HAT YAO, Thailand (Feb. 4, 2010) – Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines (BLT 2/7), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), storm the beach after exiting an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV), Feb. 3. The MEU is currently participating in exercise Cobra Gold 2010 (CG’ 10). The exercise is the latest in a continuing series of exercises design to promote regional peace and security. (Official Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Leo A. Salinas) HAT YAO, Thailand (Feb. 4, 2010) – Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines (BLT 2/7), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), storm the beach after exiting an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV), Feb. 3. The MEU is currently participating in exercise Cobra Gold 2010 (CG’ 10). The exercise is the latest in a continuing series of exercises design to promote regional peace and security. (Official Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Leo A. Salinas) (Photo by Staff Sgt. Leo A. Salinas) http://www.mcipac.marines.mil/News/NewsArticleDisplay/tabid/1144/Article/8100/royal-thai-rok-and-us-marines-conduct-a-joint-amphibious-landing.aspx

Marines will have to rely on the current Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) to carry them ashore for years to come.

UPDATED 1:35 pm Wednesday with more details from Lt. Gen. Glueck

WASHINGTON: The Marines are about to move out sharply with their once-stalled Amphibious Combat Vehicle, the smallest service’s biggest program. After years of uncertainty and a last-minute change of course that came too late to make it into the administration’s budget request for 2015, the Marines will soon announce their new strategy for something they’re calling an ACV. It will be much more modest than the revolutionary vehicle the Corps once envisioned.

“We are doing well with the ACV,” Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said at the Atlantic Council Tuesday afternoon. “We are about to go public with the way forward on it. It’s affordable, ladies and gentlemen, it’s doable, and we can have our cake and eat it too here. So we’re pretty excited about it.”

Amos was short on details at the event and slipped into the elevator a step ahead of pursuing journalists afterwards. But his staff referred me to Manny Pacheco, spokesman for the Marine Corps’s Program Executive Office (PEO) Land Systems. Then, on Wednesday morning, I and two other reporters cornered the Marines’ deputy commandant for “combat development & integration,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, after he testified before the Senate Armed Forces subcommittee on seapower, where the general provided additional details.

Between them, they laid out the not-quite-final plan:

  • Buy 200 to 600 armored troop transports as a Phase 1 ACV, which would enter service around 2020 (its “Initial Operational Capability” date or IOC). These will be modified versions of an existing US or foreign design, not an all-new vehicle. They’ll also have only limited amphibious capability: enough to cross a river or coastal inlet, but not necessarily enough to move from a ship at sea to the beach on their own power. They will probably have to be carried on some kind of landing craft, at least to within a few miles of a beach. ACV 1 is essentially a re-envisioned and resurrected Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC), a program which was effectively canceled just last year
  • Upgrade about 390 of the current AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles. These 1970s-vintage vehicles, descendants of the World War II amtraccan move from ship to shore on their own power but have proven dangerously vulnerable to roadside bombs. (The MPC prototypes were up to 2.8 times as well-protected as the current AAV-7, according to Marine Corps tests). A contract for the first set of “limited survivability upgrades” will be announced in the next 30 to 60 days, Pacheco told me.
  • Research a future “high water speed” option, an “ACV 2.0,” which may be an all-new and fully amphibious vehicle, a very fast landing craft to carry the ACV 1 — Glueck suggested the current Joint High Speed Vessel as a model —  or something entirely different. Said Pacheco, “that’s not a procurement, it’s more in the R&D realm.”

“We were talking to some [congressional] staffers last week and things were changing just as we were talking,” Pacheco told me in a Tuesday evening phone call, “but I’d venture to say we’re pretty close to making some announcement.”

What Pacheco laid out and Glueck elaborated on was the most refined and detailed form I’ve seen so far of the Marines’ new multi-phase, multi-vehicle approach.

The first step has to be making the existing AAV-7 more robust, Pacheco said. That means those “limited survivability upgrades,” such as blast-resistant seats and additional armor, which may require a new transmission to handle the extra weight. But of the 1,062 AAV-7s in service, only about 392 will get the upgrades: That’s enough to carry four Marine infantry battalions, a full brigade, in a single assault wave, Glueck told the Senators. There is no current plan for a fleet-wide overhaul or a service-life extension program (SLEP) for the aging vehicles.

The next step is what the Marines are calling “ACV 1.1.” This will not be an all-new vehicle but rather a “non-developmental item,” that is a modification of an existing US or foreign design. It also probably won’t be able to swim from ship to shore under its own power, instead requiring some kind of landing craft, what Marines prefer to call a “connector.”

