that typhoon in the Philippines……

        • Gary Church

          PR; helicopters are far more effective for rescue work for several reasons. Don’t fall for it.

    • ycplum

      The V-22 and the EFV (or whatever they decide on) have very different missions. The V-22 is intended to deliver and recover troops. While it may have armament for suppressive fire, it isn’t intended to fight its way through. the EFV/AAV’s are intended to fight their way through. Yes, the V-22 is vulnerable to small arms, but so are helicopters.
      Everything has its advantages and disadvantages. The trick is how to push teh advantages while not exposing teh disadvantages.

      • Gary Church

        My mind is pretty much made up about the V-22; the only mission it has any advantage doing is medevac because it can get casualties out of the field faster- but it is so expensive and such a piece of junk maintenance wise that it would save far more lives to buy the three or four helicopters and be able to keep them flying. It is the very perfect example of everything that is wrong with the defense procurement process. A part made in every important congressional district and it could not be killed. Even Dick Cheney could not drive a stake through it’s heart. And Bell just laid off a hundred engineers because they don’t need them to try and make it work anymore; mo money mo money. It is as good as it can be and that is not saying much.

        • ycplum

          Honestly, I think it is marginally useful, even on the offensive. And I believe this because it forces the an opponent to defend in depth, dispersing their forces and complicating their calculations.

  • http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/ Solomon

    Amos won’t make a decision on this vehicle. He’s punted three times, told the outright lie that he was getting more information and yet funding for the F-35, AH-1Z/UH-1Y and even the CH-53K continues at a rapid pace.

    He’s an aviation officer that happened to weasel his way into the Commandant’s chair. The next person, if its another aviation officer, will continue the same policy.

    The Marine Corps as we knew it is dead. Its just a sea-going 101st that happens to provide support to the USAF in the deep strike mission. Close Air Support is dead as disco as the “reason for being” for Marine Air. Funny fact? He stated that he would drive the ACV before he left office. Just one of many “little” ones he’s told.

    • Gary Church

      Well, “dead” is kind of negative; the Corps must change like everything else. As long as the Marines can still shoot I am not worried. And everyone on this planet knows they can shoot.

  • Gary Church

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-802

    It is not going to happen like world war II any more. Ever. Sydney is dead on target mentioning ant-tank missiles- they would massacre any landing force trying to take a contested beach. It ain’t like the old days.

    • http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/ Solomon

      no one is saying that it is like the old days. have you heard of anti-missile vehicle systems? the Trophy system? defeating anti-tank missiles will be the easy part. if a corridor is open to allow ACVs into the water then they’ll be escorted on the run in by AH-1Z or maybe even those damn F-35s. you’re missing the real issue because you’re focusing on the minor. the real issue that Sydney missed is whether the design of the Marine Corps in particular and the Navy in general for amphibious operations valid. they’re building an over the horizon force but like Sydney said. anti-ship missiles will have to be rolled back..that means Air-Sea Battle needs to get real. that means amphibs can get closer to launch. that means that opposed landings are indeed different, but it means that naval guns, cruise missiles, aircraft etc…will be required to win the long fight. after that the Marines win the objective.

      • Gary Church

        “-defeating anti-tank missiles will be the easy part. if a corridor is
        open to allow ACVs into the water then they’ll be escorted on the run in
        by AH-1Z-”

        Uh….right. Helicopters are even easier to shoot down than landing craft are to sink. “Clear a corridor”? Sounds like alot of dead marines to me.

        The war in the pacific ended almost 70 years ago and those massive invasions are never going to happen again; it’s all about the missiles and you better believe they work.

        • Chernenko

          How many cobras have been shot down in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many anti tank missiles destroyed aav7 during the invasion of Iraq? Anti tank, anti-air , anti ship missiles have been around since the dying days of World War 2, they have yet to single handily stop a conflict.Gary Church should be the next SECDEF. You do know that the Philippines landed troops in the Spratlys, Vietnam has troops on some of the Spratlys, China claims all of the Spratlys your ignorance of the Pacific region astounds me. If tensions keep rising someone is going to land troops, and we will have to honor our commitments to our regional partners.

          And lastly the last major amphibious operation was Inchon not World War 2. But let’s see we conducted amphibious operations in Vietnam, Granada, marines were standing by in Kuwait during Desert Storm, Somalia but those don’t count right?

