Marines Defending New Vehicle

Posted on: March 13th, 2015 by Will Rodriguez 13 Comments
ACV at 2013 Maneuver Conference Photo by Will Rodriguez

The Marines were defending their number one modernization priority in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcomittee on Seapower this week.  A “new” wheeled amphibious vehicle called the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) is slated to replace the majority of the Corps 40 year old AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle.  GruntsandCo’s covered the ACV in its 2013 Maneuver Conference coverage.  It was called the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) back then.  The backstory of the Corps’ confusing name switching was covered in Breaking Defense.

The Corps desperately needs to replace the AAV-7.  It lacks mobility to keep up with M1 tanks, armor protection and is over 40 years old.  The first two shortcomings were readily apparent in the initial race to Baghdad and subsequent combat in Iraq.  The previous attempt to replace the AAV-7 was the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).  The EFV concept featured a tracked vehicle powerful enough to plane above waves allowing the Marines to land on a beach from positions beyond the horizon providing distance to the warships launching them.  The program failed terribly because of its technical complexity, cost and over 25 year program development.  Subsequently it was cancelled in 20111 and the Marines have been scrambling since to replace the AAV.

The recent discussion in DC largely revolved around the classic debate around selecting wheeled vs. tracked armored vehicles.  Wheeled armored vehicles tend to be faster on roads and cheaper to procure and maintain compared to tracked vehicles.  Tracked vehicles permit heavier armor protection, increased mobility in varied terrain but at greater acquisition and maintenance costs.  The issue is further complicated because of the Marines amphibious requirement to support their core competency, landing on enemy coasts.  That requirement adds cost to any solution and also limits the number of possible already existing solutions.  There are just not that many amphibious vehicles that can handle the conditions one must expect in a sea environment vs. an inland waterway.

The Marines are looking at fielding a mixed force of vehicles to provide amphibious armored mobility to 10 battalions of infantry.  A little less than 400 of the existing 1,062 tracked AAV’s will get armor upgrades to improve survivability and provide a more robust forced entry capability for four Marine infantry battalions.  The rest of the requirement of about 600 vehicles will hopefully be serviced by acquiring the wheeled ACV.

The ACV can handle a sea state 2, an ocean condition featuring waves of almost two feet and in its current configuration ACV 1.1, carries 10 Marines.  Marine Infantry squads consist of 13 men.  Future versions, the ACV 1.2 are hoped to carry 12-13 Marines.  The ACV is based on the Finnish Patria Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV)but is also slated to incorporate the double “V” hull featured in the Army’s latest version of the Stryker to provide better IED protection.

The Corps needs to be especially careful to avoid the Army’s mistake of accepting the Bradley at the cost of it not being able to carry a full 9 man squad, splitting the squad across multiple vehicles.  The Army relearned trying to link up squad elements under fire is incredibly difficult as is employing a unit with cross attached squads in multiple vehicles.  Sending a squad off on a mission not only required multiple vehicles (not always a bad thing) but often stripped a second squad of some of its manpower complicating the platoon’s ability to execute other missions.  For instance, a platoon tasked to immediately chop a squad to an armor platoon for local security or to establish a checkpoint had to send a squad and a half and two of its four vehicles to execute the mission.  This left the mechanized infantry platoon with half its vehicles and a half to 1.5 squads left to do other missions. (Early Bradley platoons only had two squads of Infantry.  Later seating reconfigurations increased the mechanized platoon to three 9 man squads).

Since the Bradley was initially fielded, the Army’s experience in Iraq and with the Stryker fielding, the Army rediscovered the basic truth that an Infantry squad needs to be organic to one vehicle.  The importance of the lesson is demonstrated in the Army’s non-negotiable requirement that both the Ground Combat Vehicle (recently cancelled Bradley replacement) and ULCV carry a full 9 man infantry squad.