“It won’t go from the ship to the shore on its own — at least at this point right now,” Pacheco told me. “I know at least one vendor who claims they’ve deployed their vehicle from the back of an amphib, [but] we have not tested that.”

However, while the four prototypes tested for the MPC program may not be able to launch themselves into the water from an amphibious warship and swim directly ashore, Glueck said they could be loaded about a “connector” vessel that would carry them towards the coast but then drop them off up to five miles offshore to swim the rest of the way by themselves.

“The MPC or ACV 1.1 that we’re talking about here, it has a robust swim capability,” Glueck told reporters after the Wednesday morning hearing. “From all the video that I’ve seen of the different versions, I feel very confident that you could drive it into the water  probably in sea state three [i.e modest winds and two-foot-high waves], and it would go ahead and go to the beach.”

What’s more, he said, the five-mile, one-hour swim the ACV 1 could make is about the same distance and duration that the current AAV-7 can handle. The limiting factor is less the technology than what the human passengers can endure before they’re too seasick to fight. “Y’know,” Glueck said, “you lose the John Wayne factor there once you’ve been riding in one of those things with the smell of diesel fumes and everything else after about an hour, rocking and rolling.”

But doesn’t the AAV-7 have the advantage that it can launch directly from the amphibious ship, without the time-consuming bottleneck of loading onto a connector vessel? That makes a difference in current operations, Glueck acknowledged, but the proliferation of long-range anti-ship missiles will force the amphibious ships to stay further out to sea: not five miles from shore, but 25, 50, or even 75 miles — which would take one to three hours for even a high-water-speed vehicle to cross, or an utterly impractical five to 15 hours for the current AAV-7.

In such circumstances, regardless of what kind of amphibious vehicle the Marines are riding in, “that connector is going to become all important,” Glueck said. “Even if you had a self-deployer” — i.e. an amphibious vehicle that can launch straight from the ship like the current AAV-7 — “you’re still going to have to use a connector to get that vehicle closer to the shore.”

Glueck said his staff has finished 90 percent of the detailed requirements for the ACV 1.1. They’ll probably require a higher standard of swimming capability than the MPC did, but he’s confident all four of the MPC contenders will be able to meet it — but performance in open water will be a big part of the ACV competition.

Glueck expects to get the major decisions made within six months. In budgetary terms, he said, “you’re looking for about ’17 [seventeen] when you’d actually have to put money on the table to make a selection to have the ability to have a vehicle by 2020.”

If a company can offer an ACV 1 that can swim from ship to shore without a landing craft, that capability would “absolutely” be a major plus, Pacheco said — but it’s not going to be a requirement. That, in turn, is why it’s crucial to keep the AAV-7s viable, since those can self-deploy from the ship, which means they can all head shorewards in a single wave rather than wait to load aboard a limited number of landing craft.

That ACV 1.1 competition would be for about 200 basic troop transports. If that goes well, the Marines will expand the program to an ACV 1.2, buying up to an additional 400 vehicles in multiple variants: not just personnel carriers but also, say, a mobile command post or a fire support vehicle that trades passenger capacity for bigger weapons. Those 600 ACVs of various types would be able to transport six Marine rifle battalions in a single wave.

Meanwhile, research and development will continue on faster means of crossing the water. “That would be ACV 2.0,” said Pacheco. “There’s some things out there that the Marine Corps wants to keep pursuing…. to see what’s in the realm of the possible… to get us to an affordable high-water-speed ACV.” But right now such a vehicle, whatever it might be, looks like an idea for the indefinitely distant future.

Some critics of the Marine Corps have questioned why the service needs this kind of capability at all. The last opposed landing by amphibious armored vehicles came during the Korean War, they argue, and in an era of increasingly long-range anti-ship and anti-tank missiles, even a high-water-speed landing force is unlikely to reach the beach alive. But the Marines see the ability to move from ship to shore and on inland as central to their mission — and not just in major wars.

When 6,000 Marines aboard seven Navy amphibious ships responded to the Haiti earthquake of 2010, Gen. Amos said Tuesday, “there wasn’t one ounce of combat involved.” But the Navy ships couldn’t enter Haiti’s damaged ports — which had been in bad shape even before the quake — and tie up at the pier. Nor could helicopters carry the sheer volume of relief supplies required. Instead, the operation relied on AAV-7s, he said: “all those amphibious tractors that swam ashore and swam back every day and carried fuel, water, medical supplies, people back out to the ships,” Amos said.

