Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway has made no bones about his determination to return the Marines to their expeditionary, door kicking roots instead of the second land army it has become in the current wars. Seven years spent fighting in Iraq encumbered the Marines with too many heavy and cumbersome vehicles designed to survive IED blasts, he says, and he intends to slim down the Corps’ battle fleet.
In December, Conway told reporters that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), a Humvee replacement that weighs in at 22,000 pounds, is too heavy for his strategically mobile shock troops and he dispatched service buyers to shop around for a lighter version. While the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) amtrac replacement, the swimming armored infantry carrier, survived the QDR and 2011 budget exercise, the future of the troubled program remains very much up in the air.
So what vehicles is the Corps buying? Lots of little jeeps. The Marines want to pay General Dynamics $37 million to buy somewhere around 140 Internally Transportable Vehicles (ITV), what it calls “a highly mobile, weapons-capable, light strike vehicle platform that is transportable in CH-53E and MV-22 aircraft.”
The ITV comes in two versions. One is a Light Attack Vehicle configuration that the Marines are buying, jointly with Special Operations Command, for its reconnaissance and special operations units. The second is designed to haul around a 120mm rifled mortar and accompanying ammunition to provide rapid on-call fire support to Marine rifle companies. The ITV and mortar combination pack up small enough to fit inside the Osprey.
The Marines say the ITV in its different variants figures into its “distributed operations” war fighting concept where small, highly mobile, yet hard-hitting, units operate independently over large areas. But the small jeeps don’t come cheap, they cost around $273,000 a copy. That’s a lot of money for a modern version of the “Rat Patrol” Willy’s Jeep.
Also fitting into the distributed operations concept are Marine plans to spend $168 million to buy more rockets for its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). HIMARS takes the Army’s MLRS rocket launchers and mounts the rocket pods on a truck so they can fit inside a C-130. HIMARS gives Marines a 60 kilometer plus precision strike weapon.
For those who might worry the Marines are getting too light, do not fear. Budget documents say the Marines plan to add two companies of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks to its two tank battalions.