13 December 2015

Two recent blunders for the Littoral Combat Ship program

Despite a $700 million dollar investment, the anti-mine warfare module for the Littoral Combat Ship doesn't work.  And, the most recently commissioned Littoral Combat Ship, the Milwaukee, the sixth of the LCS class, had to be towed back to port when it broke down because metal debris ended up in its oil filter somehow.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has issued a contract for $225 million for two companies to develop 13 prototype Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV 1.1), the most recent epicycle of a weapons development program that has been cancelled over and over again for decades.  The aspiration is to get this vehicle into the field in five years. The ACVs would replace the 392 amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) now in service using a 40 year old design which entered service in 1971, which are highly outdated because all efforts to replace them have had fatal flaws. The previous replacement program (the amphibious expeditionary fighting vehicle) sent $3 billion down the drain when the finished product turned out to be unreliable in operational testing and was cancelled in 2011. A 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service recaps the highlights of this procurement abomination.
ACV 1.1 is envisioned as an eight wheeled vehicle capable of carrying 10 Marines and a crew of three and would cost between $4 million to $7.5 million per copy—a change from the RFI estimate of $5 million to $6 million per vehicle. In terms of mobility, the ACV 1.1 would need to be able to travel at least 3 nautical miles from ship to shore, negotiate waves up to at least 2 feet, travel 5 to 6 knots in calm seas and be able to keep up with the M-1 Abrams tank once ashore. Proposals would be due in April 2016 and the Marines reportedly plan to award two EMD contracts for 16 vehicles each to be delivered in November 2016. In 2018, the Marines would then down select to one vendor in 2018 and start full production.
The 2015 RFI involves a significant reduction in capability from the 2011 version of the design specifications for the vehicles (which were to be able to travel twelve miles with 17 Marines in waves of up to 3 feet at 8 knots; but is still superior to the two mile capabilities of the status quo).

There has been serious discussion about the benefits of an integrated amphibious combat vehicle as opposed to converting entirely to having landing craft with a dedicated land based vehicle.

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