The EFV is to be built in two
models, a personnel variant that can
carry 17 combat-loaded Marines
and a command vehicle that will
host seven and an array of command and control systems. Both
models will have a crew of three.
The personnel version will be
armed with the turret-mounted
Mk46 rapid-fire 30mm gun, which
has computer-aided fire control
and day-night optics. Produced by
BAE Systems, the gun is operational on the San Antonio-class
To achieve its high water speed,
the EFV must convert from a typical clunky tracked vehicle into a
flat-bottomed craft that skims over
the surface of the water, propelled
by powerful water jets. Then it
must shift back into a tracked vehicle at the beach.
Those capabilities require a
complex hydraulic system and a
computerized “fly-by-wire” control system similar to
those used in modern jet aircraft. Making those complicated mechanical and electronic systems able to
endure the punishing conditions in the water and on
land, however, has been a massive challenge.
The EFV had been expected to start low-rate production in 2003, achieve initial operational capability
(IOC) in 2006 and full capability in 2012. All of those
milestones now are predicted to come a decade late.
Although increased costs and a major program
review cut the originally planned buy of 1,013 EFVs to
573, the expected total program cost has soared from
the initial estimate of $7.1 billion to a current prediction of $15.9 billion. The program already has
absorbed more than $1.8 billion.
The delay in fielding the EFV also has forced an
expensive service-life extension and reliability
improvement for the AAV7s.
Although early program delays were forced by cuts in
annual funding, the latest setback was the result of the
poor reliability of the original prototypes during operational tests in 2005-06, when the vehicles broke down on
average every four and a half hours. The goal was 43. 5
hours between operationally significant systems failures.
Those results, and the more than doubling of the
initial cost estimate, forced the program into a Nunn-McCurdy review in 2007, which could have been its
death sentence. Introduced in the 1982 Defense
Authorization Act, the Nunn-McCurdy Provision
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
A U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) departs the well deck
of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans
during a Dec. 15, 2007, exercise. The EFV is designed to race across the water at
up to 30 knots, allowing amphibious task force ships to remain over the horizon
of enemy defenses ashore.
Conway told reporters in January he was confident
the redesigned EFV would win production approval
and finally reach the operating forces.
“If you look at the reliability tests today, the vehicle,
for all intents and purposes, is through the woods and
into the clearing,” he said.
Started in 1996 as the Advanced Amphibious Assault
Vehicle, the EFV was to be not just a replacement for the
well-used AAV7, but a quantum leap ahead in capability.
The EFV was to join the Landing Craft Air Cushion
and MV- 22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in a team of revolutionary platforms that would enable the Marines to
replace the ponderous and potentially deadly World War
II model of close-in amphibious assaults with rapid and
unpredictable maneuvers from over the horizon.
Despite numerous improvements over the years, the
AAV7s have nearly the same 7-knot water speed as the first
amtracs that took Marines over the reef at Tarawa in 1943.
That slow crawl through the sea means the amphibious
task force must get to within three miles of the beach to
launch an assault, well inside the range of ordinary
artillery, not to mention modern anti-ship guided missiles.
The EFV, however, was designed to race across the
water at up to 30 knots, which would allow the
amphibious ships to remain at least 25 nautical miles
offshore, out of sight. It also was to be able to operate
at up to 45 mph on land and be much more survivable,
with better armor protection and defenses against
chemical agents and nuclear radiation.