Thursday, May 6, 2010

U.S. Marines Praise EFV, Roll Out Prototype

QUANTICO, Va. — The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is the linchpin of the U.S. Marine Corps expeditionary warfare strategy and the program is on track for development, delivery and deployment, service program officials said May 4 at what turned into a mini pep rally for the vehicle and its supporters.
Taking direct aim at some of the concerns raised recently by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Marines may not need the EFV or that the vehicle could prove too costly, program and Marine Corps officials said the vehicle is exactly what they need to conduct operations from the sea.
The EFV is meant to serve as a vehicle bridge for Marines, carrying them from Navy ships through the surf and sand and miles deep into enemy terrain.
Program officials extolled the vehicle’s prowess and promise at a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps here, with the museum’s unique skyline sculpture in the background and a newly minted prototype EFV in the foreground.
Program Manager Col. Keith Moore called the EFV the “world’s most capable combat vehicle.” As for costs, Moore acknowledged that in the current economic climate, everything must be done to cut the vehicle’s price. Current production unit costs run about $16 million per EFV, with program acquisition costs reaching about $22 million per vehicle.
The service wants to buy about 573 EFVs to carry Marines and another 67 to be used as communications-and-control vehicles.
Program procurement costs will be about $9.5 billion, Moore said. The total program costs, he acknowledged, could be as high as $13 billion. He hopes to shave the unit costs by millions of dollars per copy.
For now, though, the main Marine thrust will be to put the EFV though additional rigorous testing. One of the main issues, Moore said, will be to make the vehicle more reliable. He said it is quite common for prototypes to have low percentage rates for hours between failures — in the 20% range.
The focus of the test program for the next 18-24 months will be to increase those percentages.
“We need it in the 50s [percent range] by the time we field the vehicle,” he said.
Current plans call for the Marines to field the EFV in 2015, with a low-rate-initial-production date of January or February 2012.
As with any prototype testing, Moore expects hiccups. For example, in March the Marines found that coding errors and configuration issues with the software developed for the EFV by the Air Force made the vehicle respond sluggishly. Program officials identified the problems and had a fix in hand within 17 days, he said.
Moore doubts all issues will be resolved so quickly. But he said the Marines will not treat its prototype with kid gloves. The service will test the 40-ton behemoth — fully loaded — as rigorously as it would deploy it. The testing begins this spring at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif.

By Michael Fabey(AviationWeek)
Photo: Michael Fabey

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