The United States Marine Corps, the rapid reaction force that Washington employs across the planet, will change dramatically over the next decade. Part of these changes will be the 8×8 ACV-P amphibious armored personnel carrier. It is already known that within a decade, the US Marine Corps will part with its tanks and significantly reduce the number of manned aircraft, while increasing the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and ground-based missile systems. According to the publication The National Interest, the goal of all changes to the US Marine Corps is to create a more mobile strike group of forces capable of countering the Chinese threat in the Pacific region.
The new wheeled amphibious armored vehicles will have to replace the AAV-7 amphibious tracked amphibious vehicle, the first samples of which were adopted in the United States back in 1972. Plans to replace the AAV (Amphibious Assault Vehicle) have existed for a long time. What exactly will change the floating tracked vehicles, it became finally clear on July 19, 2018, when the winner of the tender for the creation of a new combat vehicle for the United States Marine Corps was announced. The winner was the 8-wheeled amphibious vehicle ACV (Amphibious Combat Vehicle), created by BAE Systems specialists in conjunction with Iveco Defense Vehicles.
Initially, US Marines will receive one hundred and sixteen ACVs
The first batch of new ACV amphibious combat vehicles, the appearance of which makes them similar to most modern armored personnel carriers, massively adopted in service in NATO countries, was manufactured back in 2016. It was then that BAE Systems provided the military with a pre-production batch of 16 vehicles for testing in various parts of the United States in the south and north of the country.
The fact that it was BAE Systems that won the tender for the supply of new amphibious armored vehicles for the Marine Corps is not particularly surprising. The company has many years of experience in the design and manufacture of amphibious combat vehicles and is a leading supplier of military equipment, having produced more than 100 thousand different combat vehicles, which are distributed around the world. It was BAE Systems and its predecessors that for more than 70 years, starting in 1941, supplied all amphibious combat vehicles that were adopted by the ILC. At the same time, the development was carried out in conjunction with another major market player – Iveco Defense Vehicles, which specializes in the creation of armored military vehicles and has already produced more than 30 thousand different armored vehicles.
In February 2020, BAE Systems Land & Armaments signed another contract with the US Marine Corps for the production of an additional 26 ACV amphibious vehicles for a total of $ 113.5 million. This batch is being built as part of the Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) program – initial production in small quantities. This is only the first part of the production and deployment phase of ACV amphibious armored personnel carriers. Within the framework of this program, the process of setting up serial production, preparation of production, personnel and equipment debugging, as well as the stage of initial operational tests and evaluation of the produced machines will be carried out. In total, under the LRIP program, the American Marines will receive at least 116 ACV amphibious armored personnel carriers.
Operational and evaluation tests of the new ACV amphibious armored personnel carriers should be completed in 2020, after which the combat vehicle can be launched into large-scale production. The initial operational testing and IOT & E evaluation stage is an important stage before the launch of a weapon in large-scale production. During this stage, the Marines will operate new combat vehicles in conditions as close as possible to combat ones, testing equipment on different terrain, in different situations, solving realistic tasks that amphibians will have to perform in real combat operations. Also, this stage implies the training of servicemen, who must get a detailed idea of the capabilities and features of the new combat vehicle, learn how to use and maintain it correctly.
It is also known that in the summer of 2019, the US Marine Corps allocated a total of $ 67 million to develop new options in the ACV family of amphibious combat vehicles. So far, all armored combat vehicles ordered for the ILC are being built in the ACV-P version of the armored personnel carrier. It is already known that BAE Systems and Iveco Defense Vehicles are actively working on three more ACV options: the ACV-C command vehicle, the ACV-R armored recovery vehicle and the ACV-30 enhanced armament option. The latter version will be armed with a combat module with a 30-mm automatic cannon, most likely a Mk. 44 Bushmaster II.
Technical capabilities of the combat amphibious ACV
The ACV amphibious combat vehicle is a highly mobile, adaptable platform with an increased level of security and survivability. The main purpose of this armored combat vehicle is to carry out fast landing ship-to-shore operations. The armored vehicle feels great in open water. It is assumed that the appearance of such a technique will increase the combat power of the American Marine Corps units on the battlefield.
When creating the ACV, the designers abandoned the previous experience, since the AAV7 landing vehicle in service with the US Marine Corps was tracked. Now we are talking about a wheeled combat platform. For the ACV, the engineers chose a four-axle scheme with an 8×8 wheel arrangement. According to the assurances of the developers, in this version, they managed to achieve the best combination of all the basic qualities that are presented today to such military equipment. The new combat vehicles boast better amphibious capabilities, including when operating in the open ocean, better mobility and mobility on land, increased survivability, and increased payload. Separately, it is noted that the new combat platform has growth potential, which will help in the future adapt armored vehicles to the changing operational needs of the US Marine Corps.
In full, the technical characteristics of the new model of armored vehicles are still not known. At the same time, we can already say that the tracked amphibious amphibious AAV-7 was not a small product, since the combat weight of the vehicle, depending on the modification, ranged from 23 to 29 tons. The new wheeled amphibious armored vehicle ACV weighs even more – about 30.6 tons and this is not yet a variant with artillery weapons, which is still under development.
At the same time, the amphibious capabilities of ACV are much more modest. If the crew of the tracked AAV-7 was three people, and the number of paratroopers transported reached 25, then the new amphibian with the same number of crew members (commander, driver-mechanic, gunner-operator of weapons) can only carry up to 13 paratroopers. True, not only with all the weapons, but also, as the manufacturer claims, with a two-day supply of all the necessary supplies and ammunition.
It is not hard to imagine that the entire “extra” mass of the new combat vehicle went to build up its armor and protection against various means of destruction. In this sense, ACV repeats the general trend of increasing the survivability of armored military equipment and increasing the protection of the crew and landing force. With an increase in armor and combat weight, the vehicle retains excellent buoyancy and amphibious qualities, which it has already confirmed during exercises, including when the sea is roughly three points. According to the developers, the ACV’s ability to land from ship to shore is better than any other landing vehicle in the world. For movement on water, there are two propellers on board. At the same time, when developing, it was taken into account that the amphibian should easily overcome up to 10 miles in water, which allows the ACV to be dropped at a great distance from the coast.
An important feature of the armored vehicle is increased mine-explosive protection. In this regard, this is a full-fledged MRAP only with serious armor that protects against large-caliber small arms and fragments of shells and mines. The bottom of the ACV amphibious vehicle is V-shaped and additionally reinforced. At the same time, all the landing seats are suspended, they are not attached to the bottom of the armored personnel carrier, which increases the protection of the Marines when blown up by a mine or an improvised land mine.
The length of the ACV combat vehicle is approximately 9 meters, the height is just over three meters. The landing is carried out through the ramp at the rear of the hull. With a declared combat weight of 30.6 tons, the maximum payload is estimated at 3.3 tons. The car received a 690 hp diesel engine. The power of the power plant is sufficient to accelerate the amphibian on land to a speed of 105 km / h, and on water – up to 11 km / h. The cruising range on the highway is about 500 km. As a weapon, the ACV-P model can be equipped with a remotely controlled weapon station with a large-caliber 12.7-mm M2 machine gun or a 40-mm automatic grenade launcher Mk. 47.