In fact, “I think the bulk of [the] forces in my service are what we call general purpose, applicable across the range of military operations” from humanitarian aid to major war, Amos went on. A Navy-Marine amphibious task force is “the Swiss Army Knife of the Department of Defense,” he said, using one of his favorite phrases. (And, by the way, “our United States Navy needs more money for ships,” he added). “If you want to hand out humanitarian supplies or food or rescue people, you bring in an amphibious ship full of marines and sailors,” he said. ” They can also make a forcible entry landing some place [with] the exact same force.”

“The standard-issue United States Marine… is trained as a rifleman first and can hand out water, can hand out diapers,” Amos said, citing recent relief efforts in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan last fall and in Japan after the 2011 earthquake.

Amos’s problem is paying for enough Marines with enough training and enough modern equipment to handle this wide range of missions. “Yes, we can do the same with less, but there’s a price to be paid for that,” he said. For example, the Marines have been raiding equipment and base maintenance funds to pay for training, fuel, spare parts, and other immediate operational needs.

The automatic budget cuts known as sequestration are “forcing us to sacrifice our long-term health for near-term readiness,” Amos said. “I can’t continue to do this for forever.” Around 2017, he said, the next Commandant will probably have to cut back readiness to keep alive programs like the Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

Comments

  • estuartj

    The USMC is in a tough spot getting vehicles to shore on their own power, an amtrak type vehicle is reliable and hard to target (being 90% underwater) form shore, but slow – that has a significant negative effect on the operations plan if it must cover a large area of water because of threats from shore, and perhaps more importantly a long ride in one of these “Puke Cans” has a severly negative effect on the fighting ability of those Marines once they get ashore. High speed vehicles are going to be expensive, unreliable and more easily targetted from shore, using a landing craft like a LCAC or LST is great, but requires a very low threat area, meaning an air-assault of the beach prior to landing….which is problematic at best.

    • Gary Church

      The high speed vehicle with tracks is actually a pretty good deal for the Marines. It is on land 99 percent of the time and the tracks make it indispensable. Wheels are the opposite and cannot even get off most beaches. Worthless. The problem for the worthwhile tracked vehicle is armor- it will not be heavily armored while swimming. That is physics. The solution is to add the armor later when it is on land which can be done with a field kit using an engineering vehicle with a crane. It sounds bad but it is no different than lifting an engine or transmission in or out of a vehicle which is done all the time in the field and the crew does most of the work alongside a few mechanics. I have done it on the side of mountains in snowstorms in Korea. Getting the armor kits to the Marines in the field after a landing operation is complete and logistics allow it is the trick. That I understand this with my few years in the field with armored vehicles as an enlisted man does not speak well for the higher echelon leadership. Our Marines are really not being given the tools they need and it is a disgrace.

    • Gary Church

      Not necessarily expensive or unreliable; trying to make them heavily armored is what does that. A speedboat/tank is impossible because of simple physics. But when the defense industry smells money they will promise anything because they know they will make a small fortune just failing to keep that promise. And if they can pull off the big lie that whatever monstrosity they put together does work (like the Osprey) then so much the better.

  • Gary Church

    First, there is no picture (peek?) of this new amphibious vehicle. Why? Because it has wheels and not tracks and anybody with any knowledge of military vehicles knows what that means. Worthless.

    “-even a high-water-speed landing force is unlikely to reach the beach alive-”

    But…..if they are ever going to have to do it they should have a high-speed vehicle like the Chinese have; that’s right, what we failed to provide for our Marines the Chinese have in the field and on the water right now for theirs. Humiliating.

    “Nor could helicopters carry the sheer volume of relief supplies required. Instead, the operation relied on AAV-7s-”

    That is incorrect (or a lie). A Helicopter can sling load far more than what any vehicle can swim ashore. But an Osprey, which is what all the money is being spent on, is the worst possible sling load platform and is not capable of doing it effectively.

    “-can hand out water, can hand out diapers-”

    That is not what Marines are for- not what we train them for and spend tax dollars on. It is incredibly inefficient to use these combat forces and tactical vehicles for humanitarian missions. Disaster relief organizations do a far better job; all they need is the stuff delivered and cargo planes or helicopters (not tilt-rotors) are the best way to do that. If they need security then Marines will be standing guard, not changing diapers.

    “-we can do the same with less, but there’s a price to be paid for that-”

    That is…..a ridiculous statement.

    “-the next Commandant will probably have to cut back readiness to keep alive programs like the Amphibious Combat Vehicle.”

    No….to pay for programs like the F-35B and V-22 Osprey. And it is not a combat vehicle- that is a lie from the very start by just naming it wrong.

