To recover damaged, destroyed or broken down vehicles from beach areas during amphibious landings specialised vehicles are needed. They must be able to operate in the surf zone, have sufficient pulling or pushing power to deal with vehicle casualties, be protected and heavy enough so they don’t float away or be thrown around by waves.
The original was the Sherman Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV), used during the Normandy D-Day landings, was a modified Sherman M4A2 tank with the turret replaced by a tall wave piercing structure.
From the Wikipedia entry
The vehicles were developed and operated by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The Sherman M4A2 model was chosen as a basis for the BARV as it was thought that the Sherman’s welded hull would be easier to waterproof than other tanks. Unlike other Sherman models, the M4A2 was powered by a diesel engine because it was believed the tank would be less affected by the sudden temperature changes caused by the regular plunges into cold water.
Trials began in late 1943 and by D-Day, some 58 were available for use by the Beach Groups.
Another role for the BARV was to re-float beached landing craft by simply pushing them back.
During the early sixties the Sherman BARV was replaced with a twelve Centurion based designs, the FV4018 CeBARV. Centurion BARV’s were deployed to the Falklands in 1982 although only one was in a serviceable condition, nevertheless, the other was invaluable.
The design of the Centurion BARV was broadly similar to the Sherman version and could operate in water up to 2.9m
The Aero Venture Museum in Yorkshire has a Falklands veteran CEBARV on display, click here to read the exhibit card and view images.
In 1996 a replacement was sought, invitations to tender were issued in 1999 for the Future Beach Recovery Vehicle and four companies responded, Hagglunds, Pearson Engineering, Marconi Marine Land & Naval Systems and the Dutch company, RDM Technologies, who had developed a Leopard 1 based BARV for the Dutch Marines
Hagglunds won (who had then become part of Alvis, now BAE) with a design based on a Leopard 1A5 Main Battle Tank.
Four were ordered in the £7.5 million with one of them being used for trials and development.
In 2001 the Hippo Beach Recovery Vehicle was unveiled with Lord Bach stating;
The Hippo is vitalfor the success of an amphibious assault across a beach. It can manoeuvre in water up to ten feet deep and can be used to clear crippled vehicles from assault lanes and recover stranded landing craft.
We hope that these new vehicles will enter service a year ahead of schedule in parallel with the entry into service of the new assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, from which they will operate.
The design is also broadly similar to previous generations but with obvious ergonomic improvements. Other modifications include a revised gearbox that decreases speed but increases tractive force.
Designed to recover vehicles up to the Challenger and a fully loaded DROPS plus trailer the Hippo has a weight of about 50 tonnes, two days fuel, ptoection from small arms and artillery splinters, a crew of four and can operate in up to 2.95m of water. It can also push the 240 tonne LCU Mk10 and lighter LCVP landing craft.
A 2003 Parliamentary Answer confirmed the Main Gate expected acquisition costs were an eye watering £13 million
HMS Albion and Bulwark had one each and the other two were used for training with 11(Amphibious Trials and Training (11 ATT)) Squadron Royal Marines and as a war reserve.
Obviously, we will have one spare now.
I have a question for any non UK Think Defence readers, do you have an equivalent?