A prototype being considered for the Marine Corps' next Amphibious Combat Vehicle is built to protect Marines from a blast as much as the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles that were rushed to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, said one of the vehicle's builders.

Defense contractors BAE Systems and SAIC are vying to build the next ACV, which will replace the Marine Corps' Amphibious Assault Vehicles as an armored vehicle that can be motored to the beach with the firepower to knock out enemies at sea and ashore. The Marines expect to test prototypes from both companies next year and pick a winner in 2018.

John Swift of BAE Systems spoke to reporters Tuesday at the Marine Corps League's annual Modern Day Marine expo about how the BAE version of the ACV is designed to be more survivable than the Amphibious Assault Vehicle. One key feature of the BAE prototype -- it has no axles.

"If there’s no axles, I can make the hull any shape I want," Swift said. "In this case, it’s a very pronounced V-shaped hull."

V-shaped hulls allow vehicles to deflect blasts from underneath. The Marine Corps learned the importance of fielding blast-resistant vehicles in the last Iraq war. Eleven Marines were killed on Aug. 3, 2005, when their AAV rolled over a roadside bomb.

In addition to the hull design, the BAE prototype of the ACV features a blast plate at the bottom of the vehicle, and all of the seats are suspended from the ceiling to shield Marines from the energy produced by blasts, Swift said.

The ACV can travel at up to 70 miles per hour on land and six knots in water, Swift said. Modern shore-based missiles can destroy ships and amphibious vehicles far from land, so critics have argued that the ACVs may have to travel 100 miles to reach land.

Swift said the BAE version of the ACV is built to travel long distances from ship to shore.

"What limits your ability to operate in water is cooling the engine," he said. "The engine compartment is cooled by sea water. It has enough fuel to go 325 miles either on land or roughly the same number of miles in water.

"When we say it goes 300 miles on land and 12 nautical miles from ship-to-shore, that’s simply based on the standard mission profile of the AAV."

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