Based on the Italian IVECO® SuperAV, BAE Systems® has delivered the 8×8 wheeled Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV) to the United States Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Division at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California, on November 4, 2020, posted Sgt. Miguel Rosales in Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS), citing an “Activation Ceremony” with COVID-19 restrictions. 16 ACV prototypes were delivered to the U.S. Marines in December 2016 for testing after a 2015 U.S. Marine Corps Request for Proposal.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle Specifications Overview
The 35-ton 8×8 ACV is meant to replace the aging 30-ton tracked Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) that has served with the U.S. Marines for more than four decades. The AAV is usually armed with a manual-aimed 40-millimeter MK-19 automatic grenade launcher and .50-cailber M2HB in a rotating 360-degree Up-Gunned Weapon Station armored turret. The ACVs will normally have a CROWS II Remote Weapons System (RWS) mounting either a .50-caliber M2HB heavy machine gun or a 40-millimeter MK-19 although plans to up-arm with a CROWS II-Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) or another RWS such as a 30mm turret is a possibility and will be covered below.
According to the BAE Systems’ ACV brochure, the ACV can carry 13 Marines in the rear, seven seats on one side and six seats on the other side, and a crew of three, typically driver, gunner, and vehicle commander, or transport 7,280 lbs/3,302 kg. This is less than the AAV’s rating of 24 Marine passengers, but rarely are 24 fully-equipped Marines packed inside an AAV, so the usual complement is around 13 to 21 Marines for the AAV. The ACV can carry two days of sustainment supplies. BAE Systems told Naval News that they cannot share or provide photos of the interior of the ACV.
ACV dimensions are, length: 361 inches/9.2 meters, width: 121 inches/3.1 meters, and height: 114 inches/2.9 meters.
Regarding performance, the ACV can swim at over 6 knots in Sea State 3 and through nine feet tall plunging surf. On land, the ACV can keep up with U.S.M.C. M1A1 tank formations (the U.S. Marines have since divested in their tanks) with a paved road speed of greater than 65 mph/105 km/hr. The 8×8 vehicle can drive on a slide slope greater than 30% and climb gradients greater than 60%; the front two axles turn to provide steering. Range is 325 miles/523 km on paved roads with a speed of 55MPH/89KPH. The ACV can swim for 12 nautical miles in the sea followed by driving 250+ miles on land after hitting the beach. The ACV’s engine is rated at 700 Horsepower.
Unlike the canceled and expensive Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV)) with its unique “transforming features” that allow the tracks to tuck into the hull and the bow plane to unfold, allowing for sea skimming speeds in excess of 24+ knots/46 km using powerful waterjets, the ACV uses propellers and its eight wheels to propel and doesn’t require any complex transformation when hitting the surf line. Thus, the ACV can drive right onto the beach or into the water from land with no preparations, making amphibious assaults faster.
What makes the ACV unique and special is that the high ground clearance allows the ACV to better survive underbelly IED blasts and mines; hard lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ACV can still survive (and probably still roll) if one of its tires hits a mine or an IED as the blast resistant V-hull deflects the blasts away from the vehicle’s center unlike the AAV’s and EFV’s low flat-bottom hull. Furthermore, the ACV comes with energy-absorbing seats, and combined, gives the ACV a protection rating of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle’s level of protection. BAE Systems declined to comment on the ACV’s armor rating, citing security reasons, respectably. Naval News reached out to the 1 MEF Public Affairs for comment on the ACV’s improved ballistic survivability over the AAV and 1 MEF responded by saying that the armor rating of the ACV is classified as “Secret” and that any assumption of the ACV’s armor rating should be removed.
Future Amphibious Combat Vehicle Variants
The Marine Corps plans to build and field three additional ACV variants, a Command and Control ACV, a Recovery vehicle ACV, and an ACV with increased firepower. The Marines have already tested a few RWS turrets in the 30mm and 40mm caliber, and in May, 2020, the U.S. Marines have contracted BAE Systems to design, build, and deliver ACVs mounting a medium caliber autocannon for increased firepower over the CROWS II RWS.
