Next month’s Marine Corps Gazette features an article by Lt. General Kenneth Glueck, the USMC’s deputy commandant for combat development and integration, on the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), lately the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC), and the designated future replacement for the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV). Since this spring, the vehicle has been intended to be wheeled, and probably in an 8x8 configuration, because the Corps values the mine resistance and road speed that brings. But some distance down the page, the general also writes that the wheeled "ACV’s cross-country mobility is comparable to [that of] the M1A1 tank.”
In the comments below the article, I asked
Is that to say that the requirement is being written that way, or that testing of prototype vehicles, actually offered by contractors, has already shown the mobility of an M1A1? There's a huge difference in those claims. If it's the former, I might call that requirement overly ambitious. If it's the latter, then makers of tracked vehicles have a serious marketing challenge to overcome, and we should anticipate a wholesale worldwide shift to wheeled troop carriers—an even greater shift than we've seen so far.
Frankly, I don’t expect the latter is true. There’s a big difference between cross-country mobility over packed sand, and cross-country mobility through mud. Wheeled vehicles just haven’t shown that performance, and given the ground pressure inherent in any wheeled configuration, I’m not sure how they will.
But is it possible that the Marines have found something amazing? As Commandant Amos told the Congress in April, the candidate vehicles "are commercial off-the-shelf… they’re already being made by several different manufacturers.” Normally, I’d call COTS (MOTS, really) an excellent approach—automotive technology isn’t advancing as rapidly as that of, say, robotics. But that means that we know the usual suspects: the AMV-360 from Patria, the Boxer from ARTEC, the VBCI from Nexter, the LAV-V from General Dynamics Canada, and perhaps the 6x6 RG-35 from BAE Systems (soon to be Denel). I haven’t run the rodeo myself, but I wouldn’t claim that any of these vehicles could keep up with a tank over soft ground.
Generally, I won’t comment on the USMC’s approach to replacing the AAV. It could be that a wheeled vehicle is the best solution for this need, as wheels have considerable advantages over tracks. It’s just that they don’t do all things better. So I hope that the folks at Combat Development Command aren’t just assuming that they’ll get whatever they ask for. The Corps went that way with the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), and the story ended badly.