Marine Corps begins evaluation of three ARV prototypes

By Nick Wilson / February 17, 2023 at 12:05 PM

The Marine Corps has started the formal evaluation of three Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle prototypes as it seeks a replacement for its legacy Light Armored Vehicle (LAV).

The results of this initial testing period, scheduled to wrap up in the third quarter of fiscal year 2023, will contribute to a “multidomain reconnaissance decision,” according to a Thursday announcement from the service.

Textron Systems delivered its “Cottonmouth” ARV prototype to the Marine Corps in December, followed by a General Dynamics Land Systems prototype delivery later that month. The two companies were selected for the competition in 2021.

BAE Systems, which builds the service’s Amphibious Combat Vehicle, provided a third prototype that will also be tested to “provide the Marine Corps with trade space between a government off-the-shelf and purpose-built solution,” the announcement states.

While Textron and General Dynamics each spent 15 months developing and building their vehicles on the program office’s Middle Tier Acquisition timeline, BAE used an existing contract for the ACV to develop its prototype, according to the announcement.

All three vehicles are designed to serve as the ‘Command, Control, Communications and Computers/Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ version of the ARV -- the first of an undisclosed number of variants in the ARV family of vehicles.

The C4/UAS variant is intended to act as a “quarterback” for manned and unmanned teams, linking onboard and offboard sensors and serving as a “sensor node” to support expeditionary operations.

“The ARV will employ transformational sensors, communications and combat capabilities to collect and communicate information, while integrating robotics and artificial intelligence technologies into manned-unmanned teams,” the release states.

“The ARV will enable a crew to sense the operating environment and convey that information using advanced on-board sensors and networked communications systems that are augmented by unmanned systems to detect, recognize, identify, and report threats at extended ranges,” the announcement adds.

The Marine Corps initially planned to use the ARV as a direct replacement for the LAV, to serve as the primary combat system within light armored reconnaissance battalions, which conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and security operations. However, the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 initiative modified the ARV into a more versatile and mobile reconnaissance platform.

Subsequent comments from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and other service officials have raised questions about the role of the ARV in the service’s future force structure and operations.

The commandant’s 2022 force design update directs the Marine Corps to “review and validate all assumptions regarding programmed or potential future capabilities, such as the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV)-30 and Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV).”

The initial period of testing, labeled the “competitive prototyping phase,” will focus on the vehicles’ ability to navigate mission-representative terrain in addition to their C4/UAS capabilities, according to the service release.