Marines tested the Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle from June to September of last year—and the ACV didn’t get rave reviews. The ACV was put through its paces, traveling from ship to shore through the surf zone, conducting live fire drills, and maneuvers with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and Light Armored Vehicles. Here’s where it fell short.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle
The ACV, designed by BAE Systems, replaces the Marine Corps’ Assault Amphibious Vehicle, an amphibious ship to shore transport vehicle that has been in service with the USMC since the 1970s. The large tracked vehicle can carry twenty-one fully-armed Marines plus three crew members and is armed with a remote weapon station turret that carries both a .50 caliber heavy machine gun as well as a 40mm grenade launcher. Though certainly a capable platform when it made its service debut, it has grown long in the tooth after nearly a half century of continuous service. And the ACV is charging forward to replace it.
The ACV has had its criticisms, namely it is actually slower in the water than the legacy AAV, though it is faster on land. Thanks to blast-mitigating seats, a V-shaped underbelly, and steel rather than aluminum armor panels, the ACV does have a superior armor protection package. Interestingly, the ACV opted for an eight-wheel drive rather than a tracked system, possibly for the superior on-road ability wheels offer on land.
All told, expectations for the new ACV were high. And while recent testing revealed some aspects of the platform that work quite well, overall performance was less than stellar.
Flat Tires and Busted Suspensions
Overall, the ACV passed its Initial Operational Test & Evaluation. The Navy noted that the vehicle successfully completed twelve out of thirteen mission tests, was able to keep pace with the JLTV and LAV, and quoted Marines involved with the IOT&E that the ACV performed “better than the legacy vehicle across all mission profiles.”
Marines lauded the ACV’s intercom and camera systems, as well as its remote weapon station, which allowed for superior situational awareness. The stabilized RWS allowed for a very high degree of accuracy—while stationary, the ACV hit 91 percent of targets, which climbed to 97 percent while on the move.
However, the ACVs struggled with mobility through desert terrain. Flat tires plagued ACV operators and led to long delays while flats were swapped out. Astoundingly, the ACV is not equipped with a hydraulic jack, and must rely on a Logistics System Vehicle Replacement (LVSR) Wrecker support vehicle to change out its wheels. Some of the tire issues may have been due to improper tire pressure set by crew members, which once rectified, contributed to fewer tire failures. Additionally, the ACV’s weight made recovery difficult for a single LVSR, and in some cases two recovery vehicles were required to recover the ACV.
Marines also noted that space inside the ACV is cramped. Quick egress and ingress were made difficult by limited space. To top it off, BAE did not design the ACV’s seats with body armor in mind, which made seating unergonomic and uncomfortable.
Lastly, the ACV had on average thirty-nine hours of operation before an equipment failure that led to mission failure. ACV program requirements stipulated sixty-nine hours. Still, the Navy report acknowledged that the ACV’s remote weapon station was responsible for the largest number of failures, and was a government-supplied piece of equipment, and therefore not BAE Systems fault.
Despite the ACV’s current issues, a number of these can be relatively easily fixed. And, all is not lost. This ACV version is seen as a sort of interim solution. The Marine Corps plans on developing an ACV 2.0 around 2025 that will incorporate the lessons learned from the initial ACV program, with one of the chief objectives being a significantly higher water speed. Until then, there is plenty of time to work out kinks in the Assault Combat 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.