          • Gary Church

            If my ignorance “astounds” you then you are easily impressed. Ignorance is intrinsically ignoring something like you are doing so I guess missiles are nothing to worry about. My mistake…..you obviously have it all figured out.

          • Chernenko

            Missiles are a threat, but you act as if there are no count measures against them. I find your argument laughable in regards to amphibious operations. Lets apply that concept to other aspects of weapons from the era: nuclear weapons, commerce raiding, submarines, cruisers, armored divisions and grand alliances.

          • Gary Church

            Well, enjoy your laugh.

          • plusnine

            Israel’s ability to wage war was certainly limited by Hezbollah’s use of ATGMs in the 2006 war.

            -Of the 23 members of the armored corps killed in action, 15 were killed by ATGMs
            -The ATGM Merkava tank deaths are all accounted for by just 6-7 hits.
            -There were 14 APCs (armored personnel carriers) hit by ATGMs. In two of these incidents, seven troops in the vehicles were killed. APCs got perforated 11 times.
            -Three APCs hit mines, killing 5 infantrymen in two incidents (4 in one vehicle). Some 90 percent of these APC casualties all occurred in one night. In comparison, 14 infantrymen were killed by ATGMs fired at buildings.
            -the Kornet E, is a laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The launcher has a thermal sight for use at night or in fog. The missile’s warhead can penetrate 1200 mm of armor, which means that the side armor of the Israeli Merkava tank would be vulnerable. The system was introduced in 1994 and has been sold to Syria (who apparently passed them on to Hezbollah).

            and btw it’s spelled Incheon.

          • Chernenko

            My point was that even with the proliferation of anti-tank weapons, and manpads the invasion of Iraq was “successfull” i.e it was not stopped at breach point west.No weapons system is the end all be all. We did just fine in Iraq until the insurgency sprang up with IEDs and EFP.

          • ycplum

            True, but the Israelis adapted. While the Israelis did not do as well as they had expected, they did give better than they received. They did well enough that Hezbollah rethought their policy of shelling Israel (at least not so watonly).
            Actually, a better example for your argument would be the Yom Kippur War. The quantity and quality of manportable missiles and RPGs surprised teh Israelis. But similarly, the Israelis adapted their tactics to the new reality.

          • Gary Church

            Actually the Israeli’s avoided the destruction of their nation in the Yom Kippur War only because their enemies dropped the ball and did not advance aggressively after their initial success with their new soviet weapons. Egypt could have over run Israel if their allies had not let them down. The missiles worked, it was the leadership that was lacking. The IDF did not “adapt.” They just kept fighting and let their enemies defeat themselves.

          • ycplum

            That was a bit more complex situation. The Israelis were stymied because they could not penetrate the Egyptian AA defense. The Egyptians carefully stayed inside the AA cover at first and teh Israeli’s ground forces could not make any advancement against the manprotable AT missiles and lack of air support.
            Where the Egyptians “dropped the ball” was trusting the Syrians. LOL Syria was having big problems and wanted Egypt to go on the offensive to relieve the pressure on his front. He basically lied to teh Egyptians that the Israelis were on their nknees on his side and that the Egyptians can “finish off” the Israelis. Egypt left their AA cover and got trounced by Israeli air. Israeli ground forces then punched through the Egyptian ground forces and took out the AA batteries. At that point, it was all over. You could stick a fork in the Egyptians.

          • Gary Church

            “Allies” can definitely lose a war for you. Helluva battle. Quite different than what we think is war right now. And that attitude is going to bite us in the ass if we have to go up against an enemy with decent weapons. Just like the Israelis found out.

          • ycplum

            Personally, I believe it went beyond “decent” weapons in that war. I could be wrong, but I believe it was the first large scale use of manportable guided AT missiles with a tactic that emphasized its strengths. It caught the Israelis (and the world) off guard. There was a mad scramble in developing guided AT weapons and changes to tank/armor design immediately after that. You can say the tuition for learning about the weapons system and usage was extremely costly.

    • Chernenko

      You do know that armored vehicles have smoke and ir smoke launchers on them for the sole purpose of countering anti tank missiles. What about reactive armor? You obviously don’t know much about the spratly islands or the current tensions around the Senkakus, because these surely encompass the possibility on naval landings.