    This is pathetic. Our Marines are being betrayed by their own leadership. Makes me mad as hell.

    • Chernenko

      For once I’m not totally irritated by your reply. You are forgetting the venerable ch-53 the best sling load helo out there. LAV’s handle themselves all right on the beach for wheeled vehicles, so not all wheeled vehicles get stuck on the beach. The marine corp generally handles procurement programs better than the other services; however with the shrinking budget I fear this program is going harm marines in the long run.

      • Gary Church

        No sir, I only said the Osprey was a crummy sling loader. The Marines would have come out way ahead just buying all new 53’s instead of the Osprey.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VC2E8RJE3Jo

        • Gary Church

          I flew on a few Coast Guard H-3’s and since they rotate the helo’s around the air stations as they go in and out of overhaul I might actually have flown on the one they show at the beginning of the video. Not the best engines in the world but the H-3 was loved by its Coast Guard crews.

        • Gary Church

          An interesting note on the 53 is that mechanical problems with them contributed to the failure of the Iran hostage rescue mission and drug testing of the mechanics revealed most of them were doing drugs. This was one of the main reasons drug testing started in the military. And I can attest that it made a huge difference; the ranks were no longer filled with hard drug users after mandatory testing began.

      • Paddy O’Rourke

        “The marine corp generally handles procurement programs better than the other services…”

        You are clearly not talking about the US Marine Corps, which is the service that brought us acquisition disasters such as the V-22, F-35B, and EFV.

        • Chernenko

          I am referring to the MTVR and LVSR programs. I would rather fly on V-22 than a ch-46 any day. I know guys how have went down in 46s. I have only ever flown in the 53. I believe all models of the F-35 should be scrapped except the f-35b. He B model has the most international orders and it’s still better than the harrier despite it’s other shortcomings. The marine corps needs a replacement for our aging harrier fleet and to start from scratch would be billions wasted.

          • Gary Church

            I would rather fly in a 53 then either the 22 or 46. I have watched 53’s do autos and they really fall out of the sky- what a ride:)
            IMO the B model is going to be a nightmare. The Harrier was exotic and hard to maintain and fly but it worked fairly well. The F-35B looks like a whole new level of bizarre hyper-expensive un-maintainable junk. Even worse than the V-22 if that is possible. They have done a great job of lying on the maintenance records but the Osprey’s days are numbered. The truth is going to come out soon and then it will probably be retired before it’s rather limited gold-plated production run is even complete.

  • Gary Church

    I found a picture of one on a beach the Marines don’t use all the time for training. Actually it’s a picture of a Stryker but what’s the difference? Wheels are worthless in deep sand or rough terrain. It is an insult to our Marines to give them junk like this.

  • Mike

    Gary,
    What was that twin rotor helicopter that we used to call, “the flying banana” from the 60’s and 70’s?….. We used them a lot in Alaska low and fast along those rivers and they had no trouble helping us put more than a few howitzers into caves and high (hard to see) places… I see the latest version being used a lot in Afghanistan… Those were workhorses that seemed to be able to carry lots of good and heavy stuff…. The Osprey isn’t supposed to replace them, are they?

    • Gary Church

      Probably the Chinook. Also known in the past as the “shithook.” Entered service in 1962- over half a century ago and still in production. It was not a great aircraft when it was rushed into service but 16 years later the D model in 1979 was a much redesigned and better bird. The F model started production in 2001 and can sling load 10 tons. The D, E, and now the J models are all made for Special Forces and the newest one is loaded with Gatling guns and can be air refueled. Makes the Osprey look like junk IMO and you can buy two F models for what one Osprey costs. F model can carry twice as many troops so for every Osprey you see a picture of think 4 Chinooks. They use them in up high in the mountains in Afghanistan carrying a lighter load. Below is a picture of the 1st Special Forces Group and Korean commandos rappelling out of one. Notice the Gatling gun:)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_CH-47_Chinook#CH-47D

      • Gary Church

        My mistake, not rappelling, fast roping. A much more dangerous method of inserting troops but faster than rappelling. This is the kind of operation the Osprey is very poor at; the prop-rotor wash from the Osprey is just too strong. In fact the Osprey is not much good for any of the many things a helicopter does that makes them so valuable on the battlefield.

        • Mike

          Somewhere there is a picture of one of these with rear wheels on an observation deck of a Mtn. top outpost at what looks like about 10,000 ft in Afghanistan. They got fresh replacements and where loading wounded…. I was impressed…. The Gatling gun (or guns) a darn good idea!

