Q1: Why have you chosen to go with a wheeled vehicle when you previously said a tracked vehicle was desired?
The Marine Corps requires both ship-to-shore maneuver support and protected mobility ashore in order to fight effectively in the littorals. As the threat continues to develop, sea-based forces will become even more relevant than today, but they must adapt to the changing environment. The future portends crises conducted under the umbrella of a widely proliferated, accurate and integrated Anti-Access and Area-Denial (A2/AD) threat; pushing the sea-base farther from shore. A combination of integrated acquisition systems, precision guidance and coastal defense cruise missiles can necessitate initial stand-off distances as far out as 100 nautical miles (nm). Ultimately, mission success will necessitate employment of contested, disaggregated, distributed and dispersed forces maneuvering from the sea-base to secure entry points ... allowing an expeditious increase of combat power ashore while providing for the quick introduction of follow-on forces to maintain momentum and expand the area of operation. As such, the need for connectors (air and surface), landing craft, amphibious vehicles and ships with the capability and capacity to operate in this environment becomes critical.
Operational Questions -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A1: A combination of tactical, technical and budgetary factors led us to this decision. We have determined that emerging A2/AD systems will require us, in some instances, to stand-off at distances beyond which even a high water speed ACV can reasonably achieve. In the near term, the Marine Corps must field an affordable Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) that provides superior protected mobility and survivability for our infantry throughout varied terrain mixes in the littorals and ashore. We will therefore rely on surface and air connectors to maneuver forces within the larger framework of a revised approach to amphibious operations. Wheeled vehicle performance has improved greatly since we began our efforts to replace the AAV. Wheeled vehicles have:
• Greater mobility in complex, littoral terrain;
• Increased IED protection (2X);
• Reduced fuel consumption (<1/2 fuel consumption);
• Greater reliability (improved mean time between failure);
• Reduced signature and smaller profiles (a critical survivability factor in a G-RAMM environment;
• Increased dispersion of personnel among more vehicles (a critical risk reduction factor);
• The design margins to allow for a family of vehicles of various configurations (personnel, command, and recovery variants; potentially others ie: indirect-fire, anti-armor in the future);
• Significantly reduced cost;
• Less technological risk;
• Nearer-term availability.
• Greater weight growth and freeboard capacity.
Q2: How will amphibious operations change in the absence of a tractor that can self-deploy from greater distances?
A2: The mission remains the same, but we are evolving our concepts of operation to address future A2/AD threats. You will see an increased emphasis on smaller, signature controlled forces—supported by precision fires—as the initial ground units ashore, maneuvered via multiple means, boats, or aircraft to gaps in an enemy defense. These forces will ensure security of landing sites and could range from SOF to reconnaissance Marines, to company landing teams, depending upon the situation. These initial entry ground units will be able to leverage joint fires and conduct shaping operations to create conditions allowing for the safe landing of surface connectors carrying vehicles. For larger, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-level operations, we will likely shift our initial assault element from 2 battalions by surface and 1 by air to the reverse – 2 by air and 1 by surface. Followed immediately by additional vehicles for improved mobility ashore. The density of vehicles to be delivered, even as a single battalion, suggests an increase in the number of required surface connector sorties to land the full ground combat element (GCE). The current inventory, 72 LCAC and 32 LCU, provides sufficient numbers today to meet the requirement based on current amphibious ship inventory and lift capacity. These connectors however are aging and existing programs aimed at keeping them in service must continue to ensure they receive the service life extending maintenance and modernization necessary to remain in service while their planned replacements programs complete the requirements definition and acquisition process.
Importantly, the surface battalion will not likely be the first ashore. Once ashore, however, as our ACV Analysis of Alternatives showed, a wheeled vehicle-mounted force has significant tactical advantages when compared to a force equipped with combat vehicles designed and optimized for high speed water mobility. We can expand that benefit by subsequently landing additional wheeled vehicles to link up with the battalions already delivered by air. None of these changes are a radical shift in amphibious doctrine, but rather simply a re-sequencing of forces, refinements to tactics, and a more complete leveraging of fires and joint capabilities. We believe these changes provide the best response to emerging access challenges. In short, new threats have caused us to reassess our requirements, and we have a path for evolving our operations to meet these challenges.
Q3: Will the Marine Corps still be able to accomplish its amphibious mission?
A3: Unequivocally, yes. We feel the evolution of amphibious operations, as currently being pursued by our Ellis Group in concert with capability development experts and the operating forces of both the Navy and Marine Corps, will make us more capable, not less so.