“KONGSBERG will deliver up to 150 MCTs in a phased program as part of this contract. Test article delivery will commence early 2021 followed by production phases.
“The KONGSBERG MCT-30 is the first remotely operated 30mm turret to be qualified and fielded in the United States. The system provides highly accurate firepower for wheeled or tracked combat vehicles. It is remotely controlled and operated from a protected position inside the vehicle compartment for optimized crew safety.
“The MCT-30 leverages a link-less medium caliber cannon providing lethality, extremely high reliability and multi-user functions to the Marine Corps ACV and other platforms.”
Kongsberg Defense, 13 May 2020
The Kongsberg MCT-30 uses a dual-feed linkless ammunition system to feed 75 ready rounds that can be reloaded under armor. The 7.62mm COAX has 400 ready rounds. Fire control sights include a Daytime Camera, a Laser Rangefinder, and a Thermal Imager, allowing target engagements out to 3,000 meters.
BAE Systems has also created an up-armed ACV version, called the Amphibious Technology Demonstrator (ATD) as seen in the photo below. This variant could qualify for the Corps’ future Light Armored Vehicle 25 (LAV-25) replacement requirement for reconnaissance.
“BAE Systems has also created an up-armed ACV version, called the Amphibious Technology Demonstrator (ATD) as seen in the photo below. This variant could qualify for the Corps’ future Light Armored Vehicle 25 (LAV-25) replacement requirement for reconnaissance. BAE Systems is currently working on design and development for the ACV-30 and command and control (ACV-C) variants, and a Recovery variant is planned for the future Amphibious Combat Vehicle Family of Vehicles (ACV FOV). The technology demonstrator was upgraded to show the breadth and depth of possibilities for additional variants including counter-UAS and anti-air, anti-armor, missile carriers, logistics, electronic warfare and reconnaissance.”Elizabeth Delano, BAE Systems
This up-armed BAE Systems prototype variant sports a Kongsberg® MCT-30mm autocannon with 7.62mm COAX medium machine gun, smoke grenades, a Javelin fire-and-forget ATGM launcher on the left, and a pod of four 2.75” Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) laser-guided rockets on the right of the turret as seen in the photo. This provides the up-gunned ACV prototype guided weapon engagement ranges out to 5,000m/3.1 miles.
The box device on the corner of the sloping hood is BAE’s ES RAVEN™ “Soft-Kill” Countermeasure device with a green 360-degree infrared countermeasure sensing, detecting, tracking, and engaging camera on top. RAVEN is a non-kinetic device that protects the ACV against incoming Anti-tank missiles.
A telescoping sensor mast has a rotating ball turret probably equipped a with Daytime Television Camera, Laser Designator, and a Thermal Imager. On the turret roof is the Commander’s Sight that appears to contain Electro-Optical sensors. At the far rear left corner is the RADA® circular millimeter wave radar mast used for aerial surveillance for airborne and drone detection and on top of that is a tan Boeing® modular Compact Laser Weapon System (CLWS) for low cost-per-shot Anti-drone and Unmanned Aerial System defense.
BAE Systems mentioned that an Electronic Warfare (EW) package is fitted to the Amphibious Technology Demonstrator prototype, and when Naval News asked what the EW package defeats (IEDs, Cyber, Unmanned Aerial Systems, vehicle systems hacking, etc.), BAE declined to comment on the details, citing security reasons.
This combination of weapons and sensors gives this ACV prototype impressive capabilities for short to medium-range Anti-Helicopter, Anti-Armor, Anti-Infantry, and Anti-Drone defense in addition to reconnaissance capabilities with active and passive night vision, daytime, radar, Electro-optical, and infrared sensors, all on one amphibious combat vehicle able to survive small arms fire, artillery shrapnel, IEDs, and mine blasts and still transport up to 13 fully-equipped Marines.