Look for Breakthroughs
While Developing New Vehicles
Corps, like the Army, is “still
waiting for that technological breakthrough” needed to build a combat
vehicle that’s light and agile but also protects crewmembers inside,
the Marine Corps commandant said yesterday.
“So we continue to wait,” while exploring best options available
now, Marine Gen. James T. Conway told reporters during a Pentagon news briefing.
Army and Marine Corps have sent mine-resistant, ambush-protected
vehicles, with their V-shaped hull that deflects underbelly
blasts away from the crew compartment, into Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 10,000th MRAP rolled off the assembly line in early July,
marking a milestone for the joint MRAP program that began as
a Marine Corps initiative.
But the Marines
have opted to buy fewer MRAPs than initially planned, and have
dedicated them largely to specialized missions such as explosive
ordnance disposal and engineering missions.
the past, our engineers have ridden to war in the back of a
dump truck,” Conway said. “We owe them something
better than that.” The small versions of the MRAPs, known
as the Category 1 variants, are a good vehicle for that, the
the Marines likely will need hundreds, not thousands, of MRAPs,
the MRAP’s bulk — which he called too heavy for its
suspension and axle systems — and its top-heavy design make
it less-than-optimal for many Marine Corps missions. Those
problems are exacerbated in Afghanistan, where sloped roads,
mountain trails and switchbacks make driving the vehicles particularly
challenging. Although more MRAPs have been deployed to Iraq
than Afghanistan, Conway said, the Marines have experienced
more rollovers in Afghanistan.
the Marine Corps is looking beyond current operations toward
developing its next-generation fighting vehicles. The challenge,
Conway said, is “Where do we want the Marine Corps to
be in 2020 with its vehicle complement based on what we think
the threat will be at that point?”
fighting vehicle, or EFV, “seems to be making some good
progress,” Conway said, but he conceded it’s still
a long way from production. The 17-passenger armored vehicle
— able to run on the ground as well as in the water — hit
some low points during operational testing in 2006, but is
now moving forward. “We’ve got some good reports
in recent weeks and months on the progress of EFV,” Conway
also have their sights on a new joint light tactical vehicle
to replace the aging Humvee fleet. The Army, U.S. Special Operations
Command and the Marine Corps have teamed up to develop vehicles
designed from the drawing board stage to operate in combat.
Humvees were adapted after the fact for combat conditions.
certainly want to mate with the Army on any program for the
joint light tactical vehicle, but I think it’s fair to
say both services are still waiting for that technological
breakthrough that’s going to give us the amount of soldier
and Marine protection in a vehicle that is lighter than what’s
on the market right now,” Conway said.
are encountering the same problem as they attempt to develop
a lighter, better productive helmet, he said.
is just not an apparent technological breakthrough in ceramics
or in carbon fiber that’s going to give us that lightweight
technology that gives equal protection,” he said.
on the drawing board is the Marine personnel carrier, a medium-weight
vehicle able to carry nine Marines and their gear. “We’re
going to try to sort out just what that vehicle needs to look
like,” Conway said.