Q4: Did emerging A2/AD threats enter into your decision?
A4: Yes. We stood up an Amphibious Capabilities Working Group in fall of 2011 to look hard at how we will conduct future amphibious operations. This Group, which was the precursor to our Ellis Group, examined future challenges and recommended new approaches. The Ellis Group studied the operating environment for 3 months prior to writing Expeditionary Force 21 and persistently examines that changing landscape. In the intervening years since, we have assessed and refined their recommendations and are ready to begin implementing them. There has been a great deal of institutional effort and learning taking place over the last several years, and it has led us to conclude the threat demands a new approach and different capabilities from those we required when we originally began our AAV replacement effort.
Q5: How will this new vehicle change operations ashore?
A5: We are confident it will improve mobility (read maneuver), survivability and lethality ashore. With more variants potentially available, we will have options for significantly improved lethality beyond the stabilized .50 caliber machine gun posited for the High Water Speed (HWS) ACV.
Q6: With an all-ACV force, what is the ship loading plan for amphibs and the MPSRON's for a MEB's worth of ACVs? FIE load? 2 MEBs?
A6: The requirement for ACV is based on equipping our ten Assault Amphibian (AA) Companies plus supporting establishment, prepositioning forces and maintenance and war reserve as a replacement for the legacy AAV. An AAV-equipped AA company provides lift capacity for one reinforced infantry battalion. We currently have two AAV company equipment sets and an AAV headquarters support element set aboard each MPF squadron. An AAV-equipped AA platoon provides lift capacity for one reinforced infantry company. A Marine Expeditionary Unit’s task organization aboard amphibious ships normally includes one AA platoon. Future load planning trade-offs will account for any displacement deltas as do all load plans under review today.
Acquisition Questions -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Q7: What will happen to the AAV?
A7: We have begun a survivability upgrade program to 392 AAVs, a sufficient number to support our MEUs and to provide a bridge to a longer range solution. These upgrades will provide for performance, reliability, and survivability improvements, and will be delivered to the Fleet beginning in FY 19.
Q8: What impact will a wheeled ACV have on amphibious shipping and surface connectors?
A8: The concept of employment for ACV places a premium on using enablers like the mobile logistics platform (MLP) and surface connectors. Programmed efforts, like the ship-to-shore connectors (SSC) that succeed existing landing craft, air-cushioned (LCAC), are critical to our approach. Longer term, we will look at the “art of the possible” regarding refinements to other platforms and the possible pursuit of alternative landing craft solutions. In much the same way the MV-22B has greatly expanded the amphibious forces littoral maneuver options, we must also innovate our surface connector fleet.
By leveling the introduction of armored vehicles across phases (beyond initial assault), by changing the ratio of battalions that swim versus those that fly, and by creating a hybrid Assault Echelon/Assault Follow-On Echelon concept of operations, we will maximize the efficient use of our projected connector fleets. These adjustments to our concept of operations will allow us to offset the loss of a long range self-deploying tractor. Of note, we will still have substantial tank and LAV assets in the assault echelon. As to shipping, we have a deficit in amphibious lift. This demands that MEBs be created by aggregating forward deployed ships and surge shipping. We no longer have the shipping to deploy in mass as we did with 4th and 5th MEB for Desert Storm. Numbers of ships and the time to aggregate the MEB preclude delivery of the currently planned assault echelon in amphibious shipping within acceptable timelines. Thus, the future assault echelon will need to be modified, but to ensure adequate combat power ashore we will want to immediately leverage the substantial lift capacities of our Maritime Prepositioned Shipping. This will place a premium on selective, in-stream off-load capability provided by our current MPS ships and enabled by the new MLP.
Q3: Was cost the only factor in deciding to go with a non-developmental wheeled combat vehicle?
A3: No. While cost was an important factor across all alternatives, we feel the wheeled combat vehicle is operationally preferable to the alternatives today’s technology can deliver. Additionally, by pursuing a non-developmental acquisition of a wheeled-armored personnel carrier, we will reduce the time it takes for us to field a vehicle, and reduce the burden of our current AAVs. We will have a parallel survivability upgrade program in place to improve protection and performance of a portion of the AAV fleet so that it will continue to serve as the primary amphibious mobility platform until the fleet is replaced entirely by a modern capability.
Q9: What acquisition streamlining are you relying on to execute the plan?
