WASHINGTON — In line with the Pentagon's so-called Pacific pivot, the US Army wants to buy a new fleet of boats to replace its Vietnam-era "Mike Boat," the service's first major watercraft procurement in 15 years, acquisitions officials said Tuesday.

The Army plans to solicit proposals for roughly two dozen multipurpose landing craft called the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), or MSV(L), according to Col. Steve George, transportation capabilities manager for Army Training and Doctrine Command. They would replace the Landing Craft Mechanized 8, known as the LCM-8 or Mike Boat.

Army leadership, according to George, has realized the criticality of watercraft based on their use in the Middle East, South America and especially the Pacific, where they have been used for humanitarian and partnership efforts. In terms of transportation procurement priorities, MSV(L) was second only to the Army's major Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Army officials said.

The MSV(L) is intended for sustainment missions and as a maneuver option to conduct riverine operations, or to get into a denied area, where there is a degraded port or none at all. It is envisioned as having an operational capability from ship to shore and along coastal waters, narrow inland waterways and rivers, according to budget documents.

A force might use it to traverse a lake or river to surprise an enemy, George said. The boat itself, according to budget documents, "would be furnished with a subsurface surveillance device, protection from small arms fire, and two Common Remotely Operated Weapon Stations for vessel defense and force protection, and to mitigate detection through reduction of thermal and acoustic signature."

The newer boat is intended to be larger and faster, with a longer range and twice the capacity. The MSV(L) would be roughly 100 feet long, with a draft of less than four feet, a speed of 18 knots and the capacity to carry either an Abrams tank, two Strykers with bar armor or four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The craft could also need to have protected crew area.

The 2016 president's budget submission includes $10 million to start the engineering, manufacturing and development phase and projects $18.6 million in 2017 and $14.5 million in 2018

The Army plans to issue a request for proposals before the end of the year, make an award later in 2016, have a prototype in 2017, and be testing in 2018 and 2019. A 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract would cover three years of engineering and manufacturing development, two years of low rate initial production and five years of full production.

Twitter: @reporterjoe