          Wish I still had those pictures of a howitzer slung under that Chinook in Alaska….Never realized they were crap… (But you are the guy who would know)…. Was a lot easier to have that delivered to a mountain top where upon we took in apart and lowered it into a cave piece by piece…. Think Khe Sanh and you get the picture only we were using that and others to target a U.S. Armor and Infantry C&C…. Almost got our umpire killed as he was not adept at climbing vertical cliffs!…. :(

          • Gary Church

            Chinook had a bad rep until the D model came out and from what I heard it was practically a new airplane- they fixed all the bad hydraulic problems and the engines were better.

            Yeah, it sucks when people get hurt. We did some cliff rescue stuff with the Coast Guard Helicopters and it was really obvious that there was an equal chance of killing someone with the rotor wash just trying to rescue them as there was waiting for people with climbing gear to arrive. I did hoist some volunteer rescue guys onto the side of a mountain one night to recover the body of a boy who had fallen to his death over a cliff earlier that afternoon hiking with friends. Sad but teenagers get in trouble. It was wet slick near vertical ice and after they sent the body up they told us on the radio they would rather climb the rest of the way down with their ice axes than have the helicopter over them again in that ravine. The boys parents were waiting when we landed. Bad night.

          • Mike

            Hurricane force winds in a ravine while working on the side of an icefall is the stuff nightmares are made of…. Body recovery is always bad…. Make it a child and the guys doing the recovery do not sleep well for more than a while….. Your own kids get hugged a lot more and you make them a little crazy if you start “seeing” the danger in a lot of things they are doing….. Seen a lot of good soldiers and EMS people have real psych problems over those rescues and recoveries… :(

          • Gary Church

            Life is a series of cumulative physical and mental insults that eventually….ends. Everyone suffers damage from something. We all do the best we can to carry our cross with the time we have. I try not to envy those who seem like they have everything. I am of the opinion that we are all broken in different ways to the same degree- we just can’t see it. And in that way life is fair.

          • Gary Church

            The Special Forces Chinook is an amazing machine. Very heavily armed and air refuel capable. If you are wondering why they are stuffing it in a cargo plane when it can air refuel- this is probably the important aspect that most people are unaware of. You fly a helicopter for so many hours and then you have to start taking it apart and inspecting it and replacing worn out parts; there are alot of those parts and alot of vibration. Very different than a fixed wing airplane. If you don’t do that maintenance they start falling out of the sky. It takes alot of mechanics with tools and stands and cranes etc. So it is actually easier to partially disassemble a helo that has just had all the inspections done and fly it in a cargo plane (or load it on a ship) to where the operation is and put it back together so it can fly several hundred hours without needing major inspections.
            This is actually very similar to tracked vehicles and wheeled vehicles; you see tanks being carried around on semi-trucks because their tracks and transmissions only have so many miles they can go before they wear out- unlike wheeled vehicles. But there is no substitute for what helicopters and tanks can do on the battlefield- I worked and crewed both.

      • Gary Church

        Before someone corrects me I apologize for my Chinook Osprey cost comparison confusion. One Osprey, with “development costs” runs about twice as much as the CH-47F which is around 40 million. The Osprey seats 24, the Chinook can carry twice as many troops and sling load twice as much cargo. But while the Chinook is an excellent aircraft for sling loading the Osprey is probably the worst. The Osprey can fly twice as fast and for that over-hyped advantage it sacrifices just about everything else a helicopter is able to do on the battlefield. So let me get this right….for the cost of one Osprey carrying 24 troops you can have two Chinooks carrying nearly one hundred- four times as many. If you want to argue the Osprey can fly twice as fast and thus carry twice as many it still falls short by half in the number of troops it can transport per dollar. That is the very simplified dollar argument. But while a Chinook runs 2000 dollars an hour to operate the Osprey costs 10,000. This makes the Osprey a total loser.

      • Mike

        Note the guy on the left…. :( Love to see them do that with full packs and assigned special ops, gear… Jumping with that stuff at night was a lot easier and quieter…. Black out, feather the engines, glide over the DZ, all out, then spin the engine back up miles downrange…

        • Gary Church

          That is REAL Special Forces ops- extremely dangerous. They must have paid you guys a huge amount of extra money to do that:)

    • Gary Church

      The Osprey is supposed to replace the Sea Knight.

  • Gary Church

    The Chinese have produced the vehicle we tried and failed and finally canceled. We do not hear about this in the mainstream media. They have a light tank version designed to shoot at shore targets on the way in during an assault and it can also engage helicopters. There is something very wrong with our Marine Corps if we cannot provide the same type of vehicle for our Marines as the Chinese do for theirs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZBD2000

    • estuartj

      I don’t see production numbers on this anywhere, are they actually able to serial produce them?

