More than 100 amphibious combat vehicles have already entered service with the Marine Corps fleet, but the Corps has only just begun the process of acquiring specialized tools and training environments to teach maintainers how to fix them.
And that’s by design, says the amphibious combat vehicle program manager.
On Tuesday, Marine Corps Systems Command hosted an industry day in Quantico, Va., inviting potential contractors to showcase solutions for repairing and maintaining the service’s newest swim vehicle.
Fourteen companies came forward and ten industry representatives had one-on-one interviews with Navy officials, Marine Corps Amphibious Fighting Vehicles product manager Mike Olree told the Marine Corps Times.
“It was always part of the program plan to seek out these training devices and do that after we started deploying vehicles,” Olree said. “We do a lot of testing; we think we know a lot about our vehicle, but then you give it to the Marines, and they do things you didn’t expect them to do.
The Marine Corps began fielding the passenger variant of the amphibious combat vehicle in 2020.
On Friday, 126 vehicles were sent to the fleet, all on the West Coast: 36 to the Assault Amphibian School in Oceanside, Calif., where Marines can practice on them at the school for operations and maintenance ; and 90 to the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California. The first amphibious combat vehicles bound for the East Coast are expected to arrive at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the spring of 2023.
So far, Olree said, drivers and crews of marine amphibious combat vehicles have reported that the vehicles have a sensitive suspension system that requires careful and regular maintenance. In light of this, the Marine Corps is now requiring one of the maintenance training systems it purchases, the Part Task Install/Remove Trainer, to include a suspension system mockup so that maintainers of the maintenance don’t have to tear up a complete operational vehicle. to practice on the component.
Marines face a learning curve, Olree said, when transitioning from tracked amphibious assault vehicle to eight-wheeled amphibious combat vehicle.
“They’re used to a tracked vehicle, where you can just pivot,” Olree said. “A wheeled vehicle cannot do that; you need to make a little wider turn. If you try to do a really tight turn, it puts a lot of stress on the suspension system… It’s just learning how the vehicle works for the Marines.
The longevity of the amphibious assault vehicle, which first entered service in 1972, means that generations of Marines know its handling and consider it standard. This, Olree said, can create frustration in the fleet.
“Marines need to learn how this vehicle works. It’s no better or worse than AAV; it’s just different from the AAV,” Olree said. “Every time it doesn’t work like an AAV, they seem to think something is wrong, right? This is not necessarily the case. »
The Marine Corps is also learning the limitations of the amphibious combat vehicle in other ways: This summer, the service gave a two-month pause to all vehicle water operations after two amphibious combat vehicles overturned and became disabled on the high seas off California. coast in July.
The Corps cleared the amphibious fighting vehicles for full service in September after setting a new four-foot high surf limit.
In addition to the Install/Remove Trainer task portion, which will include eight or nine mock-up amphibious combat vehicle parts to practice maintenance, the Marines want two additional training tools: an augmented reality classroom simulation environment, which would put trainees inside the vehicle using 3D glasses and haptic gloves and other components, and a touchscreen procedural troubleshooting trainer, which would allow Marines to walk through the isolation process and problem diagnosis.
While the mockup rooms and VR training environment would be designated for the school, screen-based troubleshooters would also be dispatched to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to help maintainers of the operational units, Orlee said.
Olree said he’s pleased to hear some companies say they’ve already designed virtual environments similar to what the Marine Corps is looking for, and he’s optimistic about the timeline for bringing a specific trainer into service. VCA.
“It’s gaming technology that’s kind of driving this,” Olree said. “It’s the backbone they use to create a virtual environment.”
Although none of these high-tech training tools existed for Marines learning to maintain the Amphibious Assault Vehicle, they are quickly becoming the industry standard.
In 2020, the Army contracted with an industry team led by AVT Simulation to develop a practical maintenance trainer for the Common Light Tactical Vehicle that combined the vehicle body with high-tech training tools.
Marine Corps Systems Command plans to send out a draft RFP of the three trainers it wants, with actual training components fielding beginning in 2026.