I wish the Marines luck. The new amphibious vehicle has to be able to transit the sea from its launching ship to the beach.  It needs to keep up with the M1 tank even at the cost of armor protection.  The ACV can be armored to defeat up to 30mm fire across the frontal arc.  It has to be affordable and available in the near term.  Finally, the vehicle needs to carry a full 13 man Marine Infantry squad.   The Corps needs a new amphibious vehicle badly.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • .
    …Majrod spotted the major fly in the ointment right off the bat.  There is a reason that the Marines have three fire teams rather than two.  The Army is designed to operate in sustained ground operations… sometimes across large areas over an extended period of time.  They have a replacement system that can cover for casualties during that period.  
    .
    …The Marine Corps (when not acting as a “Second Land Army” as in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan) is designed as an Expeditionary and Assault force.  It is not supposed to operate for many months over vast areas.  Casualty absorption built into the system…  (this is one of three reasons why Westmoreland assigned Marines to I Corps… they could soak up more casualties in the event of a conventional invasion from the North…)
    .
    …”Putting your unit together” in an assault is contrary to most of the history of modern land warfare.  Germans parachuting onto Crete had pistols.  Their rifles, SMGs and other weapons were in pods… the idea was to make it to the pods and get your serious weapons.  A lot of Germans died with only pistols in their hands.  
    .
    …Countless large battles where Marine units sometimes mixed up… like Tarawa.  But there is no excuse to impose that problem down to the squad level even before the first shot is fired.  I don’t care whose star depends on this turkey being adopted… it can’t do the job without screwing with unit integrity… Try again.
    .
    -YP-

  • Weekends YankeePapa ,
    .
    …Essentially, no.  At the end of the day, no matter how many landing vehicles, choppers, tanks and other vehicles the Marines have… they are Infantry.  For them the 13 man squad (was 14 for a very brief time before Vietnam when the M-79 first issued) has worked for them in many ways.  
    .
    …As an assault force, your replacements are already built in.  Even without a sudden onset of casualties, too many “Infantry” units deployed into combat… have a serious lack of Infantry.  
    .
    …Both the Army and the Marine Corps suffered from this during the Vietnam war.  The Army had it much worse because their platoons and companies smaller than Marine right from the start.
    .
    …Your platoon is in the grass… but nowhere near up to strength.  Some of your replacements are still weeks short of getting to you… and by the time that they do, you will need even more.  The odds of your platoon being up to full strength at any time almost nil once deployed in the bush.  
    .
    …You have X number of people on R&R.  You have a couple in the hospital.  You have some involved re “administrative tasks” back at base camp… Could be anything from needed dental work to a court martial.  You might have some detached for a time by company or battalion for some purpose.  You have had casualties… maybe a “short-timer” or two that is kept out of the bush during their last week before return to the U.S.

    .
    …The closer that you get to the “sharp end”, the fewer bodies you have… no matter how many are cluttering up a large base camp.   It is scary just how small a “company” or “platoon” can get in the field.  Starting with small squads will quickly give you the choice of not functioning… or just using “companies” for platoon sized tasks.  
    .
    …The Marine Corps needs to keep its squads at 13… and should never accept “mini-squads” for the sake of acquiring some vehicle.  What happens when the “mini-squad” gets reduced after weeks of hard service?  
    .
    … I am sure that some in the Army at times have considered the advantages of having a TO&E that starts out beefier than what they have now.  
    .
    -YP-

  • Weekends 
    I don’t think so.  There really isn’t a valid trached solution out there and the Marines need something badly.
    Yes, wheels aren’t as mobile but do the Marines need to be able to wage the same mechanized slugfest offensive type fight the Army is designed to take on?  There’s always the option of letting the Marines seize the bridgehead and bringing in the Army.  We did that at Inchon and we gave the Marines heavy Army armored forces to beef themselves up in both Desert Storm and Falujah.

  • YankeePapa Weekends 
    Wholeheartedly agree.
    As part of Future Combat Systems I was tasked to do some analysis on the size of the Army’s nine man squad.  The short of it (a subject that deserves it’s own story) is squads around 11-13 are best.  They allow a squad to take casualties and still function. The Army suffers nine man squads largely out of a cost cutting decisions.
    Some must reads…

    ENHANCING COMBAT EFFECTIVENESS, THE
    EVOLUTION OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY
    INFANTRY RIFLE SQUAD SINCE THE
    END OF WORLD WAR II

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dtic.mil%2Fcgi-bin%2FGetTRDoc%3FAD%3DADA407058&ei=Tg0GVdG2IIjIsAT72oGYAQ&usg=AFQjCNFzfN4El_MmCYTPgC6-lOTpalwA8w&sig2=Qmbhr4DyGizS9ubWZVElpw&bvm=bv.88198703,d.cWc&cad=rja

    Development of the Squad Historical Analysis

    http://www.cna.org/sites/default/files/research/D0002705.A1.pdf

  • Weekends YankeePapa 
    I have commanded a Bradley company with six dismounts and a 3 man crew both in combat and in peace.  It is lacking in many ways to light Infantry formations with 9 man squads (which I also served in).  The US Army recognized that, and while accepting the Bradley with it’s less than adequate passenger capability kept the mechanized infantry squad at nine.  This was done by splitting the second fire team of both squads to a third vehicle.  I can tell you mating squads under fire is a nonstarter.

