The Amphibious Combat Vehicle demonstrates its abilities at Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 28, 2019. The Amphibious Combat Vehicle will eventually replace the old tracked Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
The Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) is a program initiated by Marine Corps Systems Command to procure an amphibious assault vehicle for the United States Marine Corps to supplement and ultimately replace the aging Assault Amphibious Vehicle. The program replaces the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program canceled in 2011. Originally a plan to develop a high-water-speed vehicle, the program has expanded into a multi-phased approach to procure and develop several types of amphibious-capable vehicles to address near and long-term requirements.
The ACV should have countermeasures able to contend with a full range of direct fire, indirect fire, and land mine threats. Visible and thermal signature reduction technologies will also be utilized. Modular protection can be applied as necessary.
The vehicle must have the capability to transition from water to ground operations without tactical pause. It must be able to maneuver with the M1A1 Abrams in a mechanized task force. It must have the capability to destroy combat vehicles similar to itself. Weapons must have sufficient range to engage targets from a standoff distance. Weapons will apply precision fire from a stabilized system. It must provide direct fire support for dismounted infantry in an attack.
The Marine Corps identified speed on water as a top requirement, even at the cost of troop carrying capacity.
The ACV must be able to self-deploy from an amphibious assault ship at least 12 miles from shore with 17 Marines aboard. It has to be able to travel 8 knots or faster through seas with waves up to three feet. The vehicle was to be operational between 2020 and 2022, with 573 vehicles planned to be procured.
Given the budget environment, the ACV program was split into two separate phases. The first phase will consist of several hundred commercial off-the-shelf wheeled armored vehicles each costing $3–$4.5 million. It will rely on connectors to get it from ship-to-shore, like the Landing Craft Air Cushion and Joint High Speed Vessel. Relying on connectors to bring the vehicle to a beach allows the sea base to be located 100 miles from enemy threats. The second phase is the original high water speed effort for a vehicle to self-deploy from ships and travel 13–15 knots on water, each costing $12–$14 million. The less ambitious Phase 1 ACV will be fielded in the interim, while research and development will commence to refine the features of the Phase 2 ACV.
The first increment of Phase 1 of procurement will buy wheeled personnel carriers. The second increment of Phase 1 will include mission-role variants like command-and-control and logistics, and weapons variants; these iterations may reintroduce tracks or stay wheeled.
ACV 1.1 vehicles will be an operational and commercially available design that is "good enough" to operate. Its water performance will be comparable to the AAV, and will have survivability attributes of an MRAP including high-ground clearance and a V-shaped hull, with the ability to drive with a wheel blown off. For the second lot buy (1.2), engineering and design changes will be made to meet roughly half of desired amphibious vehicle fleet size requirements. The last phase of ACV procurement would be purchasing a high-water-speed vehicle, but only if technologies make it achievable without sacrificing armor and weapons.
The ACV 1.1 is to carry 10–13 Marines, have a swim capability similar to the AAV, and have equal or greater mobility to the M1 Abrams tank. Although tracks are traditionally considered better for all-terrain mobility, the Marines believe wheeled vehicle technology has advanced enough to enhance survivability and mobility in a 35-ton-class platform; the Marine Personnel Carrier technology demonstrator used "in-line" drive technology that enabled all four wheels on each side to pull together much like the way a track does which, combined with a higher ground clearance and central tire inflation system, substantially closes the maneuverability gap and results in equal or better maneuverability than the M1A1 and better performance over the AAV. Improved technology used to inform requirements to build ACV 1.2 vehicles will later be applied to delivered 1.1 versions to upgrade them to 1.2 standard.
Each ACV 1.1 vehicle will have a 3-man crew, and two vehicles will carry a reinforced rifle squad. Armament will consist of an M2 .50-caliber machine gun in a remote weapons station, with the potential to install a stabilized dual-mount M2/Mark 19 grenade launcher turret. Potential water speeds are for a 12 nmi (14 mi; 22 km) ship-to-shore capability at 8 knots.