Indeed, Marines may feel spoiled by either ACV. Both are eight-wheeled vehicles that are more quiet and comfortable than the tracked AAV. The hot exhaust that has nauseated many a Marine has been erased by air conditioning and better ventilation.
BAE Systems and SAIC beat out three other manufacturers in a competition to build engineering and manufacturing development prototypes of the vehicle that will ferry Marines ashore and into battle. General Dynamics Land Systems has protested the award.
While the Vietnam-era AAV can carry 25 Marines, the ACV reduces capacity by nearly half to increase survivability and maneuverability. Here are some key differences you can expect between the two competitors:
BAE's version of the amphibious combat vehicle can reach speeds of 65 mph on paved roads and 6 knots in the open ocean. It is better than 28 feet long, 10 feet wide and 9 feet in height.
Photo Credit: David Schacher/BAE
John Swift, BAE's ACV program manager pointed to the 8x8 wheeled design as the key difference Marines can expect when compared to their current amphib.
"That allows for optimized hull design and affords MRAP-level survivability," he said. "Our vehicle has the same water mobility as the current system, with an increase in land mobility across the various terrain profiles. In our design, as allowed by the H-drive system in its 8x8 design with all-wheel drive, power and torque is maximized for soft soil and slope navigation to include the effort to self-recover onto amphibious shipping."
Marine feedback and lessons-learned as the contract was developed led to upgrades such as increased stowage and improved seating arrangements — for example, capacity was increased to 13 embarked Marines plus a crew of three. This means the Marine squad will not have to regroup after hitting the beach.
"Operator feedback and experience from other ground combat platform design was further applied to the final design and functionality of the driver's instrument panel and gunner's controls that include push-button automation with a digital architecture," Swift said.
Survivability is the one improvement over the AAV that will most benefit Marine operators, he said. The vehicle affords "much greater direct fire and blast protection" through its integrated armor design and blast resistant hull; energy absorbing seats provide added protection.
SAIC's Terrex 2 amphibious combat vehicle can reach speeds of 55 mph on paved roads and 7 knots in the open ocean. It is nearly 28 feet long, 12 feet wide, and is 9 feet high.
Photo Credit: SAIC
Mobility and survivability is the one improvement over the AAV that will most benefit Marine operators, Ellis said. This is centered on a "cutting edge, V-over-V" hull design complemented by blast mitigating seats. Force protection from IEDs and enemy fire "translates to keeping Marines alive in combat, that's the bottom line," he said.
The current design includes many recommendations from lessons learned in Singapore, and continuous insight from former Marines employed by the company who "continue to support the Marine Corps by ensuring Marines have the ability to successfully execute their amphibious mission in an improved manner and a more survivable manner," said Tom Watson, senior vice president and lead for SAIC's Navy and Marine Corps Customer Group. "That's really a big deal to us."
One such retired Marine is Gary George, the program's deputy manager.
Lockheed Martin, another of the entrants, on Dec. 11 said it would not file a formal protest against the contracts.