      • Gary Church

        You obviously don’t realize this is the 21st century. The last landing against a determined foe was in 1945. We had vast invasion fleets and the enemy had primitive weapons. Puh-leez

        • ycplum

          Not necessarily true. Some things have changed since WW II. The D-Day invasion force had no capability of sustaining itself in open water. They literally had only a few places to land and the Germans had those areas covered in varyng degrees. In the Pacific, it wasn’t at the beaches itself were you had teh heaviest fighting. It was inland. And relative to US equipment at the time, their weapons were far from primitive. Future landings will need to be closer to that of Inchon, where deception and surpise is a factor and to a certain degree, isn’t that the biggest threat posed by the Marines – the ability to threaten any coast line (preferably lightly defended of course). This fundamental threat is greater today with helicopters and tilt-rotor.
          Today, we are better at detecting and destroy enemy from afar. Most (but definately nothing close to all) heavy beach defenses can be attacked by air assets or missiles. It still won’t be easy for teh Marines, but you will need someone to dig the enemy out of the jungle, tunnels, or other fortifications.
          The basic mission (or DNA) is still there. It is the tactics and equipment that has changed.

          • Gary Church

            I appreciate your point about deception and surprise but you are missing mine; there is no deceiving or surprising a coastline anymore with the proliferation of cheap multi-spectral sensor platforms and missiles have huge coverage and are far more mobile than the guns of the last century. And missiles are now to the point where they just do not miss anymore. The advantage has shifted overwhelmingly to the offense.

          • Gary Church

            That does sound confusing. Missiles as being “the offense.” Sorry.

          • ycplum

            It is just a tool. Whether it is offense or defense (or both) is how it is being used andnot necessarily what the brochure says..

          • ycplum

            I have to disagree with surprising a coast line. Radars are not as all see as advertised. You literally fly under the radar, get in close and target the radar facilities with small HARM missiles. That or saturate with terrain following/sea skimming cruise missiles. You can then have follow on forces. During one conflict, Syria reported that they destroy dozens of attacking Israeli jets. What happened was the Syrians destroyed dozens of Israeli drones. When AA radars lit up to destroy teh drones, a second wave of Israeli jets destroyed the missile battery radar stations, rendering the batteries useless. Follow on forces then attacked their assigned targets.
            And deception can include threatening an amphibious invasion and have the main thrust elsewhere (as was the case in Iraq, Desert Storm). Deception isn’t just about where you are, but what you are doing. You can have two large flotillas with one being a feint.
            Also, missiles can be spoof and many (particularly the man-portable ones) need a visual detection before targetting. Case in point are the Stingers. They are heat seekers, but the operator needs to visually acquire the target before spinning up the launcher and trying to get a lock. During a battalion simulation excercise in Ft. Levenworth, manportable stingers were assumed to be 50% less efficient at night.
            Strategic deception tries to get the opposition “out of position” and speed allows you to take advantage of the opponent being out of position. whe I was referring to speed, I was focusing more of slipping the assets in before the enemy is ready to fire, rather than evading missiles with speed.
            It is definately more difficult, but strategic deception and speed does come into play. You seem to be focused more on tactics and the tactics of stealth.

  • BigAlSez

    As a former Marine armored amtracker this subject is dear to my heart. So it is with some sadness that I agree with Gary Church. The Marine “military DNA” is that of a dinosaur. Future amphib assaults, if at all, are mostly likely to be on small islands where high speed small boats or helicopters will be the vehicles of choice. But if the post-Korean war
    experience is of any relevance a new “military DNA” is required or the Marines will go the way of the dinosaur.

    • Gary Church

      I was in the Coast Guard and the only Coast Guardsman ever awarded a medal of honor died pulling Marines off a beach in a landing craft in WW2. I was also in army armor for my first tour and we trained Marine Tankers at Fort Knox. They made the army look sooo shabby. Excellent armored vehicle crewmen. Semper Fi!

  • ziggy1988

    Buying an under armored, vulnerable, slow amtrac would be irresponsible and wasteful. Either buy a good, fast amtrac or none at all.

    • Gary Church

      A planing high speed amtrac and heavy armor does not seem feasible Z. The two do not go together. I do not know of any amphibious vehicles ever built that have armor that will stop anything more than small arms; making it go fast just compounds the design problem into impossibility IMO. Probably why the Commandant is waffling; maybe he knows it cannot be done.