      • Gary Church

        I don’t know e; just ticks me off that they did and we tried and failed. It is not a rocket ship. It is a light armored vehicle with a folding surfboard on the front and supercharged diesel running a jet pump. No excuse that our “leaders” demanded an impossible speedboat main battle tank and no excuse that the defense industry sucked up all that money when they must have known it was impossible. And our Marines end up with nothing. Makes my blood boil. A half a century ago heads would roll over a screw up like this. Now it is business as usual.

      • Jon

        Pretty sure they have a bunch in service. Looking at available info and video…they’re a cheap non-high tech box on tracks, with very, very light armor, and zero IED protection. I’d also be surprised if they actually meet even half the claimed water speed from looking at the videos. That doesn’t say they wouldn’t be extremely useful, or that we couldn’t take the concept and run with it.

        That said…Gary is absolutely correct on this one. You’re not going to build a hydro-planning main battle tank, which is more or less what the Marines wanted. Or thought they wanted. Build a hydro-planning, high speed light tank, have an optional armor pak for it, and don’t use it where it’s got no business being used. Secure the beach head, dig them in, bring the heavy armor in on LCACs.

        It’s the same argument as the LCS. Impossible requirements, vs. realistic requirements. Would a high water speed amphibious tank, protected to small arms/shrapnel level +, be better than what they got now? Absolutely…if used properly. The only thing going to stop an anti-tank missile or large bore anti-tank round…is an MBT. That isn’t happening, so why even try? End result now…the Marines get shafted, because of their own commands willful stupidity, and Amos is screaming that he needs “connectors”. After spending enough on the EFV to design/build enough of these to equip the entire fricking USMC with their own personal one.

        Recall the M-10/M-36 turreted tank DEs used in WW2? More or less a failed concept. Why? Because they looked like tanks, people insisted on using them as tanks…which they weren’t.

        • Gary Church

          Yeah Jon, I looked around for some pictures of the Chinese vehicle planing and found none showing it up on plane going very fast. The problem is if you want to carry many troops the armor to surround them is going to weigh a certain amount and making that mass go 30 miles an hour on the water is going to take quite a few horsepower. The track system is several times heavier than any wheeled configuration and that means more horsepower. But without tracks it is largely useless as an off-road tactical vehicle- especially on a beach. Finally there is the unavoidable drag of not having a nice smooth hull and that means even more horsepower. The more powerful engine is heavier and adds to all this weight and you end up with an expensive thousand horsepower turbo-charged Main Battle Tank engine driving a vehicle that has only light armor and cannot carry many troops. So it might be that the Chinese have a low-powered dog. But at least they have one while we sunk a fortune into trying and got nothing. Humiliating.

          • Jon

            We had one, but after sinking $3 billion into it, they realized it was an expensive exercise in futility. It didn’t provide that much more protection or capability, and the launch point keeps getting pushed further and further off-shore.

            Chinese might have one, but I think there’s a reason we can’t find any video of one at speed…it’s yet another cheap updated PT-76 clone, clocking in at 26t, with tinfoil armor, and little spindly running gear. I’d be amazed if they had enough oomph to get them up on plane. They’re so “high tech”, in one of the videos the TC is setting up his GPS system…it’s a cheap Garmin clone, with an external magnetic antenna mount he’s sticking to the top, with the antenna lead running through the TC hatch. Color me impressed.

            Reality is, the USMC has to decide what their actual, no-kidding requirements are. The hydro-planning MBT/mine protected option, capable of swimming 65+ miles doesn’t exist, and won’t, in our lifetimes.

            For infantry, my own guess would be buying something along the lines of the Griffin 2000 or even a bit smaller as the cost effective solution, if the requirement is to get troops ashore as fast as possible…they’re even being made in the USA under license.

          • Gary Church

            Hovercraft are no good on land. Might as well use helicopters if you are just going to drop infantry off. I would say they need a heavy infantry transport based on the M-1 tank chassis weighing 60 tons or more and carry that ashore with the LCAC. It can carry one anyway. Pretty big machine to haul one vehicle with maybe 8 or 10 infantry soldiers inside it:(

            So what is the solution? Maybe there isn’t one. Too bad it cost 3 billion dollars to get a lesson in basic physics.
            We could build an armored high speed version of what we used in World War II to land tanks. But how much better would that be than the LCAC?