    Further, I can state from first hand experience the transition of the three crewman to pure infantryman is not without its issues.  We looked at these courses of action as part of Ground Defensive Plan in
    Europe should out BN be tasked to conduct an air assault. First, who watches the vehicles or moves them (it takes at least two per vehicle to move them safely)?  This may be possible when one has a secure FOB.  We cannot count on that luxury.
    Even then the three crewmen have not trained as infantrymen or part of their dismounted brethren.  It looks great on paper but they just don’t seamlessly integrate into the dismounted fighting element.  For this reason as a company commander I used my crewmen as OPFOR for my dismounted squads to operate against when I chose to take the company to a nearby training area that didn’t support mounted ops.

    As part of the FCS initiative I mentioned elsewhere we looked at vehicles with a capacity of 6-7 and cutting the squad to that number.  What we found is the fire team loses the ability to fire and maneuver, resupply or sustain casualties.  Adhering to the maxim of it takes two soldiers to evacuate a wounded one means that one casualty makes the 7 man squad at best two buddy teams of three men each incapable of conducting independent fire and maneuver.  At worst the squad is down to three men, incapable of offensive action yet still responsible for securing the frontage of a fully manned squad.  All it can really do is pull local security for the vehicle.  

    Finally, I point to the Army’s recent experience in Iraq.  Sustained Infantry dominant urban combat has identified a staying power issue with the Army’s dismount poor mech infantry platoons that field three 9 man squads.  Performance differences where further illuminated in comparison to Stryker birn 9 man infantry squads.  This data has crystallized in the Infantry’s collective memory what a mistake it made when we accepted the Bradley’s low troop capacity.  It is that experience that is driving the Army’s non-negotiable requirement that both the
    Ground Combat Vehicle (recently cancelled Bradley replacement) and ULCV
    carry a full 9 man infantry squad.

  • majrod YankeePapa Weekends ,
    .
    .
    …For any not familiar:  
    .

    …The Marine Corps in WW2 was forced, kicking and screaming to raise a number of Raider battalions.  One of these was under Evans Fordyce Carlson… one of the most eccentric Marine officers in a service at that time legendary for having them. 
    .
    …Carlson had some faults.  He had accompanied the Red Chinese forces in China on assignment and had picked up some left leaning ideas… but his courage was well respected in the Corps.  “He was red, but he wasn’t yellow…”  -David Shoup, General and Medal of Honor recipient, Tarawa-
    .
    …His operation on Makin was not what his unit was designed for and they were lucky to survive.  His operation on Guadalcanal, paralleling major Japanese units through the jungle and decimating them at an extremely favorable rate was spectacular. 
    .
    …The Corps promoted him out of the Raiders and ultimately folded all Raider battalions and the Marine paras into regular units.  They felt well-rid of many of Carlson’s concepts… But they liked Carlson’s idea of “fire teams”… though they wisely chose to go from three to four men.
    .
    …Instead of one Browning Automatic Rifle (used something along the lines of a light machine gun) in a ten man squad… there would be three in a thirteen man squad.  
    .
    (Warning:  Book Acquisition Alert:
    .
    http://www.amazon.com/Evans-Carlson-Marine-Raider-Commanded/dp/1594161941/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426461463&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=evans+fordyce+carlson+biographies

    .
    …One problem with units starting out small is that with attrition from various sources… higher brass often keeps assigning missions to units as if they were up to strength… A thirty-eight man rifle “company” would not even be a full strength platoon in the Marine Corps.  
    .
    …One story out of the Eastern Front in WW2.  The Soviets launched their massive offensive outside of Moscow in late 1941 with freshly arrived Siberian divisions… well suited and equipped for the harsh weather. 
    .
    …The Germans were ill equipped and dressed… making a last tired effort just before they got hit.  Battle and weather casualties soared. 
    .
    …One German Corps had an excellent regiment that it used as a “fire brigade” to deal with breakthroughs.  One crisis after another.  
    .
    …After a number of these actions the Regimental commander reported in person… was congratulated but told that the Regiment had to do it “…one more time…”  He took the General out in front of the HQ… and showed him the 30 men that he had that were still fit for combat… 
    .
    _YP-

