Analysis: US Marines ACV selection – did industry lose sight?
The decision by the USMC to choose BAE Systems/Iveco and SAIC/STK vehicles for the next phase of its Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 came as a surprise to some. Both vehicles (SuperAV and Terrex 2) they are providing are not US designs.
There had also been five teams in the competition, which was not initially recognised in the media and ignored. They will replace the ageing AAV7A1 vehicle.
One of the reasons for the eventual selection of the final two teams was that some of the teams seemed to lose sight of the 1.1 programme and focus instead on the larger prize of the 1.2 programme, which is expected to follow.
There were three industry days for ACV 1.1, many requests for information and three RFPs so industry should have understood the requirements.
Apparently one of the bidding teams did not realise that a fully amphibious capability (to launch from and return to ships at sea) was not actually a firm requirement under 1.1, which only needs to launch and return to the landing craft. But they were adamant that it was.
The USMC had stated although a full amphibious capability was an ‘objective’ for 1.1 vehicles it would only be a firm requirement later for the 1.2 vehicles. Some bidding teams got extra points for being able to offer this in their 1.1 designs but it would not have been a decisive factor as this capability was not a requirement.
Therefore if an industry team did not understand this it is clear that they had lost sight of 1.1 and were looking ahead to 1.2.
Will Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics protest? A decision has to be made by 10 December and it will be interesting to see how they respond to this loss. The result for Lockheed will be another blow following so closely behind their loss in JLTV and their protest against this programme will probably be rejected.
One of the strangest elements of the competition was the collapse of the teaming arrangement between Lockheed Martin and Patria. It is not clear why there is bad blood between them but the Finnish company’s AMV has secured significant exports in a crowded marketplace that had been filled by the Piranha and Pandur. Internationally AMV has given GDELS a run for its money. Instead Lockheed Martin was forced to develop its own amphibious vehicle.
But the main casualty is General Dynamics, which was offering an updated LAVIII/Stryker vehicle. But they are desperate for some work at their Lima tank plant in Ohio and the USMC had already purchased and installed equipment there during the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle programme. This must have been part of the company’s bid so it is odd that they somehow were not selected as one of the two best value choices.
However the pain will probably be offset by the Double-V Hull work and the fact they won a new contract with Saudi Arabia – the largest ever export contract for armoured fighting vehicles worth in excess of $10 billion.
Advanced Defence Vehicle Systems is an odd company and although it has experienced designers it lacks resources and has been unable to translate this into any real sales success to make it into a big player.
BAE Systems partnership with Iveco was important because it had no design of its own. The SuperAV was developed by Iveco for the Italian army and navy’s amphibious forces and has secured an export to Brazil where it is called Guarani under the VBTP programme – the largest export ever secured by a European armoured fighting vehicle manufacturer.
Few European armies have requirements for large numbers of amphibious vehicles that can swim and this is usually the preserve of light infantry forces or marines, which usually buy what the USMC gets. But SuperAV performed well in the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) programme and now it is being developed into an ACV 1.1 variant.
The choice of SAIC/STK was more of a surprise but the partnership was well-made. SAIC chose STK carefully as the Singaporean company had learned from offering its tracked Bionix vehicle for the US Army’s Interim Armored Vehicle project in 1999-2000 that eventually went to GDLS, which provided the Stryker.
Its designs had been optimised for smaller Singaporean troops rather than larger US or European soldiers. Their new Terrex 2 vehicle, which is under consideration, has taken these lessons into account and aimed for ACV and this team had been down-selected for the original MPC project in 2012.