AAAV: Faster and Greater Power From the Sea
By Capt. Steve A. Butler
| Headquarters Marine Corps | January 11, 2001
HEADQUARTERS MARINE CORPS, Washington, DC --
General Jones, Commandant of the Marine Corps said it best with the statement to the Direct Reporting Program Manager Advanced Amphibious Assault following the Pentagon's approval to proceed into the final phase of development: "..you have transformed a revolutionary concept into the reality of a revolutionary weapons system. Your efforts have ensured that the AAAV will remain a keystone capability in support of the corps' vision of warfighting in the 21st century.." The Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) is the Marine Corps' highest priority ground program designed specifically for the signature mission of the Service. This advanced warfighting system moves three times faster and carries greater firepower than the legacy amphibian, providing Marine warriors from the sea greater flexibility and a superior tactical advantage.The 21st century Marine Corps' is being shaped today through the transformation of revolutionary warfighting concepts into the reality of revolutionary weapons systems towards a strategically agile, operationally mobile, and tactically flexible expeditionary force. In the 1980's, the Navy and Marine Corps developed the concept of Over-The-Horizon (OTH) amphibious operations to avoid enemy strengths, exploit enemy weaknesses, and protect Navy ships from increased land-based missile threats and sea-based mine threats. The AAAV along with the MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) form the "Amphibious Triad" designed to provide true expeditionary maneuver warfare capability. As a ground-up new design by and for Marines, the AAAV is built to correct deficiencies inherent in the legacy amphibian in addition to providing a modern, integrated platform capable of operations across the full spectrum of future Military operations in accordance with emerging Marine Corps concepts and doctrine. In addition to its greatly increased speed on the water, the AAAV will provide superior land mobility, greatly increased firepower, integrated Command and Control functionality, and advanced survivability features that will be absolutely essential for effective 21st century Marine warfare. To quote the Commandant: "...the AAAV will remain a keystone capability in support of the Corps' vision of warfighting in the 21st century."The AAAV's unique capabilities will include: (1) over three times the water speed of the current AAV; (2) nearly twice the armor protection of the current AAV; (3) the ability to defeat future threat light armored vehicles; (4) land mobility equal to or greater than the M1A1 tank; (5) effective command and control with subordinate, adjacent, and higher units; and (6) NBC protection for both the crew and embarked personnel. The Marine Corps AAAV Technology Center, located in Woodbridge, Va. has successfully developed, built, and tested various new integrated systems for incorporation into the AAAV. Development will continue into full rate production leading to the initial operational capability (the first complete AAAV company) for the Fleet Marine Forces in fiscal year 2006. The 1,013 AAAVs will continue to be fielded to Marine units as production rates allow through the years 2007-2016. AAAV production will conclude with Full Operational Capability in 2016.Currently, the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) Program has been approved by the DoD Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) for entry into the next phase of development, known as Engineering and Manufacturing Development (E&MD) as of 29 November 2000. This major milestone approval was granted after a thorough review of the AAAV Program's accomplishments over the past four years by senior Pentagon officials, as well as the future plans that will lead to further production of the AAAV starting in fiscal year 2004. With the program on schedule, within budget, and fully funded, the AAAV Program is developing the E&MD contract to be negotiated with the AAAV prime developer, General Dynamics. Plans for five years of developmental effort to include the production and test of 10 second generation prototypes are being discussed.During E&MD, extensive reliability and live fire testing will be undertaken. This phase also incorporates design changes into the AAAV design that reduce its unit cost prior to production. Finally, the E&MD phase initiates and conducts manufacturing and production planning at the prime and subcontractor sites. At the conclusion of this phase, the design is complete and ready for production in preparation for fielding of the AAAV. The AAAV Program Office is considered a pioneer of joint Government/Industry teaming because it was the first major programs to occupy a shared development facility with their prime contractor. The combined DRPM AAA/General Dynamics Amphibious Systems Team, working together since the inception of the program, has evolved into a seamless, synergistic, advanced technology weapons systems development organization, capable of maximizing the combat effectiveness of the AAAV while maintaining the System Total Ownership Cost affordability for the Marine Corps. The AAAV Program has been recognized throughout the Department of Defense and especially within the Department of the Navy as a model acquisition and logistics program and has received numerous awards. Following the E&MD phase, the program will transition to the Production, Fielding/Deployment, and Operational Support phase in 2006. During this phase, AAAV's will be produced and delivered, along with support infrastructure, to the field for operational use. Additionally, follow-on operational Test and Evaluation may be conducted during this phase. Finally, the system is continuously monitored during this phase to ensure that it meets all established requirements throughout the system's overall life cycle. The Production Site for AAAV is being evaluated at this time by a joint integrated product team (IPT) comprised of AAAV Program Office and General Dynamics personnel conducting a rigorous trade study for the purpose of finding the most appropriate and cost-effective site. Site selection is planned for 2002.