WASHINGTON, April 2 The U.S. Marine Corps aims
to kick off a competition for a new wheeled amphibious combat
vehicle in coming months, with a formal request for proposals
likely to follow in fiscal year 2015, a Marine Corps spokesman
Manny Pacheco, spokesman for the Marine Corps office in
charge of land systems said the goal was to buy around 200
wheeled vehicles priced at $3 million to $6 million each under
the first phase of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) program.
Additional orders for specialized vehicles to be used for
communications and other missions would follow, he said.
A Marine Corps briefing on the program said a total of about
500 to 800 vehicles could be purchased over time. The overall
value of the program will depend on the number of vehicles, but
the Marines' fiscal 2015 budget request included $977 million in
funding for research and development through fiscal 2019.
The program will be modest replacement for the tracked
Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle that was being developed for the
Marines by General Dynamics Corp before its cancellation
in 2011 after big cost increases and technical issues.
The Marine Corps' plans are being closely watched by major
weapons makers including General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin Corp
and Britain's BAE Systems Plc and others keen
for a share of one of the new weapons programs.
BAE said it had a variety of vehicles to offer the Marine
Corps. "We look forward to the service's release of their
requirements for immediate and future needs," said spokeswoman
Lockheed and GD said they were also awaiting details of the
Marine Corps' plans.
Lieutenant General Glenn Walters, deputy Marine Corps
commandant for programs and resources, told a hearing of the air
and land forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services
Committee on Wednesday the ACV program was the Marine Corps' top
ground modernization priority.
The first phase will build on the earlier personnel carrier
program, in which four companies demonstrated wheeled vehicles
with the ability to operate in shallow water.
The plans also call for upgrades to keep a limited number of
the current 40-year-old Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV)
running through 2035, Pacheco said. He said the Marine Corps
would work with Congress to shift funding with the service's
budget request to fund the program.
The service also plans to continue research efforts on a
vehicle that would operate in deeper waters, bringing Marines
from ship to shore, Walters told the subcommittee.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)