Marines: MRAP Spirit Hits The Beaches

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March 7, 2010: In a rare bit of good news for the U.S. Marine Corps new EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle), it was announced that the vehicle had similar survivability characteristics to MRAPs, when hit with roadside bombs or anti-vehicle mines. The EFV needs all the good news it can get, because it is facing cancellation this year.

This is nothing new. Two years ago, the marines began making changes in the electronics, waterproofing of electrical elements, the gun turret and the stabilizers (for when it is moving in the water). Seven new EFV prototypes were built, and are undergoing a new round of tests. If those tests are positive, production could begin in four years, but large numbers of the new vehicle would not reach marines for another eight years. Under the original plan, the EFV was to enter service two years ago.

The new prototypes were the result of Congress refusing to provide money for mass production until reliability and protection (against roadside bombs) issues were taken care of. Two years ago, existing prototypes EFVs had one failure, on average, for every 4.5 hours of operation. The marines insist they have fixed the reliability and protection issues, and this persuaded Congress to provide money to build seven of the modified EFVs to confirm that. If the tests are successful, Congress will allow development to continue. The bomb resistance tests were a success. But there are a lot more things the EFV has to do right. Otherwise, it will be cancelled. This comes from the Secretary of Defense, not the marine leadership.

Things have been bad for EFV for a long time. Four years ago, it was decided that, instead of buying 1,013 EFVs, the order would be cut 44 percent, to 573 vehicles. High development expenses have resulted in per vehicle cost of over $12 million. Costs have continued to climb, and each EVF will now cost over $22 million. That's more than twice what the most recent model M-1 tank costs.

The marines ordered the first 15 production models of its EFV in late 2005. Tests with these vehicles did not go well. Initially, the high-speed water-jet propulsion system feature was the cause of most of the problems. Since the EFV is an amphibious armored vehicle, the water propulsion feature had to stay.

The EFV was previously called the AAAV (Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle). Weighing nearly 36 tons, the EFV is 10.5 feet tall, 12 feet wide and just under 30 feet long. It's armed with a 30mm automatic cannon (MK34 Bushmaster) and a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun. The EFV also has better armor protection and electronics than the AAV7 it replaces.

The EFV has been in development for over a decade, and has been delayed largely because of a complex water-jet propulsion system which, when it works,  allows it to travel at 60 kilometers an hour while in the water. This capability was specified to reduce the danger (from enemy fire) when the EFVs were moving from their transports to shore, a distance of 30-50 kilometers. The additional gear required for the water jet system made the vehicle less robust and reliable, and fixing those problems has taken a lot of time. Otherwise, the EFV is basically a truly amphibious Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), similar to the army's smaller M-2 Bradley. The EFV has a crew of three, and carries 18 passengers.

The current force of 1,057 AAV7s entered service three decades ago and are falling apart. Moreover, some two thirds of the AAV7s saw service in Iraq, where they got as much use in two months as they normally did in two years of peacetime operations. In response to this, most of the AAV7s are being refurbished, so they can still be used until the end of the decade, when enough EFVs will be entering service to replace the older vehicles.

The EFV is about 25 percent heavier than the AAV7, and somewhat larger. It now costs nearly ten times as much as the $2.5 million AAV7 (taking inflation into account). The marines apparently feel they can get by with half as many amphibious armored vehicles because future wars are likely to be more dependent on delivering troops by air, or moving them around in armored hummers.

 


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