Samsung Techwin KAAV7A1 (photos : Militaryphotos)
Surplus Market for AAV7 Series Remains Strong as Nations Seek to Expand Ampbibious Capabilities
NEWTOWN, Conn. - Serial production of new-build AAV71 vehicles in the United States is dormant. Low-rate production of Samsung Techwin's KAAV7A1 licensed-production variant remains available on an as-required basis, primarily for export.
In 2013, the Philippine Ministry of Defense opened a bidding initiative aimed at acquiring eight new-build AAV7 series vehicles for eventual deployment with the country's Marine Corps.
Although no contractors responded to the MoD's initial bidding request, the subsequent process was reopened in May 2014. South Korean defense giant Samsung Techwin submitted the sole production proposal for the revived effort, offering to produce eight of its licensed KAAV7A1 variants and provide long-term logistical support for the products, at a total estimated cost of $53 million (PHP2.42 billion).
The Philippine MoD and Marines are now in the process of assessing the feasibility of Samsung Techwin's bid, and are expected to make a final decision on the contract sometime in early-to-mid 2015. Assuming the deal moves forward, production of the vehicles is scheduled to take place over the course of approximately 2.5 years subsequent to the date of contract signing.
Although the Philippine military's desire for new-build AAV7 series vehicles stands as an uncommon deviation in a marketplace that has now overwhelmingly shifted toward the acquisition of surplus vehicle stocks, its core requirement for expanded amphibious assault capabilities is nevertheless firmly in step with regional trends.
The ascent of the People's Republic of China as a regional maritime power and revival of territorial disputes in the South China Sea have accelerated efforts by armed forces across the region to further develop and refine their amphibious assault capacities and enhance
their ability to project military power over a number of hotly contested island chains.
The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) is currently in the process of forming a new amphibious deployment brigade, derived from the service's Western Army, in order to better protect the country's maritime interests. A central component of the new brigade is the planned procurement of 52 surplus AAV7 series vehicles from the United States, refurbished by prime contractor BAE Systems to suit Japanese specifications.
The JGSDF ordered four preliminary models in 2013 and a further two in 2014. The JGSDF continues to conduct performance tests of the newly acquired models, but large-scale acquisitions are scheduled to begin soon, with Japan's FY15 defense budget calling for the procurement of 30 refurbished AAV7s within the fiscal year, at a cost of JPY20.3 billion.
Elsewhere, in early 2014 the Brazilian Marine Corps acquired an additional 23 refurbished AAV7A1 vehicles. And earlier, in June 2013, the Chilean Ministry of Defense announced its intention to purchase a total of 20 USMC surplus AAV7A1 vehicles for service with the Chilean Marines (Amphibious Expeditionary Brigade). Prior to delivery, the MoD intends for the vehicles to be upgraded to the RAM/RS standard by Global Combat Systems, a U.S.-based subsidiary of BAE Systems.
The Chilean order is to be split into two delivery batches, with the first batch of 12 vehicles consisting of 10 AAVP7A1 transports, one AAVC7A1 command vehicle, and one AAVR7A1 armored recovery vehicle. Deliveries were scheduled to begin in 2014, but few reports on the current status of the deal had surfaced at time of writing.
Fiscal challenges and developmental shortfalls have coalesced to ensure that the AAV7A1 will remain in active service with the USMC through the forecast period and beyond.
The relative stabilization of U.S. defense spending in the aftermath of the passage of 2013's Ryan-Murray budget deal and subsequent easing of near-term sequestration fears have allowed the USMC to at last move forward with a reorganized version of its Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) program.
In 2018, the USMC plans to begin serial production and acquisition of its new 8x8 wheeled Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC). The MPC program falls under the designation of Phase 1, Increment 1 of the larger ACV program (ACV 1.1). Under the ACV 1.1 timeline, the USMC intends to acquire an initial 204 base model MPC vehicles from 2018 through 2021.
Subsequent phases of the ACV program will involve additional MPC orders. The USMC plans to adapt the specific composition of subsequent MPC orders to the lessons gleaned from the field experience and data gathered during the implementation of ACV 1.1 and begin the procurement of specialized variants. In addition, development of a variant that would provide a high-speed, ship-to-shore successor to the AAV7A1 remains ongoing.
Nevertheless, the costly demise of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) in 2011 still casts a long shadow over the service's armored development and replacement efforts and has elevated the importance of the service's AAV7A1 modernization program.
With Increment 1 of the ACV not scheduled to reach true operational capacity until 2020, the Marines will be forced to rely primarily on the AAV7A1 through the forecast period and for a number years beyond it. In October 2013, the USMC announced it was pursuing a new initiative directed at improving the survivability profile of the AAV7A1 through the addition of new armor and equipment upgrades.
BAE Systems and Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) were awarded development contracts for the new upgrade package in 2014. Reports indicate that implementation of the program is scheduled to begin in 2017, with an initial goal of upgrading some 392 AAV7A1 vehicles with the new package.