  • majrod Weekends YankeePapa ,
    .
    …Hell yes!
    .
    -YP-

  • Weekends majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …Mechanized or motorized infantry something else again.  In the Marine Corps and Army the lads who drive the vehicles are not infantrymen… though they may have had some infantry training (required in the Marine Corps…)
    .
    …In the late 1960s I was a Marine 0311… a rifleman.  The first two numbers… 03… indicated Infantry… 01 Admin, 02 Intelligence, and so on.  0331 was machine gunner, 0341 mortars… 0351 special weapons.
    .
    …During WWII many of those who flew gliders were officers.  Somebody came up with the idea that after they “smash landed” their craft that they would join up with the nearest Airborne lads and fight.  Sometimes it had to happen that way… 
    .
    …Would have done better to have had them a few dozen yards to the rear organizing supplies and tending to wounded… Keep them around for the next operation.  
    .
    …Pilots were brave enough, but not really integrated into the units.  Wasn’t properly thought out.  
    .
    …Your suggestion might work for dedicated mechanized infantry to some extent.  But most Army and Marine Infantry use all the transport to get to the sharp end… Like paratroopers… once their boots are on the ground in close proximity to the enemy, they are not tied to their transport… and vice-versa.
    .
    -YP-

  • Weekends majrod YankeePapa 
    Today’s Bradley platoons (the TOE and the vehicle itself have changed) have three 9 man squads spread over four vehicles with a new seating arrangement of seven seats each. 27 bodies and 28 seats.  Where one puts the medic, forward observer etc. isn’t adequately addressed but no conventional unit has 100% strength.  The not insignificant problem remains of linking up a squad’s personnel under fire.

    As for Bradley infantry, there wasn’t in the past or now a sub MOS as I think you believe.  Back in the day Infantryman assigned to a Bradley unit were 11M and filled both the mounted and dismounted positions.  There were a handful of exceptions but they were rare and did OJT to become Bradley qualified.

    The Bradley is a pretty complicated vehicle.  Being M1 tank commander and Bradley commander qualified I can say from experience that both positions are equally demanding and in some areas more demanding (at one time the Bradley did not have a laser range finder and has the TOW missile system, by itself its own specialty for a time, 11H).
    To top it off, US Army Infantry bought off on a precision gunnery requirement similar to what tank crews go through.  Bradley crews go through gunnery qualification like tank crews engaging single/multiple stationary/moving vehicular targets (and even helicopters) out to 1800m as well as the occasional troop target and commander only engagements.  I don’t know of any nation that requires as much from its IFV crews.  Like tank crews Bradley crews are “stabilized” into that position for a year or two as crews that have not qualified together make the system reported at a lower level of readiness. Today, 11B can be assigned to a mech or light unit and is expected to perform though we do send 11B troops to Bradley schools before assignment to a Bradley unit.  Like the Canadian model Infantrymen are expected to progress through mounted and dismounted positions.

  • YankeePapa Weekends majrod 
    The Army has a different approach than the Marines when it comes to IFV crewman YP.  Vehicle crewman are actually infantrymen assigned the duty of operating the Bradley.  For the First decade the Army had all Infantryman assigned to Bradley units coded 11M and they got the additional training top be “baby tankers”.  The Army does the same thing today without the separate MOS.
    One of the phenomena the Infantry discovered was by assigning a separate MOS some 11M Infantryman isolated themselves to vehicle specific positions losing their dismounted skills (getting fat) and hurting dismounted skill competency over time (these guys would become senior NCO’s responsible for both sets of skills but inexperienced in one.
    The additional MOS also created another human resource nightmare.

  • Weekends majrod 
    You still have a valid point.
    Some situations scream for tracked vehicles and the Marines are keeping about 400 of them.

  • Weekends YankeePapa majrod .
    .
    …You can buy this one used for very little.  Most books about the Raiders deal with Carlson’s or Edson’s (2nd and 1st Raiders…)  Carlson’s was “sui generis…”  
    .
    …This book deals with all of the battalions. 
    .
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Marine-Raiders-Edwin-Hoyt/dp/0671666150
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …Another heavyweight.  Might be something for which the Army has a use.  The Marines will have to do some adjusting…
    .
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/this-is-the-vehicle-that-will-replace-the-humvee/ar-BBm7OeQ
    .
    -YP-