      • Kibbitz Van Ogle

        - 1. It would seem that the USNI
        PROCEEDINGS article on “LCU-F” in the July-13 issue (pp.60-64) covered that ground fairly well. (see also http://hallman.nfshost.com/bolger/LCU-F.pdf)

        – 2. In light of accelerating capabilities and proliferation of
        shore-defense systems, few ARG commanders will ever put their vessels at risk in any setting (10-15nm inshore) where amphibious APCs would have any assault-value beyond crossing tidal streams or a modest bay behind barrier-islands.

        – 3. In the context of item 2., this suggests much greater Stand-Off
        distances of beyond 50nm soon, which makes any such vehicle-type pointless to invest in. The EFV would have been running on ‘fumes’ at that mile-marker, with little utility to engage in combat – unless a cooperative gas-station would be found somewhere.

        – 4. Protecting the ARG is primary, with fast heavy-lift ship-to-shore
        Connectors then carrying USMC wheel and tracked assault vehicles, from HMMWVs to MBTs.

        – 5. At under 10 feet of air-draft and readily coatable with with low-tech radar-beam-eating surfacing LCU-F may be too low in the water for reliable missile-seeker targeting.

        – 6. Arriving with the full GCE in One First Wave at will from – if need be – 200nm out in one night makes shore-defense a challenge. Just follow the old USMC-scenario placing an MEU/ARG 200nm south of Cape Cod and at near 20kts you could arrive anywhere from the Carolinas to Cape Cod. Where would the MANPADS, the RPGs etc. be best concentrated, never mind troops, vehicles?

        – 7. With the ARG that far out to sea, there is ample warning period against cruise-missiles, particularly if LCU-F serves as a ‘picket’ to intercept or at least warn.

        – 8. A plausible Connector-approach is at the heart of the USMC’s
        accelerating reassertion of unambiguous amphibious capabilities.
        And discussing such concepts may well be underway at USMC.

        As a matter of priorities some would argue that once LCU-F or similar can reestablish solid heavy-lift fast ship-to-shore transport for the USMC (plus autonomous MARSOC service/combat-tanker/troop-transport/etc. operations) then investing in that connector reaffirm the Corp’s future amphibious capability. Wheeled or tracked APCs stuck on the ARG surely would not.

        • Gary Church

          “-LCU-F may be too low in the water for reliable missile-seeker targeting.”

          May be? Don’t think so. Radar can detect a periscope I do not think any miracle coating is going to render an invasion force invisible. Sounds good though.

          “-if need be – 200nm out in one night makes shore-defense a challenge.”

          No, it does not. Sounds good though.

          “Where would the MANPADS, the RPGs etc. be best concentrated, never mind troops, vehicles?”

          The missiles of whatever kind would be where they are needed in time to slaughter the invasion force. Missiles are not like artillery- far more mobile and an order of magnitude more accurate. Sounds good though.

          “-there is ample warning period against cruise-missiles,-”

          No, they would not. Missiles go Mach 3 and faster now and even if you detect them you cannot stop them. Sounds good though.

          “-LCU-F or similar can reestablish solid heavy-lift fast ship-to-shore transport for the USMC (plus autonomous MARSOC service/combat-tanker/troop-transport/etc. operations) then investing in that connector reaffirm the Corp’s future amphibious capability.”

          Techno-babble at it’s finest. And meaningless. Sounds good though.

  • Larry A. Altersitz

    How about a stretched M113 with water jets, a Trophy system and a 25mm chain gun?

    The Marine problem is much like the Airborne problem: once on the beach/ground, they’re foot infantry with little organic mobility or firepower. Seems to me some sort of amphibious light armor with a decent automatic weapon is the solution for both. Using a stretched M113 would solve both the Marine and Airborne needs; adding additional applique armor like Armorflate might enhance survivability.

    • Gary Church

      The AAV is really just a stretched M113 in many ways. Same era, same type of armor, same mobility on land as far as I know. Try again Larry; think outside the box.

      • Larry A. Altersitz

        Got it! Mr. Scott will beam in the troops! HALO all forces in with vehicles! SCUBA the troops in at night, like the Navy SEAL commercial! Star Wars ATATs with big schnorkels! Swarms of Ospreys! Freeze the ocean, drive over the ice! Powered surfboards! Using 10 heavy gun warships to pound the crap out of the area! FAEs to crush bunkers! JDAMS to attack everything that’s left! Camouflaged, platoon-carrying, high speed hydrofoil LARC LXs with light armored tanks and LAVs! Oh, wait, the medicine is kicking in; sorry.

