By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
(Washington, D.C.) The Marine Corps is divesting its fleet of tanks as part of a strategic and tactical shift toward more sea-based, multi-domain and amphibious approach to keep pace with growing Maritime threats and be positioned to respond to contingencies involving island chains, coastal areas and other kinds of integrated land-sea-air operations.
Abrams tanks, while considered crucial to land war operations, are difficult to deploy and often take time to transit.
Purchasing 20 Vehicles in FY 22
While the Corps’ new ship-to-shore connectors are able to transport 70-ton Abrams tanks from ship-to-shore, it will still be difficult to mass Abrams tanks in sufficient numbers for any kind of amphibious assault, and they of course lack the speed and mobility to keep pace with tactical vehicles or wheeled combat vehicles once ashore.
Accordingly, as part of a decided effort to migrate the service toward more expeditionary, cross-domain combat operations, the Corps is plussing up the numbers of its new fleet of arriving Amphibious Combat Vehicles, a move which Navy leaders say does relate to service plans to divest tanks.
“The plan for the ACV is to increase the buy from 72 to 92 vehicles in FY 22. And so the tank divestiture is a piece of that. However, I wouldn't say that is the only piece of that,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.
The is an armed 8X8 wheeled combat vehicle designed in part to improve land attack maneuverability and extend amphibious assaults further inland.
Lightweight Munitions and F-35Bs
A key part of this evolving strategic push is also related to the advent of more lightweight, transportable munitions such as anti-tank weapons increasingly able to integrate with fast-moving vehicles. What this means is that the Corps can still operate with heavy, anti-armor firepower, yet do so faster in a more agile, deployable and expeditionary fashion
Part of this concept of operation is also quite likely related to the advent of the F-35B which offers 5th Gen close air support to amphibious forces over land or sea, something which, when combined with new kinds of land-sea-air multi-domain network connectivity, brings massive advantages such as firepower and surveillance technologies to amphibious assault.
The new ACV configuration is aligned with an emerging Navy-Marine Corps amphibious assault strategy which, among other things, sees a possible need for extended penetration into land defenses after an initial beachhead is taken.
Yet another aspect of this is that the ACV is specially engineered for improved land attack to enable more rapid advances for attacking amphibious forces while awaiting further reinforcement.
The Marine Corps is revving up production and acquisition of its new deep-attack Amphibious Combat Vehicle engineered to travel from ship-to-shore before advancing across a beachhead into enemy territory for land operations.
The ACV, in development for several years, is replacing the existing Corps AAV and configured with 8X8 wheels for greater speed, maneuverability and survivability on land. As a tracked vehicle, the legacy AAV is not as mobile for land attack, and the new ACV is engineered for long-range sea-land attack operations.
The ACV can travel roughly 13 miles through water at speeds up to six knots and reach 60mph on land for hundreds of miles inland.
The wheeled configuration of the ACV removes torsion bars, a design feature which can add new possibilities such as the addition of a V-shaped hull.
The ACV is able to carry up to 200 gallons of fuel for a 365-mile mission and weighs 30-tons. It is built with a digitized drivers instrument panel, unmanned turret able to integrate a 30mm gun and 700hp engine, more powerful than the AAVs 400hp. The ACV uses ocean water to cool the engine and is armed with a .50-Cal machine gun.
Amphibious Assault Strategy
The plus up in ACV numbers is quite significant as well, as it appears to align with the Corps’ transforming amphibious assault strategy based on training for more cross-domain, dispersed attack concepts.
With 5th-Generation air support, and manned-unmanned teaming and vastly more capable networking technologies, amphibious attack tactics continue to measurably expand.
Added cross domain functionality not only means air-power coordination but a commensurate ability to advance and fight on land, which appears to be part of the reason the Corps is both looking for larger numbers of ACVs and also building them for more extended land assault.
If amphibious incursions occur in narrow, more spread-apart scenarios, landing forces will potentially need to engage in more land-fighting without large numbers of forces nearby. They will likely rely more upon air support, long-range fires and "networked" intelligence from other ISR nodes, command and control ships or elements of the force - to find and exploit landing areas most advantageous to the attacking force.
The emerging ACVs will launch from big-deck amphibs, called LHAs, and Amphibious Transport Docks, called LPDs. With one of the upcoming LHA America-class amphibs bringing back the well-deck, the Corps plans to emphasize ship-to-shore water-launched combat vehicles.
At the same time, Navy leaders emphasize that the first two America-class amphibs, LHA 6&7, are built with an aviation emphasis to, among other things, capitalize upon the F-35B and other key air-launched elements of amphibious attack. These aviation-centric big-deck amphibs are intended to pave the way toward the upcoming LHA 8 - which brings back a well-deck.
The entire strategic and conceptual shift is also informed by an increased “sea-basing” focus. Smaller multi-mission vessels, according to this emerging strategy, will be fortified by larger amphibs operating as sovereign entities at safer distances.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.