          • Jon

            Here’s the deal in a nutshell…they’re screwed. Troops on Point A (ship) have to get to Point B (shore), and have to do it fairly fast. Ships have to be waaaaaay offshore or they’re toast. The hydro-planning MBT option is out. Can’t helo the first wave in. Can only fit so many LCACs on an amphib, the LCAC can only carry 1 heavy track or a couple wheeled APCs. That pretty much only leaves boats. Conventional boats are pretty limited in their landing sites.

            That leaves hoovercraft that can carry the same number of bodies as their tracks…or they’ll have to re-organize their units.

            Look for a lightly armored/upgraded Griffon 2k…which will still suck, because one takes up around twice the well deck space as a track…which more or less cuts in half the number of bodies they can get ashore in the initial landing. It’ll be interesting to see how doctrine changes cuz I don’t think there’s any good answers…they’re back to WW2, with dismounted infantry, without all the armor support, the effectively unlimited money to throw at the problem, and the 5000 ship invasion fleet.

          • Gary Church

            The reason for the tracked vehicle Jon is to have something that the Marines can use 100 percent of the time on land. There is no substitute for the mobility tracks provide. They can go almost anywhere. I have driven them almost straight up the sides of mountains knocking small trees down; the diesel roaring at full blast in the lowest gear and me almost laying on my back in the drivers seat steadily walking up the side of the mountain at a couple miles an hour. That is something that is really hard to explain to people when discussing the pro’s and cons of tracks and wheels. That mobility is priceless.
            They need something that will carry them and stay with them a hundred miles inland and cross any obstacles in their path and also provide protection from the number one threat to infantry; airburst artillery. That threat was the whole reason for the absolute necessity of armored troop carriers and it will not go away. Airburst Artillery is the big killer. Hovercraft are restricted to the beach.

          • Gary Church

            So now instead of airburst artillery it is IED’s, which require either massive armor or what the South Africans did 40 years ago and use a V shaped bottom as high off the ground as possible. MRAPs are a combination of both armor and shape. Aluminum armor allowed for protection from shell fragments but increased the effect of HEAT shaped charged weapons used to penetrate steel. The combination of different armor and design features to meet all these threats is HEAVY. That is the hard reality. But those threats are here to stay.

          • Jon

            See above. This is why the EFV program foundered. $3 billion in R&D, and it ended up with a lightly armored vehicle (amongst other issues) that was non-survivable against modern threats…

            Leaving them still with the requirement to get the Marines onto the beach, secure the beach, and then start bringing in their rides…

            I don’t think there is any other possible answer than high-speed, lightly armored hoovercraft. Unless it’s a hydro-planning, extremely lightly armored/unarmored vehicle.

            Buy hoovercraft that are cheap, already available, or spend another decade developing another amphibious track that would cost millions per…that is non-survivable as a combat vehicle?

          • Gary Church

            Might as well use helicopters. Hovercraft are useless except for delivering something so big it cannot be carried be slung by helicopter; that is why they have the LCAC. The reason for the armored vehicle is that it can also continue inland off the beach and be useful 100 percent of the time. You don’t seem to understand that part Jon. A hovercraft is the very definition of a “non-survivable” combat vehicle. Be a man and admit you lost this argument; I would.

          • Gary Church

            That was a pretty lousy thing to say John; I apologize. I treat people pretty harshly on the internet and my only excuse is that I am so used to other people doing it. Sorry.

          • Jon

            Gary, ALL the options are pretty much non-survivable in a serious high threat environment. We can agree on that. We can agree that they NEED tracks. We also agree that building a high speed, heavy armored, hydro-planning track is a technological and budgetary impossibility. We can agree the USMC can either use the options available, or throw up their hands in defeat and disband.

            – Given they just blew $3 billion, Developing even a high-speed, hydro-planning, lightly armored track is going to be a non-starter for years to come.
            – Will they use choppers? Yes, but there’s only so many helos, so much flight deck space, and so much money to buy helos to go around.
            – Will they use low speed tracks? Yes.
            – But the only way they’re going to get large numbers ashore, fast, with the money they’re going to be able to crap out their heinies, with the well decks they already have, is by boat. There is NO other option. Once you’ve determined that, you’re left with a relatively cheap, high-speed hoovercraft as the only real boat type answer.

            As far as APCs go…why do you think they’re buying light wheeled APCs? It’s because they can fit multiple ones on an LCAC, in order to give them armored mobility. This is exactly why Amos is screaming about “connectors” to get from ship to shore. My bet, is that after much study and expense…they’ll go with more LCACs, and small hoovercraft for troops.

