WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle – Command and Control Variant was not built with sufficient long-range communications capability, a Pentagon test and evaluation office found, but the service has since integrated additional equipment to fix the problem.
The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation wrote in an annual report, released this month, the “ACV-C is operationally effective as a stationary command post but not operationally effective as a mobile command post. The ACV-C does not have enough secure beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) voice and data nets to support the [command and control] mission.”
“When the ACV-C is stationary, embarked staff can set up additional BLOS external antennas to support communication demands,” it continues. “The embarked staff is limited to a single BLOS net when the ACV-C is mobile.”
The Marines are currently fielding the personnel variant of the ACV, which will make up the bulk of the fleet of vehicles. The corps plans to pursue four different variants; the second is the command and control variant.
According to the DOT&E report, ACV-C shares a common hull, powertrain, drivetrain, water propulsion system and survivability suite with the baseline vehicle, but also has seven radios to allow for secure voice and data communications, as well as other radios, antennas, and a larger battery pack to support silent watch operations.
The vehicle is meant to serve as a tactical echelon command post for a regiment or battalion, it notes.
Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for the Marines’ Program Executive Office for Land Systems, told Defense News the command and control gear includes government-furnished radios, intercoms, laptops and associated equipment, with L3Harris Technologies and Panasonic the primary vendors for that gear. BAE Systems makes the ACV vehicles and integrates this mission gear into its vehicle hull.
Hamby said the original vehicle requirements did not require multiple beyond-line-of-sight voice and data networks, leading to the issues DOT&E identified.
“The program office has since incorporated several engineering changes to address these concerns,” she said.
The Marine Corps conducted ACV-C testing in early 2022, leading to a March decision to move into production.
The DOT&E report also notes reliability challenges with the vehicle’s mission systems, stating “frequent communication failures degraded the ACV-C’s C2 mission effectiveness. The embarked staff need more hands-on training in troubleshooting frequent communication problems.”
Hamby told Defense News “the issues are being addressed through additional training and giving Marines more time with the equipment.”
“In addition, a technical instruction is under development which will instruct Marines on how to check all subsystems of the C2 suite in the form of a limited technical inspection,” she continued. “This TI will also be part of the published technical manual.”
Hamby said these changes will be made prior to fielding the vehicle and that PEO Land Systems does not anticipate any fielding delays. Marines will be given the new enhanced training as their units receive the ACV-C vehicles, and the service expects to declare initial operational capability in the second quarter of fiscal 2024.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.