PARIS — BAE Systems is already in the process of assembling its first six of 16 prototype Amphibious Combat Vehicles for the US Marine Corps, and SAIC plans to begin integration work on its vehicles this summer.
The Marine Corps awarded contracts to both companies worth a little over $100 million each in November last year to build engineering and manufacturing development vehicles for its next-generation ACVs, which will ferry troops ashore and into battle.
BAE Systems and SAIC are expected to build 16 eight-wheeled vehicles over 2016 to be tested by the service in 2017. The Marine Corps will then pick a winner in 2018 to deliver 204 vehicles by 2020.
The total value of the contract with all options exercised is expected to amount to about $1.2 billion.
The first six BAE Systems-made prototypes are coming together in York, Pennsylvania, Jim Miller, the company’s business development director for combat systems, told Defense News at Eurosatory here, a land warfare conference.
The process was delayed after contract award because one of the losing teams in the competition, General Dynamics Land Systems, protested the Marine Corps’ decision to award work to BAE and SAIC. But Miller said the company is “right on schedule” with construction of the vehicles that it began building in late April after using some time to build up the manufacturing process in York.
GDLS filed the protest with the Government Accountability Office in December; GAO denied the protest in March.
Lockheed Martin and Michigan-based Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems also were in the running to build the ACV.
BAE’s Miller said the protest shifted the schedule to require both companies to submit their first prototypes in early 2017 and complete the final delivery by the following summer.
BAE’s ACV partner, Italian company Iveco, showed off an ACV at Eurosatory in an outdoor static display that meets all the specifications of the US vehicle but is not one of the prototypes the US Marine Corps will get. The risk-reduction vehicle has accumulated about 3,000 miles and counting with no problems, Miller noted.
Currently, Iveco is sending some components it is making in Italy and shipping them to the US where the vehicles are built in York. Miller said the majority of the work is being done in the US, but at some point between the EMD phase and the following phase, “we will transfer all that work” being done in Italy to the US,” Miller said. “This will be a 100-percent US vehicle.”
Some of the features that BAE believes are particularly attractive for a new ACV for the Marine Corps is that it has space for 13 embarked marines and a crew of three, which keeps the rifle squad together, according to Miller.
Additionally, the engine on the vehicle is improved over the engine originally pitched to the Marine Corps, with 690 horsepower over the old engine’s 560 horsepower. The engine, which was turned on and off as a demonstration throughout Eurosatory, could barely be heard standing directly next to the vehicle.
BAE’s ACV incorporates a number of protective features through engineering solutions, according to an official working on the ACV 1.1 program not authorized to be attributed by name. The vehicle has a V-shaped hull to protect under-body blasts and is made of specific material such as composites, ceramics and metallics, he added.
The seat structure is completely suspended. “There is no connection with seat structure” and the bottom or walls of the vehicle, the official said, and the crew “will not receive any energy from a blast under the belly, energy will propagate through the walls and roof.”
Meanwhile, SAIC, which did not bring its own ACV to Eurosatory, is on schedule and preparing to begin integration of the initial vehicles this summer, according to company spokeswoman Lauren Presti.
SAIC will build, integrate and test the vehicles in Charleston, South Carolina, and plans to bring a prototype of its ACV to Modern Day Marine held at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, in the fall.
The company’s offering will address improved traction through a central tire-inflation system to automatically increase or decrease tire pressure. It also has a V-hull certified during tests at the Nevada Automotive Test Center in February 2015 and has blast-mitigating seats to protect occupants.