A9: The program has been able to demonstrate maturity in developmental technologies during previous demonstrations. This allowed us to by-pass the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase of the acquisition process. The Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L approved entry at Milestone B in a recently completed Materiel Development Decision (MDD) thus saving the program an additional 18 to 24 months. Finally, we believe that these mature technologies will allow us to more rapidly complete Developmental and Operational Testing shortening the timeline to a production decision.
Q10: What are the major risks in the plan?
A10: The Acquisition Schedule for ACV 1.1 is an aggressive schedule and will require full funding and support from Congress, support for acquisition streamlining at all levels, and the ability of industry to deliver prototypes and production vehicles that meet the requirement on schedule.
Q11: In what ways is this acquisition strategy more affordable than simply pursuing HWS ACV?
A11: The ability to use non-developmental technologies reduces the initial investments needed in research and development and testing. The procurement of wheeled vehicles will be much more affordable due to the much lower vehicle APUC. Wheeled vehicles are much more affordable to sustain than tracked vehicles and overall lifecycle costs will be significantly reduced.
Q12: How confident are you in the estimated $5-$6m APUC for a wheeled vehicle?
A12: Based on our independent cost estimating efforts, government prototyping, as well as the market research conducted with industry and their recently demonstrated mature systems, we are confident that industry will be able to deliver the required capability at the projected APUC cost.
Q13: What is ACV 1.2? Is ACV 1.2 just ACV 1.1 with mission role variants? Is ACV 1.2 a self-deployable version of ACV 1.1?
A13: Under the planned acquisition strategy, ACV 1.2 will include the addition of command and control and a recovery and maintenance mission role variants to round out the basic capabilities required in an ACV-equipped Assault Amphibian Battalion. Additional improvements in vehicle capabilities will be pursued based on the growth potential of the prototypes as demonstrated during Developmental Testing. Areas of possible growth may include carrying capacity, lethality, reliability, fuel economy and amphibious durability. The requirements for ACV 1.2 will be informed by ACV 1.1 testing.
Q14: If ACV 1.X achieves a self-deployable capability - will you continue the AAV SUP/SII program?
A14: Yes, AAV with SUP/SII is a complementary capability to ACV 1.1 and will address capability gaps that need to be closed as soon as possible. They also account for one third of our required lift capacity and will need to remain operationally effective in the force until their replacements are procured. By the time ACV 1.2 is produced and fielded AAV SUP will be complete and the force will be outfitted with complementary capabilities. Even with the SUP/SII, the AAV, by then will be more than a half century old and it will need to be replaced. The decision as to its actual replacement will more appropriately be made in the first half of the next decade informed by the mature capabilities of the ACV and by technology efforts under taken within the Naval Services to address long range, high speed operations.
Q15: What is ACV 1.3?
A15: ACV 1.3 is a planning construct for addressing capabilities and requirements to achieve full operational capability in the total replacement of the Assault Amphibious Vehicle, to complete the vehicle modernization of the Assaults Amphibian Battalions in order to provide protected mobility and the appropriate amphibious lift capacity to meet the ground mobility requirements of Marine infantry.
Q16: What is ACV 2.0?
A16: Similar to ACV 1.3, ACV 2.0 is simply a planning construct for a future capability. It may or may not involve the actual development and procurement of new vehicles. We are currently pursuing several exploratory and developmental efforts to address the HWS capability. HWS may be achieved by a vehicle platform or a vehicle carried on a HWS platform. We continue to conduct research and development and testing of promising technologies identified by the ACV Study Team that could potentially increase the capabilities and affordability of a HWS tracked vehicle. Though some of these technologies might also improve the water speed of wheeled vehicles, a HWS wheeled vehicle is not likely based on current vehicle designs. We are also working with the Navy to improve the compatibility of our amphibious vehicles with both current and future connectors in order to significantly enhance the HWS amphibious capability of the vehicle/connector combination.
Q17: How are you transitioning from ACV 1.1 to ACV 1.2?
A17: The planned acquisition strategy is designed to make the transition from ACV 1.1 to ACV 1.2 as seamless as possible without a break in production, new-development effort or a new or significantly different vehicle. A new Capability Development Document (CDD) will define requirements for ACV 1.2 mission role variants and updated requirements for the personnel variant. This CDD will be informed by testing conducted on the ACV 1.1 prototypes and we expect the additional requirements for the personnel variants to be met by engineering changes limited upgrades to the ACV 1.1 vehicle design. The strategy does not currently envision a radically different design for the ACV 1.2 that would require a completely new, expensive and protracted development effort.