After extensive vehicle trials, the Marine Corps’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle is now in the Marines’ hands and, despite some criticism, is here to stay. The ACV replaces the Corps’ older Amphibious Assault Vehicle, a vehicle that entered service with the Marines in the 1970s, and has since grown long in the tooth.
Their new ACV has been a long time coming: an earlier Marine Corps initiative to replace the AAV, called the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was canceled by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2011 amid concerns about the platform’s survivability against dedicated anti-ship missile threats, forcing the Corps to continue to rely on their aged AAVs.
The Corps’ new ACVs have sustained some of the same criticism the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles received in the 2010s, though the Marines think that this time around, they’ve got the design right. Speaking to the United States Naval Institute, a senior Marine official explained that grunts are firmly behind the ACV design. “Overall, the feedback that we got from the Marines was overwhelmingly positive,” the official said. “No vehicle is perfect—did not expect the vehicle to be perfect when we entered into the operational test.”
And the ACV is not perfect. A recent Marine Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) exposed several deficiencies in the ACV design related to mobility over land, and in particular through rocky desert terrain. Marines noted a number of tire failures that caused costly delays during timed evaluations, a problem that was exacerbated by a lack of hydraulic jacks necessary for ACV crews to change punctured tires themselves. The IOT&E noted this shortcoming and added that incorrect tire pressure settings and green ACV crews may have been partly responsible for at least some tire failures.
Another issue the IOT&E exposed was slow egress times, complicated in part by the ACV’s blast-mitigating individual seats, rather than the AAV’s crew benches, though slow bail times may have also been hampered by crew unfamiliarity.
Still, despite the ACV’s shortcomings, the Corps plans to incorporate incremental changes into the platform in the future, addressing concerns about the vehicle’s firepower, speed in the water, and survivability in a detailed internal document.
And, as for right now, the ACV is good enough. Ultimately the Corps has deemed the swimming vehicle as “operationally effective, operationally suitable, and survivable,” a Pentagon spokeswoman explained to USNI News. “Based on testing and evaluation data, DOT&E assessment is that overall reliability and availability for the ACV is better than legacy system [the AAV].”
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.