The US Marine Corps's fleet of amphibious assault vehicles is over 40 years old and instead of fitting them with classic number plates, it's looking for a replacement. At this week's Modern Day Marine trade show in Quantico, Virginia, Lockheed Martin revealed its new candidate Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) 1.1. The armored eight-wheel-drive battle wagon can carry up to 13 marines over land or water and incorporates intuitive automatic systems into the design.

The job of the marines is to act as an amphibious assault force, but ever since the days of wooden landing boats, getting from ship to shore has been tricky. Amphibious vehicles seems like the logical answer, but it is more than just a car that can splash about and then drive home on the road – it's a vital instrument during the long, vulnerable trip to the beach that's designed to not only protect marines from enemy fire, but also from slogging hundreds of yards over sharp coral reefs, fighting through the surf, or wallowing in mud.

Lockheed compares the new ACV 1.1 to the famous World War II-era DUKW that is now a common sight in many large cities, where it's often used as a tour bus. The Allied-forces DUKW was a standard transport truck that had a flotation hull welded on and a prop on the back that engaged with the drive shaft by means of a clutch. It carried 25 men standing up, had no armor, and hauled itself using a measly 95 bhp petrol engine. Worse, despite its legendary robustness, it wasn't very good as either a boat or a land transport because the design was a compromise between the two, which don't have very much in common.

In contrast, the ACV 1.1 is designed as a vehicle that will not only float, but is also watertight and operates well under fire on both land and sea while carrying a significant payload. It has a sealed shell with 8x8 drive and Lockheed says it's built to be modular, easily upgradable, use off-the-shelf parts, and be compatible with other vehicles.

The ACV 1.1 is fully armored, weighs over 20 tons and is powered by a 700 bhp six-cylinder turbodiesel engine. It seats 13 and can carry over 16,000 lb (7,200 kg) of payload. It has upgradable sensors and communications, and can carry weapons ranging up to a 30-mm autocannon.

To keep the ACV 1.1 watertight, only the driver has a window and the hatches are on the top of the vehicle, with a large door in the rear for passengers to enter and exit. There's a sealing and locking system to make sure every entrance is secure, an automatic pump in the bottom of the vehicle to remove water, and a system to supply air to the engine and passengers. The hull is designed to be both seaworthy and able to deflect blasts. It can do 5 knots (5.7 mph, 9.2 km/h) in rough seas, and can handle large waves, currents, rugged terrain, and nighttime conditions.

In addition, the ACV 1.1 boasts automated systems that place an emphasis intuitive operation. For example, it switches automatically from "land mode" to "sea mode" and back at the touch of a button and does not require special controls. This allows the driver to use the steering wheel and other standard controls on both land and sea as the drive system automatically adjusts itself.

According to Lockheed, future versions of the ACV 1.1 are expected to be even more automated with an autopilot for sea mode. In addition, the company sees the ACV 1.1 one day being used by civilian rescue services for disaster relief, such as floods and hurricanes.

View gallery - 3 images