The Marine Corps badly needs a replacement for its rapidly-aging Light Armored Vehicle. Could this new vehicle be the solution?
The Marine Corps is on the hunt for a reconnaissance vehicle that would be able to replace their LAV-25, the Light Armored Vehicle that originally entered service with the Marine Corps in the early 1980s. The LAV has a lot to offer—it is amphibious, sports a 25-millimeter Bushmaster autocannon, and can transport six fully-equipped Marines in addition to three crew members. Still, the vehicle is quickly approaching forty years old, and is in some ways a throwback to Cold War-era planning.
The LAV is relatively lightly armored, and while it can offer protection from Russian 14.5-millimeter armor-piercing rounds as well as a variety of small-arms fire, it is decidedly vulnerable to larger caliber munitions. Since the LAV’s Cold War introduction it has been up-armored, though at a steep cost: its amphibious capabilities. To the Marine Corps—traditionally amphibious by nature — this is a dealbreaker.
A replacement is in the works, however: the Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle. The Marine Corps’ ARV program seeks to find a LAV replacement, and one offering from Textron might just be the vehicle for the job.
The USMC has listed quite a few stringent program requirements for a successful Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle prototype. The ARV should pack more firepower than the LAV, and the Corps has suggested a 30-millimeter weapon system might do the job. It should also be highly armored, able to neutralize “close-in heavy armor threats.”
In addition to a modern command and control setup as well as a variety of sensors to aid in surveillance and reconnaissance, the ARV should excel both on land as well as in the water. More specifically, it should have a shore-to-shore capability—that is, the ability to leave a naval ship and cross a littoral water zone under its own power—that does not require a connecting naval vehicle.
This is where Textron’s Cottonmouth vehicle comes in. Although some of the specific features of the Cottonmouth vehicle are not publicly known, several inferences can be made by what is available.
Company promotional material shows a six-wheeled, presumably all-wheel-drive vehicle armed with what appears to be a remotely operated Javelin anti-tank missile as well as a .50 caliber heavy machine gun, both of which are mated to the vehicle’s roof. Though the Javelin is indeed a powerful anti-tank missile, it is possible that future Cottonmouth vehicles will sport something more powerful than a single-shot anti-tank missile as well as the United States’ oldest machine gun in service.
A variety of sensors and antennas cover the roof of the vehicles, likely as part of the USMC’s surveillance and reconnaissance requirement. And, like all things Marine, the Cottonmouth sports dual water jets at the rear is happily amphibious.
This summer, it’s likely that the Cottonmouth will undergo amphibious testing. And if the vehicle’s water trials go well, it could become the Marine Corps’ Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle.
Caleb Larson is a defense writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.