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The Beach Recovery Vehicle


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.

IMG_5897 - Sherman BARV - Studland - 04.04.04
Mending or sleeping?

During the early sixties, the Sherman BARV was replaced with 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, protection 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.

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38 Responses

  1. 6ASRM onboard Albion christened their BARV “The Beast”. In response and showing typical RM humour 4ASRM onboard Bulwark named theirs “Daisy”.

  2. Wouldn’t a BARV based on a Challenger rather than a Leopard make more sense logistically?

    By the way, what happened to Challenger 1s, were they remanufactured as Challenger 2s or scrapped?

  3. Don’t come around here talking common sense Brian :)

    I think Challenger was out of production by then but there might have been more reasons why it wasn’t picked?

  4. The Challenger 1’s are all in Jordan now.

    Love the thought of a BARV called Daisy! HA!

  5. The Chally 1’s were flogged on to Jordan. So to we’re the Scammel Tank Transporters.

  6. TD, Simon257,

    Many thanks. I note the Challenger 2 was in production from 1993-2002 and the Challenger 1s were exported between 1999-2002 free of charge to Jordan and were upgraded to Challenger 2 standard – that new Falcon turret looks a good idea.

    So HMG gives our Challenger 1s away because of the Middle East Peace Process just before the invitation to tender was sent out for the BARV and then buys reconditioned Leopard 1 tanks.

    I expect there was a good reason.

  7. Also don’t forget the Trojan AVRE is Challenger 2 based! So it can’t be lack of Challenger hulls that caused them to go for Leopard. Unless it is a conspiracy to replace Challenger with Leopard :)

  8. I was going to say: surely the UKNL amph force interoperability trumps that with the army Chally2s
    – even if it could be the latter rolling off the LCUs that need to be pushed out, to get the next lot onto the beach
    – 5+4, and if you lose a couple…

  9. “Unless it is a conspiracy to replace Challenger with Leopard”

    Given that Challenger 2 needs a fairly major upgrade in the near to mid-future (as I understand it, putting aside the possibility of changing the gun to smooth bore, and likely future requirement to improve it survivability in urban combat environments, it needs a new engine, and new optics) wouldn’t it be more cost effective in the long run, given that we are only going to operate a small number of tanks in the future to buy some new Leopard 2A7+?

  10. Tubby, a heretic, I say!

    Anyway: on the UKNL force
    – light guns vs heavy mortars (120 mm)
    – tracks vs wheels (AMV)

    And of late, no progress with any items that have been evaluated
    – both have looked at CB90
    – PASCAT seems to have disappeared
    – army specialist units supporting the 3 CDO have been put on a slimming regime

  11. Hi TD,

    I have no numbers to back it up, and given the MoD’s tendency to look at the total capital expenditure in a single year rather than the lifetime costs I suspect that the MoD will always back upgrade programmes over new capital purchases even when it means that over a set period (say 20 – 25 years) it costs significantly more. Puma upgrade is a classic example, spend less now than buying new to extend Puma for decade, thereby avoiding having to purchase new helicopters – then look in the budget to buy new helicopters in 10 years time.

    Logically what should have happened is that the MoD should have held a competition to buy the 6 or 8 special forces configured helicopters needed for the SAS, and increased its purchase of Chinook by an additional 4 – 6 helicopter (so we should have got 24 + 2 replacements plus 4 – 6 helicopters to replace the amount of lift provided by the Puma’s, not the 12 +2 we are actually getting).

    My current working assumption is that “opposition” to the Government in 2024 (I think this is the Puma OSD) will be comparing the amount helicopter lift available now to that available in 2024 and highlighting how the amount of helicopter lift 2024 is so much lower than now.

    I add it to list of equipment programmes where I think the budget available to the MoD have short changed the armed forces – playing fantasy armed forces I think I would have spent money on further C-130J purchase, plus re-winging of our existing C-130J’s post-Afghanistan (and I thought it significant that Marshall’s becomes the only organisation outside LM to offer the service the week the SAS say they need to retain some C-130J’s), made sure the RAF got all 30 odd Chinook’s they were hankering after, a larger light utility helicopter (in addition to Wildcat) for the Army to be able to move a section, FRES UV as a more urgent purchase than FRES SV, a new affordable MPA (I would have brought ATR 72), 8th Astute boat rather than gapping building for the same cost, and I would have replaced some of the future T26 build with 8 OPV’s based on a stretched Clyde with retractable hangar and a 72mm gun and space to fit a single CIWS, and I would also have banned the RAF from buying F-35’s, and instead spent the money on upgrading Typhoon with their FOAS budget going on conformal tanks and a upgraded Storm Shadow with increase range and two-way data link. As the carriers are done deal I suppose I would have allowed a small purchase of F-35B’s by the FAA, but part of me thinks that a better plan might simply be bring one carrier in as a LHP – leave the other in extend readiness for long as possible, and sink the budget for F-35 into more Merlin’s and some Osprey’s for the FAA (thereby justifying our large decks).

