It's important to explore a wide range of options and not lock down requirements too early, Lt. Gen. Walsh said. (By contrast, FCS set precise objectives and only then looked to see if they were possible). "We're trying to solve the problem of what is reconnaissance (and) counter-reconnaissance in the future," he said, not simply replace an old vehicle with a new one.
By 2023, the Marine Corps wants prototypes for a radically new scout unit they want to be the ground version of the F-35 — scouting ahead into hostile territory, killing key targets, and feeding data back to the rest of the force. Though called the Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle, the project has evolved well beyond a straightforward replacement for the aging Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) into a networked family of manned vehicles, ground robots, and drones, collectively capable of not only reconnaissance but also electronic warfare and long-range precision strikes.
Industry response has been overwhelming. Interested companies have submitted some 282 white papers and counting, deputy commandant Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh said last week. These aren't just traditional prime contractors proposing manned vehicles, but a host of smaller companies proposing also unmanned systems, sensors, networks, EW, weapons, and more, Walsh and his staff said. The Office of Naval Research (ONR), which is running the $42 million science, technology, and prototyping effort for the Marines, has actually had to push back deadlines to sort through this embarrassment of riches.
That’s a stark contrast to the Marines’ first stab at the Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle, when a small number of big contractors proposed modest improvements on the 1980s-vintage LAV. “The reason we did this (i.e. reboot the program and work with ONR): I wasn't seeing the bright ideas coming from industry,” Walsh said.