In the 1980s the Marine corps developed an “over the horizon” strategy for ocean based assaults. The intention was to protect naval ships from enemy mines and shore defenses. It included the MV-22 Osprey, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), and the EFV.

Development for the AAAV began in August 1974 with Landing Vehicle Assault (LVA) prototypes that continued in the early 1980s at the command at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The AAAV’s predecessor, the LVTP7, had its life expectancy extended in 1983–84 by use of a service life extension program, which modified and upgraded many of the key systems, creating the LVTP7A1 and re-designated it the AAVP7A1. At the time these vehicles were released, the USMC had anticipated and communicated delivery of the AAAV by 1993. As a result of delays, the AAVP7A1 has received another service life extension-type upgrade in the mid 1990s while the USMC still awaits final development and delivery of the AAAV, 14 years behind original projected time frames.

In 1988, defense officials authorized the concept exploration and definition phase. In 1995, the program entered into the definition and risk reduction phase, where it won two DOD awards for successful cost and technology management. In June 1996, a contract was awarded to General Dynamics Land Systems to begin full-scale engineering development of their design. Based on the aforementioned early success of the program, the Marine Corps awarded a cost-plus contract to General Dynamics in July 2001 for the systems development and demonstration phase of the program, expected to be completed by October 2003. The AAAV was renamed to EFV in September 2003. The Government Accountability Office would later state that the development phase of three years was insufficient, causing delays and prototype failures, particularly in reliability. After the 2006 Operational Assessment was plagued by reliability issues and maintenance burdens, the Corps began a redesign of the EFV, requiring a new contract for an additional US$143.5 million in February 2007. That June, a reset of the development phase delayed completion an additional four years. Instead of initiating production as planned, the Corps asked for seven new prototypes, to address the current deficiencies, which have caused an average of one failure for every four and a half hours of operation.

On 7 April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the EFV program will “continue as-is”, pending an amphibious review in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. The vehicle has recently been called “exquisite”, which Gates has usually reserved for programs he intends to cancel. He later questioned the EFV as the proper ship-to-shore platform on 3 May 2010, the day before the initial prototype was rolled out at a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The USMC has reduced the number to be purchased from 1,013 to 573 AAAVs by 2015 due to escalation in unit cost estimated at $22.3 million dollars in 2007. The EFV might be a baseline vehicle for the Army’s BCT Ground Combat Vehicle Program, however it is more likely that the Army will start a new program.

Low rate initial production (LRIP) was projected to begin in January 2012. Projected total program development cost of the type until first quarter of 2010 has been estimated at 15.9 billion dollars.