MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — The US Marine Corps is pouring over the lessons learned from tests of its internally transportable vehicle (ITV), designed to fit in an MV-22 Osprey — data expected to lead inform a possible replacement for the vehicle.
The Marine Corps expects to hold a competition to replace the ITV as part of its 2018 program objective memorandum, or budget recommendations, Michael Halloran, Program Executive Office Land Systems' director of science and technology, said Thursday at the Modern Day Marine expo held at Marine Base Quantico.
The move dovetails with higher demand for such vehicles in operations and the Marine Corps' overarching Expeditionary Force 21 concept, which calls for lighter and more mobile forces. Under the concept, Marines would launch from an amphibious ship with a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion or Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, and ride out on light vehicles.
"Either an ITV or an ATV," Halloran said.
The idea is that such a vehicle could serve a company-sized landing team, which suggests a broader fielding across forward deployed units, particularly the infantry community. The ITV heretofore has heretofore been fielded to the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, reconnaissance and artillery communities.
On Sept. 14, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory concluded a limited objective experiment for Camp Pendleton and Fort Hunter Liggett in California, which was meant to define the need. Though originally designed for light-strike missions, such a vehicle is also considered a contender for logistics and casualty evacuation missions.
The lab and Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, executed an experiment that included four different patrol lanes of various lengths, on difficult terrain and in complicated scenarios to test the Marines and the ITVs, according to a USMC announcement.
Capt. Sean Leahy, the commanding officer of Company B, said the vehicles, were ineffective as a strike vehicle, but worked well as a logistics vehicle by removing took a lot of weight off from the Marines' backs.
"The biggest benefit an ITV-style vehicle is going to bring to the infantry community is not in a fighting role or a strike role," Leahy said in the announcement. "A vehicle like this should be used as a logistics asset that can lighten the load of the individual Marines which in turn makes them more alert and in the long run more combat effective."
The Marine Corps also has ongoing tests ongoing for commercial off-the-shelf, all-terrain vehicles at the Nevada Automotive Test Center in Silver Springs, NevadaNev. From that will come a formal requirements document, and future budgets permitting, a program of record, Halloran said.
Officials estimate there are roughly 50 ATVs in use by troops at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, though not as part of a formal acquisitions program.
According to Halloran, the efforts are focused on existing technologies, to refine requirements and for near term fielding. Still, it is unclear when that fielding would happen, given current defense budget uncertainty.
"With the budget in the state of flux that it's in now, what you have are a lot of competing priorities," Halloran said. "What you have is a lot of need without a lot of matching funds to meet that need."
The efforts also run parallel with US Special Operations Command's effort to develop an Osprey-transportable vehicle.
The Polaris MRZR 4-seat and 2-seat vehicles on display Sept. 24 at the Modern Day Marine expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va.
Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff
Polaris Defense's light all-terrain vehicle, on display at the expo this week, has a SOCOM-obtained waiver to ride in an Osprey, according to Polaris business development representative Joaquin Salas.
"From the very beginning this was designed as a drive on-and-off V-22-capable vehicle," Salas said.
Any commercial vendor whose vehicle runs on commercial gasoline may have to contend with the military's use of JP-8 diesel fuel, a Marine official said. The Polaris L-ATV runs on commercial gas.
If successful, the Marine Corps' efforts could mark something of a comeback for the ITV. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saw a reluctance to use a vehicle without armor to protect it from roadside bombs. Intended for the infantry, ITVs were fielded primarily to the reconnaissance, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and artillery communities.
When the last of the vehicles was purchased and fielded in 2010, the requirement had been pared from 750 to 266, with another 145 "prime mover" variants, which carry a 120mm mortar. These M1161 and M1163 Growlers were originally manufactured by American Growler in 2004 and subsequently bought out by General Dynamics.
"The fielding was a bit of bad timing because we were heavily involved in [Iraq and Afghanistan], and trying to field a vehicle that was unarmored led to a delay before there was a lot of use of this platform," Mark Godfrey, transportation branch chief at the Marine Corps' logistics division and capabilities integration directorate, told Defense News in May.
"Of late, we are seeing a lot larger demand signal as we are trying to transition the Marine Corps back to its expeditionary roots."