          • Jon

            Do the Marines have an armored vehicle that is survivable in combat against current threats, and can travel 65+ miles through the water at a high rate of speed? Answer is NO. Is it possible to build such a thing at a price tag that is even vaguely feasible? Answer again, is NO.

            Therefore, the doctrine of riding to the beach in your track is dead. Finished. This is why Amos has been screaming for “connectors” to bridge the gap from ship to shore. The one thing we know…it’s not going to be a track. It doesn’t matter how badly they need them, how cool they are, how great their mobility is. It isn’t happening.

            That leaves developing a new doctrine, that doesn’t include tracks. Leaving what? They still got to get the Marines onto the beach, in order to secure it…before they can start landing heavy equipment on LCACs and/or landing craft.

            And no, “absolute necessity” or not, I’ve never seen Marines under fire, cowering in the very marginal safety of their tracks. Ever. Their APCs are transportation from one fight to the next, and fire support…nor have I ever saw Marines secure a beach from inside their tracks. For that matter, I spent an entire career as a grunt…with never a track in sight.

          • Gary Church

            “I’ve never seen Marines under fire, cowering in the very marginal safety of their tracks.”

            Everyone cowers under fire- even Marines. If you like walking everywhere then buy hovercraft is all I am saying. As for the 65+ mile argument; it does not work for hovercraft anymore than it does for an AAV. Did not have your coffee this morning Jon?

          • madskills

            Both you guys have great arguments on armored carriers. As someone involved with the m113s for 2 years in Vietnam, would like to make a couple of points. We rode on top and we had additional weapons of 2 m60 machine guns(Aussies rode inside with ammo on top). Important things where, we could see better ahead being so high, and if an rpg hit the vehicle we could fall off! Also your field of fire is greater when on top. At the right angle bullets could go thru, if close enough. Shooting a .50 is nice, but have you ever carried a .50 plus the tripod and the ammo on foot?
            M113 is a tracked vehicle that carried people, ammo, materials effectively. It could knock down trees, go over rough ground and ford small creeks and go over 40 mph. It was great for defense for sight lines, to hide behind, and a place to protect valuables, including people. It is not a bunker.

    • Jon

      Build something based off this, using as many off-the-shelf M113 or AAV-7 components as possible…and it could be a very cheap, useful vehicle.

      • Gary Church

        Aluminum armor has been the real problem with armored vehicles since the 60’s. The 113 was designed to carry infantry into battle while protecting them from airburst artillery fragments and the aluminum armor did that. It even protected them from small arms fire fairly well. But a heavy machine gun will eat an M-113 up. The tracks gave it mobility and the 50 cal. on top was something to shoot back with.
        But that was it.
        Aluminum actually makes shaped charge weapons MORE lethal. It feeds the fire. You know what they add to explosives and solid rocket fuel to make them more powerful? Aluminum. Uh-huh. But Aluminum is so much lighter than steel you can do groovy things with it like make amphibious vehicles and very light and mobile troop taxis that protect against shrapnel.
        If you want to make something out of steel it gets bigger and heavier and slower and can carry less and there is no way around that. Basic physics. It is the same problem with ships being built out of aluminum instead of steel. There is no free lunch.

        • Gary Church

          The original WWII alligators were made out of steel and could not carry as many Marines and were slower and heavier. The efficiency of internal combustion engines and weight of steel vs. Aluminum has not changed much in that close to 75 years. Making promises that violate basic physics is a scam.

  • Gary Church

    A fast hydroplaning vehicle with tracks would have been extremely useful to the Marines. And as Jon comments below we had one and spent 3 billion dollars developing it. But the Marine Corps leadership demanded too much armor and this made the horsepower requirement impractical. They asked for the impossible and maybe it was the needed excuse to kill the program and spend the money elsewhere.
    I think they should have bought the fast basic model with an up-armor kit for operating on land. But I suspect the money was needed for the V-22 and F-35B programs. I guess giving the guys with the guns what they need is not a priority anymore.

    • Gary Church

      That is impressive. That vehicle can operate almost anywhere. Cross rivers and lakes and swamps and do it fast. Why did they demand so much armor on it when a add-on kit for use on land would have worked? And because antip-ship missiles have a range of over a hundred miles now they killed it? It is still a tremendously useful vehicle for the Marines.

  • Betaking12

    this will sound stupid.

    but have they tried rocket engines?

    I mean a rocket engine (like a JATO or something) might get you enough horsepower to hydroplane, obviously it’s not going to be limitless, but the idea would be for a sprint to shore. though I guess back-blast issues would get in the way.