The Marine Corps chose BAE and SAIC from a field of five competitors to build competing prototypes for the long-awaited Amphibious Combat Vehicle. BAE, a dominant player in tracked armored vehicles, had teamed with Italian armsmaker Iveco to offer a variant of the Italians’ wheeled SuperAV. SAIC, best known as a consulting firm, offered a variant of the Singaporean Terrex. “BAE’s contract is for $103.8 million, while SAIC’s is for $121.5 million,” the Marines announced at 5 pm.
The awards are a major step forward for the service. The Marines had struggled for years to replace their Amphibious Assault Vehicle — aging, lumbering, and terribly vulnerable to roadside bombs — whose ability to carry Marines from ship to shore and inland is central to the service’s identity. After early doubts about the ACV candidates’ capabilities, the Marines are now confident the winner will be as fast on the water as the old AAV and vastly better on land, with mobility similar to the Army’s eight-wheel-drive Stryker and — perhaps most importantly — protection equal to an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) vehicle.
Each of the two winners will build 16 vehicles to be delivered from January through April 2017. (The current contract says 13 but Marine officials pledge to execute an option for three more once the funding is available). That unusually large number of prototypes will speed up testing and development of tactics, with multiple activities running simultaneously and allowing any broken-down vehicles to be quickly replaced, ACV program manager John Garner told reporters this afternoon. By the time the program enters its formal operational evaluation (OPEVAL) in late 2017 (early fiscal year 2018), said Garner, “the Marines will have already learned how they’re going to operate these vehicles.”
After that comes a downselect to a single winner, who’ll build up to 204 test vehicles at an average procurement unit cost (APUC) of no more than $6.5 million each. That and other costs to date will constitute the $1.2 billion “ACV 1.1″ program, which enters service ca. 2021. But immediately on 1.1’s heels comes “ACV 1.2,” which will produce up to 490 vehicles of multiple variants. (All ACV 1.1s are regular troop carriers; ACV 1.2s will also include command vehicles and recovery vehicles, essentially armored tow-trucks). The service wants the transition from 1.1 to 1.2 to be as smooth as possible, with as little new development and testing as possible, which means the winner of 1.1 will have a lock on 1.2 unless they drop the ball.