  12. Tubby

    I think you have been told before. Do no come on this site an talk total and utter common sense!

    It upsets the carrier junkies and the carpet chewing f35 fetish RAF types.

    You are a very naughty boy!

  13. BARV are, i recall a modified version of a dutch vehicle and are in effect a modified off the shelf purchase. Hence the non uk standard hull.

  14. Hi IXION,

    I am not anti-carrier, in many ways a small purchase of F-35B and one CVF in active service are the correct combination for our needs, I just not convinced that we can afford F-35B or that the performance of F-35B will ever meet all our requirements, and I damn certain that inter-service politics and cutbacks in budgets and training will mean that its utility as a carrier based aircraft by the FAA will be limited – if we struggle to pay for both A2A and A2G training for Typhoon pilots nothing is going to convince me that we can afford to do so for F-35B pilots.

    Currently we are looking at F-35B’s that will end up with only external carriage of ASRAAM, and I think integration of Meteor is doubtful unless MBDA pay for integration as the RN cannot afford to do it alone and the RAF will have different priorities – in deed as the RAF will be caught in the trap of only having enough money to either integrate more precision weapons on the Typhoon or paying for their integration on the F-35, that they possible will not get until mid 2020’s I suspect that a number of other weapons are doubtful as well, though there is a “rumour” that RAF will buy Small Diameter Bomb for the Typhoon and the F-35B, so I am betting good money that the limited number of FAA piloted F-35B’s (somewhere short of 12 I’m betting) operating from CVF will come into service with only ASRAAM and SDB available, with a higher than expected training burden due to the rolling landing requirements, astronomical maintenance bill and terrible availability.

    I think Hell will freeze over before the RAF release any Storm Shadows to the FAA, and I would be surprised if we see more than 3 or 4 instances in the entire service history of the F-35B where the RAF fly combat operations off the CVF.

    Basically CVF and F-35B sounded like a great idea when first conceived but every new story coming out regarding the F-35B suggests to me that it is increasingly become a good idea destroyed by cost overruns and penny wise and pound foolish cost cutting.

    PS sorry everyone for keep taking this thread off topic, I am in a glass half empty mood today and being a bit moany!

  15. Good try, TD!

    @ Tubby, RE ” operating from CVF will come into service with only ASRAAM and SDB available”
    – strike, as in Carrier Strike
    – ASRAAM is a self-defence weapon for a bomber
    – if you want an interceptor, just wait for the mods for Japan (that’s what they bought it for, and their “fitted” AMRAAM (x 6) will probably be two generations ahead of what the RAF is flying with now… and planning to phase it out for Meteor)

  16. TD,

    It was like that when I came in :)

    Why couldn’t the superstructure of the Hippo have been grafted onto a Chellenger hull? Amphibious force interoperability is an argument if Dutch landing craft, for example, are the same type as our LCU Mk10s – they’re twenty feet longer after modificaton. And ironically, HNLMS Johan de Witt, the second ship in the Rotterdam class was enlarged to enable her to handle LCU Mk10s, which HNLMS Rotterdam couldn’t. Can our landing ships’ docks handle the Dutch LCU Mk II? If they can why was the LCU Mk 10 procured when the Dutch LCU Mk II has a shallower draft and can go further up the beach?

  17. I hate to be the voice of reason but does anyone know if any of the companies who tendered for the contract did so with a CHR based product?

  18. Great questions, Brian. I thought they had been solved/ thought about!
    – and howabout the hovercraft… USN has so many more than us, do they fit?

  19. Firstly apologies for posting off topic early and causing the biggest 360 degree change of thread direction ever.

    Also, congratulations to TD for yet another excellent post on a topic that is normally overlooked BTW is there any posts on obscure equipment for the RAF like say a bit about their fire fighting equipment or air traffic control, or even the dollies used by RAF armourers, as I read several aviation magazines and they tend to focus of the aircraft, I have in the last two years seen one article on the supporting infrastructure.

    And finally, I couldn’t resit one last off topic comment to ACC – while SDB and ASRAAM might be fine for strike, what about the ability to use our F-35B’s for air defence, I know its thirty years since we needed sea based air defence but it does seem like a good thing to retain if we are going to operate carriers anyway, and given we have now cancelled funding integration of ASRAAM on internal pylons (and the US have apparently cancelled internal AIM-9X carriage as well) and not let a contract to integrate internally or externally Meteor it does seem that A2A is one function of the F-35B that has been neglected.

  20. The asraam like aim 9 are for carriage on the tip stations. These have been designed for and shown to have marginal effect of the f35 radar cross section hence there funny shape. Not sure why you would wish to carry short range missiles internally on such a jet.
    Meteor integration in typhoon is some years away yet and mbda are already looking at integration on f35. The uk are not the only customers of meteor and f35 and it’s in there interest to fund this. AMRAAM isn’t disappearing tomorrow.

