The Marine Corps will kick off the analysis of alternatives on its Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV) this summer, after some early troubles finding the right strategy to replace the 1980s-built Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) with a fifth-generation combat capability.
The Marine Corps wants a “transformational capability” in the ARV that will not only protect the Marines inside but will allow them to sense the battlefield through the use of unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, pass video and data between vehicles, fire anti-tank missiles and more, Marine Corps Systems Command’s Light Armored Vehicles Program Manager Steve Myers told USNI News.
Whereas the Marine Corps didn’t find what it was looking for in early industry engagement, a new approach that separates out the vehicle from the warfighting tools is going well and has the program on track to test prototype ARVs by 2023, Myers said.
The program office, the Office of Naval Research and the deputy commandant for combat development and integration (CD&I) are all working parts of the ARV effort in tandem.
ONR has two technology demonstrator programs underway: SAIC will look at advanced technologies that may not be mature yet but could be incorporated into the vehicle as mission packages, meant to be upgraded as technology, the threat and the mission evolve. Another company, yet to be awarded, will build a “base vehicle” with state of the art automotive and combat vehicle technologies that are available today.
CD&I has written an initial capabilities document that has been approved by the Marine Corps and is awaiting approval by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.
The program office is leveraging the work at ONR and at CD&I and is moving forward with industry engagement, Myers explained. This month the office will release a request for information to start to gauge industry interest in the ARV program. Companies will be allowed to request one-on-one meetings with the program office if they want to learn more ahead of an industry day later this year. Additionally, a materiel development decision is expected this summer, which formally validates the need for a materiel solution to fill a gap and kicks off the AoA process.
Myers said that – much like the Marine Corps did with its Amphibious Combat Vehicle program – the next step for the program office would be competitive prototyping. Once the ONR demonstrators have yielded some lessons and CD&I has updated the draft requirements based on that information, Myers said the program office would hold a competition for prototype vehicles. Ideally four companies would be awarded contracts for multiple vehicles each, like with the ACV program, so that the program office could put the vehicles through extensive testing that would inform the final requirements for the program.
Kim Bowen, the LAV deputy program manager, said the request for proposals for the prototyping would likely be released in the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, with an award later that year and the vehicle testing beginning in FY 2023.
Myers said he’s not currently constrained by any cost caps, which would be decided later on in the program once the Marine Corps gets a better idea of what its requirement is, what technology is available and what tradeoffs between cost and capability exist.
“There may be some things the Marine Corps absolutely wants that are A) not going to be technologically mature enough to integrate, or B) are just going to be too expensive. We don’t know enough about that yet to say much on that,” Myers said.
Though the exact technology on the vehicle is yet to be determined, Myers said the base vehicle would have to be upgradeable over time, both through a modular design that lends itself to easy upgrades and through significant additional space, weight, power and cooling margins built into the vehicle – allowing for about 25 percent growth over time, he said.
With the legacy LAV, while the Marine Corps continues to invest in some upgrades – every seven years the vehicles go through a reset effort to address obsolescence issues and rebuild engines, transmissions and other gear, and an anti-tank turret addition to the LAV has been well received, Myers said – the LAV simply cannot fit some technologies the Marine Corps is interested in, such as active protection systems.
“It’s difficult to add new technology because we’re constrained by size, weight and power. That’s something you’d ideally want to resolve with the ARV, is have the ability to have the SWAP growth,” he noted.
“The automotive technology is one thing, the combat vehicle technology is another; it’s really less about the actual vehicle and more about the ability to continuously upgrade the vehicle with these sort of enabling technologies.”
In the beginning, at least, Myers and Bowen outlined the mission capabilities they aim to provide.
“If you look at the capabilities that the Marine Corps wants, you can envision some supporting technologies. For example, they want better awareness of the battlefield, and to do that they’re thinking about using unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles. So we’re having at least a variant of this ARV be able to launch a UAV, whether it be tethered or free-flying, and then survey the battlefield and recover it. That’s an important capability. To be able to potentially remotely operate vehicles, either ground robotic vehicles or perhaps even tele-operate another ARV is another capability they’re looking at,” Myers said.
“The ability to counter armor – now we would couch that as the ability to fire Javelin missiles, in today’s terms – whether it’s a Javelin missile or something being developed in the future to destroy enemy armored targets.”