Marines may upgrade AAV tracks with elastomer instead of steel

By Lee Hudson  
May 21, 2018 at 3:29 PM

The Marine Corps may upgrade the tracks on its amphibious vehicles using elastomer, a material that is used on wearable fitness tracking devices, instead of steel because the rubber provides greater mobility with reduced weight.

The service is seeking a track system that can exceed T157 track performance, which is a modified Army M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle suspension system.

Research shows elastomer generates less ground pressure, better traction and lateral stability than steel. The polymer reduces platform vibration, noise, radar and acoustic signatures, weight and rolling resistance, according to questions and answers posted by the service on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Q&A is in response to an April 17 request for information.

Compared with steel, elastomer will improve track life energy efficiency, lower life-cycle costs and does not corrode, the document reads.

Inside the Navy reported last month that the Marine Corps was looking to U.S. allies to find a lighter-weight track. The service plans to purchase new tracks to outfit both the Assault Amphibious Vehicle Survivability Upgrade and legacy platforms.

The AAV SU increases the gross vehicle weight to 75,000 pounds. The current tracks are made of steel links integrated with rubber track pads that are 71.4 pounds per foot.

The Marine Corps anticipates awarding a contract for new tracks in December and delivery beginning in October 2021. The service requests 100 track sets be delivered each year.

"The mobility of the AAV SU allows the vehicle to operate effectively with M1A1 main battle tanks and other motorized/mechanized forces as well as the conduct of mounted security operations in urban or restrictive terrain alongside wheeled and tracked vehicles of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force," according to the April 17 RFI.

ITN reported in February the Marine Corps modified the interior layout of the AAV SU so that a troop commander can easily exit the vehicle through the ramp in the back.

Service spokesman Manny Pacheco told ITN Feb. 1 the reason the troop commander could not quickly exit the vehicle was due to where radios were located in the vehicle. "A design change was developed to move the radios closer to the hull and change the approach for cabling the radios to remove any intrusions that restricted TC movement," he said.

The design fix will be incorporated into low-rate initial production vehicles the service will take delivery of in the second half of fiscal year 2018.

The legacy AAV entered the service in 1972 and it was to have been replaced by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. But the Defense Department canceled the EFV program in January 2011 after investing nearly $3 billion in the effort.

The Marine Corps decided to upgrade a portion of the legacy fleet, dubbed AAV SU, and selected Science Applications International Corp. to build 10 prototype vehicles.