Marine Corps leaders testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee's Subcomittee on Seapower to discuss modernization efforts in the proposed Fiscal 2016 budget request.Don't worry about the part where the guys who have to drive these things around and get shot at in them think this is a better design. And never mind that this same Congress thought the Stryker wheeled infantry assault vehicle was a great choice for the Army because it fit better in an urban environment while providing open-country mobility. Congress knows better.
The Corps has identified its new Amphibious Combat Vehicle as its top modernization priority. The effort is set to replace most of Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicles that are well over 40 years old.
"Those vehicles are old, and they need to be replaced," Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Jr., deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration and commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
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Senators were more concerned, however, with the service's decision to choose wheeled technology over the more time-tested tracked design.
Tracked vehicles, as we learned in urban combat in Iraq, don't do real well in confined, narrow-street old cities -- the kind of places we are likely to be fighting. We aren't going to be doing a lot of open-country armored engagements against similarly equipped armies (we hope), but for that we still have the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Abrahms M1-A1 tank should we ever, God help us, have to face off against the Russians or Chinese. The Marines aren't supposed to be getting ready for that particular fight, however. They are an expeditionary force, intended to go wherever, whenever and fight whoever -- places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Mobility and survivability are important to them:
Marine leaders said the service has identified ground mobility as a high priority for the new AAV.Congress seems to be skeptical of the proposed design, which makes me tend to favor that design. Remember, these are the same people who want to get rid of the A-10, even though they have no replacement.
Wheeled-vehicle capability has advanced significantly over the past decade with technologies such as independent suspension, armor and variable inflatable tires, according to Thomas P. Dee, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Expeditionary Programs and Logistics Management.
Tests involving an eight-wheeled demonstrator vehicle at the Nevada Automotive Test Center have been very encouraging, Dee said.
"Performance was very good and for a medium-weight vehicle; it was equivalent to what we would get out of a tracked vehicle," Dee said. "It may not be as maneuverable or as mobile in off-road conditions in certain cases as an M1 tank, but is it certainly as maneuverable as we are going to get in that class of vehicle."