FEINDEF 2023: BAE Systems and IDV exhibit the USMC ACV for the first time outside the USA

Paolo Valpolini

At FEINDEF the two companies partnering for the production of the ACV, currently on order with the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy, exhibited for the first time outside of the Unites States an actual USMC vehicle, in past exhibitions that on show being the one built by IDV to be used as a twin vehicle for debugging purposes

In the exclusive world of western amphibious units the choice of the US Marine Corps often becomes a trend for other nations, as not many vehicles capable to comply with the ship-to-shore mission exist, and following the choice of the most numerous amphibious force, albeit much reduced compared to the 1980s, means being sure that the selected vehicle will be upgraded and logistically supported for many years. This is what happened with the AAV7, originally known as LVTP-7, which is now in service in over 10 nations. These include Italy and Spain.

At FEINDEF 2023 an ACV (Amphibious Combat Vehicle), the 8×8 wheeled platform originally developed by then Iveco DV as the VBA (Veicolo Blindato Anfibio, the Italian acronym) and revised in cooperation with BAE Systems to answer USMC requirements, was exhibited for the first time outside the United States.

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According to company representatives who briefed the media in Madrid, some 200 of the total of nearly 700 ACVs have been delivered to the Marines, the companies having started delivering low rate initial production vehicles in June 2018. Two variants are being produced full steam, the personnel carrier one (ACV-P), the ne on show in Spain that carries a three-man crew plus 13 dismounts, and the command and control one (ACV-C2). Two other variants are being developed, for which BAE Systems, which acts as prime in the USMC programme, received a contract in 2022; these are the Recovery variant and the ACV-30 one, the latter fitted with the Kongsberg Protector RS6, an unmanned turret fitted with the XM914 30 mm cannon firing 30×113 mm ammunition. The latter is in a much more advanced development phase, four vehicles being ready for tests, while the recovery variant is at Phase 1 of the development.

In January 2023 the Italian Navy ordered a first batch of 36 vehicles, all in the personnel carrier variant; delivery of the first ACV being planned for 2025, due to the need to customise them to cope with the requirements of the Italian Joint Projection from Sea Capability. Known with the Italian acronym CNPM, it is a Brigade-size joint amphibious units made of elements of the Navy “San Marco” Brigade and elements of the Army “Pozzuolo del Friuli” Cavalry brigade, to which we must add Army attack helicopters and, of course, Navy amphibious ships. The overall Italian requirement is around 140 ACVs; Italian AVC-P will carry 10 dismounts, while other variants are being studied, one that will definitely enter service being the mortar carrier. Electronic Warfare, improved Command and Control, Air Defence, C-UAV and Logistic variants are also being studied.

The presence of the ACV at FEINDEF was clearly aimed at involving the Spanish Navy amphibious troops in the new wheeled amphibious vehicle. The Tercio de Armada, as the Spanish marines unit is called, is currently structuring a project to replace the AAV7. According to industry feedbacks of the many visits by Spanish Marines, from top rank to lower rank personnel, were very positive. It is to say that Spanish and Italian amphibious forces form together the SIAF (Spanish-Italian Amphibious Force) and both operate alongside US Marines in major exercises.

EDR On-Line understood that while US and Italian versions have some differences, all the automotive part is identical, which means same part numbers and a potentially reduced logistic footprint when operating together, something even more important for marines than for Army units, as room for spares on amphibious ships is always scarce. Not to mention the advantage of operating with vehicles that move at the same pace on a given terrain.

The ACV team, which was formed back in 2009, 6 years before being selected for the ACV programme, counts on the fact that IDV is well placed in Spain, where it is considered a Spanish company.

According to both partner companies the vehicle is raising interest also in other parts of the world. The two companies would lead the campaign depending on which of the two has the better chances in a certain country. BAE Systems and IDV look forward promoting the creation of a Users Club once customers will be in a sufficient number. This model proved valid in many cases, more than one platform having its users club that favours the circulation of data and lessons learned, increasing the knowledge of all members both in operational and logistic issues concerning the vehicle.

Photos courtesy USMC and P. Valpolini