The Marine Corps has officially started fielding its first new amphibious vehicle since the Vietnam War, and grunts can expect to get their hands on some fresh armaments for their new battlewagon in the coming years.
BAE Systems last week released photos of its technology demonstrator based on the new Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) outfitted with a beastly 30mm cannon turret as well as an anti-tank weapon system, a rocket pod, and a counter-drone system.
The demonstrator was supposed to be unveiled during the Modern Day Marine technology exposition that took place back in May, but the expo was cancelled due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
While we couldn’t show our tech demonstrator at Modern Day Marine this year, we knew we needed to take it out for some fresh air. Our tech demonstrator features the latest in transformational technologies and shows the versatility of what’s possible on our amphibious platforms. pic.twitter.com/fkxjMv2fGq
— BAE Systems, Inc. (@BAESystemsInc) October 29, 2020
The ACV technology demonstrator is fitted with a remotely operated Medium Caliber Turret (MCT) 30mm turret designed by defense contractor Kongsberg, a lighter-weight version of the system that’s currently in use across the Army’s Stryker fleet.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman, the Corps’ MCT-30 variant uses the Navy’s standard Mk44 Bushmaster II cannon rather than the Army’s XM813 cannon.
According to Army Recognition, the left side of the turret appears outfitted with a Javelin anti-tank missile system, while the right side appears outfitted with a 2.75-inch rocket launcher system. There also appears to be a counter-drone system on the rear side of the troop compartment.
The addition of the 30mm cannon on its own represents a nice boost in firepower. As Marine Corps Times notes, “the older [Amphibious Assault Vehicle] had space for a 40mm grenade launcher, but in direct vehicle-on-vehicle fighting the 30mm cannon offers fast, high-volume direct fire.”
But the 30mm cannon also has applications beyond direct fire. Indeed, the Army has deployed Stryker infantry combat vehicles outfitted with 30mm cannons to eastern Europe since 2017 as part of a larger return to Cold War-era short-range air defense systems in anticipation of incoming aerial threats from missiles to drones.
As Task & Purpose previously reported, missiles and drones are almost certainly threats that the Marine Corps will almost certainly face during a future amphibious assault on, say, the man-made fortresses that China’s been standing up across the South China Sea.
Unfortunately for Marines, they’ll have to wait before they can actually get their hands on all these tasty new toys: While BAE Systems selected Kongsberg to produce the MCT-30 system for the ACV back in May, the latter only plans to start delivering up to 150 of the MCT-30 turrets to the former as part of a “phased program” starting in 2021.
Should all go according to plan, Marines with the I Marine Expeditionary Force will be the first to receive their new upgunned battlewagon as a replacement for the legacy Amphibious Assault Vehicle in the coming months.