        Getting people ashore in a contested landing with protected equipment and firepower requires some sort of vessel with passive protection and active countermeasures. LCACs are good D+1 log vehicles, but not what is needed in the first wave. Maybe Vietnam-era riverine force ACVs might fit the role to clear the beach area and drop troops to secure the area and move inland. They’d need Trophy-type systems, sensor systems, cheap effective cannon firepower, claymores to sweep areas, guided 70mm rockets to take on hardened positions, mine clearing systems for the beaches; maybe we need an AUHC (Armed Unmanned Hover Craft) to sweep beaches and fire up positions to augment UAVs.

        Without mobility and firepower ashore with the troops, we’re going to end up with Iwo Jima replays.

  • Gary Church

    I am just worried about our Marines; this beach assault stuff sounds like training for a bayonet charge against machine guns to me.

    I believe very strongly what the military is ignoring is that phenomenon that has been ongoing for several decades; the microchip revolution. The guidance systems of today are NOT the guidance systems of ten years ago. They are an order of magnitude better and this is difficult to emphasize. Limiting the proliferation of smart weapons has been a tremendous challenge met by unsung heroes all over the planet. It was what Benghazi was all about, which very few people are aware of. The multi-spectral sensors available and commonly available sold fuel rocket technology now means extremely effective -and cheap- weapons far beyond the capability of countermeasures to spoof or decoy are out there being built right now. The problem is a missile can be manufactured in the thousands very quickly while what that missile destroys cannot. That is how to win battles. If you want to understand this then consider the number of Exocet’s the Argentine’s had available and how much damage they did. Google it. Those missiles and the ones being developed right now are vastly different in capability and the countermeasures against them are…..pathetic.

    We cannot expect these weapons to stay out of the hands of our future opponents. History has many instances of superior technology showing up and changing the tactical situation and the military has a very reliable track record of ignoring this technology until they start getting their asses kicked by it.

  • Mitchell Fuller

    ACV needs to be a 2 part system, amphibious armored vehicle with 30 mm cannon for land and low threat landings and an attachable / detachable skimming system for high threat landings (once on shore leave system at the beach).

    Once beach is secured follow on ACVs could come in in traditional manner.

    • Gary Church

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_craft_tank
      Something like this Mitch? But faster and with a foot of armor up front…….

      • Mitchell Fuller

        I envision a self contained exoskeleton attached to ACV with engines, fuel, and planing appliance which can provide speed and range needed per criteria described. Once near shore, on shore this exoskeleton will be jettisoned and ACV will carry on with its land mission.

        Once area is secured, follow on ACV could come in in traditional manner.

        • Mitchell Fuller

          Skimming exoskeleton would be controlled by ACV crew.

  • Gary Church

    From wiki about tank landing craft in ww2;
    “Being in the forefront of assault landings, LCTs sustained the heaviest
    losses of any large landing craft. The Royal Navy lost 133 LCTs of all
    marks, 29 of which were U.S made Mk.5s. The U.S. Navy lost 67 Mk.5s and
    Mk.6s”

    This is what to expect from “opposed landings.”

    • ycplum

      A legitimate point, and ergo, the need for speed.

      Speed reduces the time exposed to enemy fire. Speed also allows amphibious forces to feint toward one landing and rush toward another. It has been said teh two big items the Marines want are the Osprey and EFV. Teh Oprey is fast and can drop troops behind the enemy. The EFV is fast (relative to existing designs) with the ability to fight past the beach.
      What is often mentioned, but seems to have difficulty setting in ones head is the need and use of deception and surprise. Speed facilitates both.
      At this point, I think their best course of action is more R&D while deploying heavy armoured vehicles in LCACs (which are 7x-10x faster then the old LCTs).

      • Gary Church

        Speed will not save these craft from missiles. Not a valid point. Sorry. There is no more deception and surprise on this planet. If they have sensors and missiles they know you are coming and are going to launch on you. If they do not have sensors and missiles than all the money you spent on worthless equipment has still gone to waste.

  • daniel

    First, all the America class carriers should be built with the aviation hangar decks. Put the displaced marines in HSV’s that can launch lcacs , superav’s ,and upgraded aav7’s… That should be a powerful amphibious assault. And they should take a gun off 10 more new Zumwalts and fill the space with missiles to replace the Ticonderoga cruisers.