General Joseph F. Dunford, the newly-installed Commandant of the Marine Corps, has inherited a dilemma from his predecessor: How to prosecute successful amphibious operations against increasingly capable littoral adversaries with a shrinking budget. As is often the case in such defining debates, the future of the organization pivots on the fate of a few key programs. First and foremost among those programs in this case is the frequently restructured effort to buy a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV). Originally conceived to replace the 40-year-old Assault Amphibious Vehicle, ACV now looks likely to fight along side it for at least the next two decades. There is a three-part plan to upgrade existing vehicles, buy several hundred smaller but newer ACVs, and then perhaps move on to a faster system that can plane on water. Four contractors are offering solutions for ACV, with BAE Systems vehicle looking closer to what Marines want than other options. But this effort has already gone through more twists and turns than the road to the top of Mount Surabachi, so stay tuned. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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