Every time I listen to outgoing Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway talk about the perennially challenged Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program, it sounds like he really wishes there was some alternative. Problem is, there isn’t; there just aren’t a lot of companies out there building armored amphibians.
The Marines need something, anything, to transport them from ships offshore to the beachhead and then get them inland at least some distance; oh, and it has to be fast, both at sea and on land, carry lots of Marines and keep them under armor during the whole process. So, after investing lots of time and money into the General Dynamics EFV, the Marines have the EFV. It’s a costly and so far anyway, unreliable vehicle. But it’s all they got.
“It is not the platform it’s the capability,” Conway said, the Marines need an armored amphibian as the Marines get back to the sea and onboard ships. “It’s not necessarily the EFV made by General Dynamics that goes 25 knots, its the capability that we need to be wed to… if that program were canceled outright we would still be looking to come up with that capability.”
He said the new batch of eight EFVs provided by General Dynamics for extensive testing are more reliable than the original prototypes and the Marines hope they’ll show marked improvement. “It has been a beleaguered program,” Conway said today at a Pentagon presser. “We are looking at affordability of the program in the out years… we have to ask ourselves are 573 (EFVs) affordable.”
Conway said he feels very confident that the Marines, which provide planners an “asymmetric advantage” will emerge from the ongoing force structure review in pretty good shape, if not a bit smaller. A strong Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard team is the linchpin of a strategy based on engaging potential enemies far from American shores, through forward deployment and basing.
“Although we have been fortunate the last couple of times our nation has engaged that a host country would allow us to come in and build the iron mountain, mass the forces and cross the border into attack. There are not a lot of places like that in the world,” he said.
How much amphibious assault capability is enough? “Right now, that is pretty much laid out by a previous QDR that says we will have two brigades prepared to conduct joint operational access,” he said.
— Greg Grant