    Will brimstone still be in its current guise when f35 arrives or will it be spear 3. Interesting discussion but perhaps to avoid TDs rath heading this over to the cvf open thread maybe gd

  21. Tubby,

    Ask Santa for a copy of this:

    RAF Ground Support Equipment Since 1918, Fred Adkin,
    Airlife Publishing, 1996. ISBN-10: 1853105627


    May I echo Tubby’s praise. Think Defence may have a running ISO container/mexeflote gag but to me it’s proof of the saying “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.”

  22. Thanks you gentlemen, its funny you should mention RAF fire tenders, I was going through some pics earlier this week and came across a few of RAF Unipower fire tenders, the same base vehicle as the BR90 bridging vehicles. Will have to post them up,

    I think the MoD did a piece a while ago about some new aircraft towing tractors but you are right, will have to have a look

  23. @ TD

    Yes that’s the larger ones, I’d forgotten about the larger ones used at Brize, Waddo etc.

  24. @ TD,

    …” its funny you should mention RAF fire tenders, I was going through some pics earlier this week and came across a few of RAF Unipower fire tenders…”

    Good grief man. Put down that mouse and keyboard and, oh I don’t know, go and give Mrs TD the best seeing-to she’s ever had. Twice, maybe 3 times. Or walk the dog, cut the grass, or something. Honestly, surfing the web for Kevin logistics porn…


    The recent jerrycans post was however informative. One, that they are called so after the Germans – I’d never made that connection, and secondly those little dinky pop up indentations for expansion. However, you still need a large hammer to bash open the cap.

    Did you know that a 9mm round fired from an SMG at about 20 yards from a filled 20 litre plastic jerrycan of water will not penetrate, but instead zings off into the desert? Not a confidence maker when you test fire your SMGs for effect, not accuracy just pre-war. Oddly, the Army has a fetish for accuracy of weapons, never mind whether the bullet does the job assuming you can aim it properly.

    SMGs do however kill stray dogs at about 30 yards if you give them a burst of about 8 rounds, and pheasants walking along the butt end of Bulford ranges when doing your APWT. you can also play a variation of the “skipping stones” game with 9mm ammo and standard concrete, which it bounces off. Best I got was 4 distinct ricochets in the concrete service stairwell of the Kuwait City Tower revolving restaurant, but Drives had a better angle than me and he got at least six, possibly seven.

  25. On a more serious note, do the RM have use of any farm style tractors (particularly any with a forklift arm), or even CETs? Seem like they’d also be pretty useful for hauling about the odd pallet load of stores off mexeflotes and onto the beach, perhaps pushing some lighter vehicles out of the way, carrying about a few dozen metres of PSP or trackway. Obviously not in the direct fire zone.

  26. RT, Yes they do have a variety of JCB style green fork lift and tractor type vehicles.

  27. RT, three times, what a whole years ration in one go :)

    On the RM plant question…

    Have a look at the recent C Vehicle post which describes how a number of them are winterised and waterproofed for use in the surf zone for things like laying trackway up the beach etc

  28. @Red Trousers and TD

    I have been trying to follow RT’s well-meant exhortations to TD to live the well-balanced, healthy life. Only yesterday I cut and strimmed the back garden, swept the patio and then went for a long walk around the village with my missus. I even had a coldish shower this morning. All to no avail, all of no use whatsoever. I keep on returning to the subject of fire engines!

    “On a more serious note” (see, I am also capable of plagiarism or is it parody?). I saw a serial documentary a few months ago on British forces in Afghanistan (I think it was Afghanistan and not Iraq). There was one programme on the work of the MOD Fire Service out there. I never realized they or their machines played such an important role in the conflict. When one of our vehicles was attacked and damaged, on most occasions the firefighters were required to drive outside the camp and attend the recovery. In other words, their vehicle became a “combat” vehicle. The engines were even painted sand-coloured. The crews themselves were undermanned and overstretched, working very long hours indeed. Their engines were named “Florians”, I think, after the patron saint of firefighters.

    So, before we are so dismissive of military fire engines, let us pause and acknowledge their crews’ invaluable and dangerous work.

    Right, where did I put those trainers? On second thoughts, it might be better to put the anorak on again.

  29. @TD

    Just referring back to my previous post, TD. I do not know whether the fire engines concerned were based on the Unipower vehicle or not. I think that vehicle might have been called the “Florian” but am not sure. Anyway, I came across some pictures of it on the “Plain Military” site, I think it was. Please post any you have of the RAF ones sometime.

  30. the work of the MOD Fire Service

    I would not trust them with even a cat in a tree. let alone in a combat zone

    when I was abusing the generous MOD funds for postgrad training at Shriv I saw the Swindon fire brigade get to a small fire in one of the old accommodation blocks quicker than the MOD FS could get across from their purpose built block 200m away. Rumours that they could not be prised away from sky sports were never proven

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