U.S. Marines are unique in their raw effectiveness in all things military. From ground combat to amphibious assaults to aviation excellence, this effectiveness stems from the level of character and discipline the Marine Corps demands. And while character and discipline are the bedrock of the Marine Corps’ success, it’s no secret that in recent years they have faced a readiness crisis.
Last month, BAE Systems won a contract to provide new amphibious combat vehicles to the Marine Corps. Thirty of these ACVs are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2019, and the Marine Corps will procure more than 800 vehicles over the next several years, phasing them in to replace its current amphibious assault vehicles, or AAVs. The new vehicle is designed to swim from ships up to 12 miles offshore, bringing 13 Marines and a crew of three from water to ground operations without a tactical pause. This upgrade to the AAVs improves survivability, lethality, and range.
Many have questioned the relevance of this type of warfare and see this purchase as unnecessary spending, arguing that precision guided weapons and anti-ship cruise weapons prevent amphibious assault ships from getting close enough to put Marines ashore. However, in joint operations, amphibious landings will be coordinated with the other services by relying on intelligence, maneuverability, and our own precision strikes to sanitize and choose the battlefield. Marine Corps doctrine ventures to put small, fast moving forces ashore at poorly defended points. If we wish to have the ability to seize terrain and project power in ways that don’t require arrival by plane, boat, truck, or train, there still exists a large need for amphibious assault capacity.
In the last several military engagements, we have seen our Marine Corps largely used in landlocked mission-sets, but make no mistake, amphibious warfare is still a core—if not the core—pillar in what it fundamentally means to be a Marine. Moreover, while it’s true that Marines can do more with less—they shouldn’t have to. The AAV has been in service since the early 1970s and several programs have been designed to replace it due to age, speed, and poor protection of crew and passengers. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, and as the U.S. increased its military ground operations overseas, the Marines began developing the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or EFV. However, after several years of investment, the program was cancelled due to poor reliability, complexity, and excessive cost growth in 2011.
The ACVs will be manufactured at BAE’s plants in Aiken, South Carolina; Sterling Heights, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Stafford, Texas; San Jose, California; and York, Pennsylvania. The Third Assault Amphibian Battalion within I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, California, will be the first unit to accept them for service. The ACV will provide the needed upgrade to the Marine Corps rapidly and at a cost we can afford. In Congress, we will continue to find cost-effective measures to provide our combat experts with the tools they need to fight the wars of today and the future.