2014/08/23

Will the Marine Corps APC racket ever end?

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The U.S. Marine Corps introduced an amphibious APC (similar to, but not as versatile as their WW2-era vehicles) for its large squads early in the 70's and immediately began to think about its successor :
 
1972: AAV-7 enters service
 
no production

1982: LVT(X) project,
no production

1990's and 2000's: AAAV project,
no production

until recently: EFV project, 
no production

Four decades. USMC development of big amphibious armoured personnel carriers has been ongoing for four decades without a production model, much less an affordable one. Only the "LAV-25", a slightly modified off-the shelf armoured truck, was purchased in the meantime. Its successor, "MPC", is on hold and big business is ready to go - go skim off a rent on development budgets since production is unlikely. The corps of most effective self-promoters failed in AFV development procurement grossly.

This beats even the U.S.Army, which was unable to bring a new armoured fighting (as opposed to transportation or combat engineering) vehicle into production for about three decades (and quite the same for helicopters, which is a USMC area of fail as well).

Examples of the USMC's bit ticket procurement incompetence are spreading in NATO; the U.S.Army, the British Army and the German army are on their heels. The active, but largely fruitless Poles and the Italians are no better. Armoured vehicle development and procurement sucks in NATO.
We can expect to sooner or later lag behind an aggressive neighbour by up to 40+ years if we allow such incompetence to reign on.

Yes, the German Puma IFV had severe teething problems. Some of the known (though not explicitly published) early problems were outright embarrassing, 3rd semester engineering studies-level failures. The program delivered merely one version, which is less than the mid-1980's Puma that was a development project of the industry itself and had huge logistical commonalities with the Leopard 1 and 2 tank families.

S O
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9 comments:

  1. As far as I can tell the USMC wants too many features in it amphibious vehicle to get one for a reasonable price. I may be mistaken but the swimming capability is a killer.
    Concerning the AFV in general - in most countries that are AFV developers the armor forces have been steadily cut back in the last 25 or so years. In this "climate" its better to upgrade the existing platforms, rather than muck around with new ones. This is exacerbated by the fact that all of the potentially aggressive neighbours have the same problem.

    The Polish Anders project is nice on paper, but it was obvious it'll be stillborn as Poland doesn't have the finances to replace its entire AFV/IFV/APC/SPA park, and without this replacement the Anders is just another platform among many others to be maintained and the financial benefits of commonality are lost.

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  2. The Chinese ZBD2000 series is quite lovely.

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    Replies
    1. Superficially it does (in comparison to the EFV).
      I didn't want to add insult to injury, though.

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  3. The defense death spiral at work.

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  4. S O: You are right sadly. It is a far cry from the first model that was authorized for development in April 1940, seven months later in November, 200 production models were ordered, and they were delivered in August 41. They had an edge of course in that there was a primitive commercial version doing rescue work in the Everglades and Florida rivers since the mid 30s. But the production model was far different. Soon after they fielded several upgraded versions producing altogether over 18,000 during the war.

    leo715: Its an amphibious tractor for ship to shore ops - not an Armored Personnel Carrier that can cross rivers or swamps. Swimming is requirement number one - all others may be negotiable.

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    1. I have long held the opinion that (assuming the USMC isn't reverted to its pre-WWI role) a motor sled (fast and cut-down LCM) capable of carrying either a vehicle up to 40 tons or a ICO container to the beach (and free itself for a return trip) would be a superior approach.
      It would allow the use of an AFV with inshore amphibiousness (even with expendable floats and no bilge pumps) at most = all army AFVs other than most MBTs.

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  5. S O:

    The Marines and Navy are thinking along those same lines. Perhaps minus the ICO container unless they already have a beachhead. The Navy has the LCAC as a fast sled type that can already carry heavy armored vehicles from 50 miles out but the worry is that the ships survivability dictates more offshore distance. So I believe there is some development on that front for a high speed ship-to-shore connector.

    For the Marines they will pursue a wheeled combat vehicle with some light swimming capability for short distances in gentle surf and for rivers or swamps onshore. But they will also upgrade some AAV-7s and keep them if needed for beaches protected by coral reefs, or mangrove swamps or other hard to cross shorelines.. Not all the worlds shorelines are sand or gravel, very few in fact.

    I never went ashore in an AAV-7 as they were after my time. But the AAV-5 was a fun ride (not). When launched out of an LSD (Landing Ship Dock) they would sink like a stone seemingly forever before their buoyancy brought them to the surface.

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  6. The problem with USMC amphibian procurement is the Corps cannot seem to decide on the most critical design criteria: how many men it should carry!

    The Corps initially tried to replicate the personnel carrying abilities of the WWII Higgins boat (~36 men) in the various amphibious vehicles and helicopters it purchased, and continues to pursue a reinforced rifle squad (16-17 men) in current requirements.

    The automotive and protection demands of a vehicle required to carry so many troops is a key driver of cost and performance issues.

    That said, *the* driver of U.S. armored vehicle procurement is the U.S. Army, not the USMC.

    GAB

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  7. It is almost like the defense contractors think that if they make money off of development, why ever actually produce a weapon. Defense Tech has a similar article regarding recent defense programs that have failed (http://defensetech.org/2011/07/19/46-billion-worth-of-cancelled-programs/):

    Future Combat Systems (FCS) $18.1B
    Comanche helicopter $7.9B
    nPOESS satellite $5.8B
    VH-71 Presidential Helicopter $3.7B
    Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) $3.3B
    Transformational SATCOM (TSAT) $3.2B
    Crusader $2.2B
    Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) $0.6 B
    Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter $0.5 B
    Aerial Common Sensor $0.4 B
    CG(X) next Generation Cruiser $0.2B
    CSAR-X $0.2B

    To that list I can add off the top of my head:

    C-130 AMP $4B
    The Virtual Fence $1B

    Then there are programs like F-22 terminated at 175 aircraft ($60B spent in development), B-2 terminated after only 20 were built ($30B spent in its development), and DDG-1000 terminated after 1 ship built ($10B).

    Plus there are programs like JSF ($200B), and LCS ($60B) that are likely to be cancelled before any vehicles are operational.

    A thinking person might notice a trend. It's a good thing there aren't very many of those around.

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