Monday, January 10, 2011

O.K. Marines, so what's next?

Secretary Gates drove a stake into the heart of the EFV last week, and many Marines have not yet fully recovered to see what the future holds for the Corps, for amphibious vehicles, motherhood and apple pie, but LtGen George J. Flynn, CG of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command wrote a piece describing the continuing need for an amphibious vehicle. LtGen Flynn is in essence, the "futurist" of the Corps. He has spoken in the past about the difficulties of getting the iron triangle right in the development of new vehicles (payload, protection and mobility) and his fear that the enemy will "get precision" in the future, making assured access and ground mobility all the more difficult.

In his Op-Ed, LtGen reminds us that the U.S.A. is a maritime nation, and should be equipped and prepared to use the sea to our advantage, to be able to go ashore in the location of our choosing, and that an amphibious vehicle is the backbone of such an effort. Those that say the U.S. will never assault a beach again should look to the recent past for ways we have "used" beaches, if not assaulted them. To the amphibious vehicle, the unimproved beach is just another exit ramp on I-95. However, without amphibious vehicles, the beaches of Miami might as well be the Grand Canyon if the port becomes unusable.

I noticed that LtGen Flynn is careful NOT to mention a tracked vehicle in the article posted today. Previous versions of the article mentioned the tracks. It will be interesting to see if the Corps will truly go back to the drawing board to meet the amphibious vehicle's ship-to-shore problem, or if an EFV by another name will still look like an EFV.

Time and technology will be the greatest determiners of the next proposed amphibious vehicle. It is possible that engine and armor advances will allow an amphibious vehicle to travel at 25 knots on water and 30 mph on land that is lighter and less costly than the EFV, time will tell. In the meantime, we Marines will climb aboard our 40-year old AAV's and swim into tomorrow...but it may take a while at 6 mph.

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