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Amphibious Boats and Vehicles


Just a quick drive by post on the subject of amphibious vehicles, or maybe amphibious boats.

Examples include the CTruck Avenger amphibious rescue and survey vehicle, Searoader Amphitruck and Gibbs Phibian. The Sea Legs concept is interesting and the technology has been licenced to a number of builders including Stabicraft and ReconCraft.

Any military applications?

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28 Responses

  1. Can’t see any great military use for any of them but the Sealegs system looks like it could be useful for the RNLI

  2. I still prefer my selection: But while looking at the commercial market and wondering what might be OK in military roles is beguiling (particularly for bean-counters), surely the right questions to ask are “What capabilities do we need? What capability gaps exist? Compared with other known capability shortfalls, what priority would a new capability have?” Once these are answered then by all means look at the COTS offerings. But if they don’t cut mustard, do the right thing and invent/develop the right capability – don’t just buy something inadequate and give it an exciting label, for that doesn’t help the armed forces do their job nor is it money well spent; all it would be is a slap of political whitewash for the purposes of getting more votes and extending political careers.

  3. Not sure about military “offensive” use, but certainly has many applications in regards to humanitarian support. Probably ideal for use in the Caribbean supporting the RFA during the hurricane season. Maybe DFID should buy some to be operated by RN/RM

  4. Having a stock of Phibians and the smaller Humdinga would help in the UK too for the inevitable floods.

  5. It’s a bit of kit looking for a requirement, which is rarely a good place to be.

    As for UK floods, these lads developed the solution a couple of years ago….

  6. Ingenious team there, NaB. Wonder if they produce more documentaries of their inventions?

  7. They build a 8 man 7.1m version , 1500kg payload that looks a better fit. The on board generator that powers the wheels as its integral to the design could be useful and the ability to self deploy without needing a trailer and a 4×4 as well as being able to cross sand banks , ishmuths etc in the littoral or up river could give the ability to use RHIB’s beyond previously impassable barriers , OPFOR who consider certain areas impassable at certain tide states etc . At present they retail with a 200hp single outboard at over £100k + VAT each through a UK distributor . Do the wheels add anything extra to offensive ops is the question as Chris states.

  8. I’m a pessimist, so my stance is similar to that of NaB’s. There simply isn’t a hard requirement for them. They are in the “nice to have” category and I don’t see governments going out of their way to get it. I’ll be the first to admit that I love the idea of amphibious vehicles, the tactical flexibility to cross water obstacles and deploy from sea is very attractive. Add basic 7.62 resistance and you have a very nice scout car/insertion vehicle. But governments and armies work on “the minimum needed” and this is classed as Gucci equipment. Very nice and useful and I would love to be able to use one, but still Gucci.

  9. Its probably just me, but I would like to see the Royal Marines get a small number (25-35) ST Kinetics Bionix II. 30mm Bushmaster cannon, 21-23 tons, 70 kp/h on land, 8 kp/h on water.

  10. JH, I’m not really sure if your people can fit! I had a visit from some of my regional bosses from the US and Europe a few months back and my first thought was “What the hell do they feed those guys!!??”. They got 6 inches +/- on us and walking through doorways must be a daily hazard for them. Trying to squeeze them into a small metal box sounds like it is an excuse to drum up business for chiropractors.

    I also heard some rumours that, if you recall, when the Warthog was first introduced into Afghanistan, there was an interview with a Major where he was hemming and hawing about the “teething problems” with the vehicle. Part of the “teething problems” was the seat size. The average seat size was too small for European builds. I do sympathize with him a little. How are you going to say “The seats were too small and gave us numb butts.” in a televison interview? :)

  11. Obs – people size is an issue. The last vehicle I was involved on* had a formal requirement to accommodate 97th percentile male soldiers (in full kit, obviously). Out of interest, having knocked up a scale manikin of said modern soldier, I tried to fit this sized manikin as driver and vehicle commander in a similarly scaled Saracen APC – they might have fitted (just) but with back hunched and neck cranked and knees by their elbows there would be little chance of efficient operation of the vehicle. I doubt there would be enough seat adjustment for them either. It was pointless assessing if the 8 dismounts would fit – there was neither adequate width per seat nor space between opposite seat-backs to get them in. And yet 50 years ago the British soldier did fit Saracen, possibly not in great comfort but they fitted. Is the difference that people have become bigger? No doubt the availability of food has increased average weight – the 1960 soldier was a child when there was rationed food still in the UK, and I’m pretty sure lean kids tend to be lean adults. Also the armed forces can be more selective now they are so much smaller in number and may favour the Ox over the Terrier. And the personal equipment each soldier wears has increased. And body armour increases bulk. For so many reasons the volume to be available for each passenger within vehicles has increased. Plus of course now the forces have female personnel in combat zones and they tend to be smaller in bulk, so the adjustment range of seating and controls has increased significantly to ensure the smallest female can operate the vehicle systems as effectively as the largest male.

    Interestingly a century back the British Army had a size requirement – would-be soldiers had to reach 5ft 3″ (1.6m) to be recruited. When attrition meant there were too few potential recruits that met all the criteria, the height requirement was reduced to 4ft 10″. These smaller soldiers were deployed together as the Bantam Battalions, and showed that height had little to do with the ability to fight, their determination, their tenacity. It may be that the need to prove they were up to the job made them more capable.

    *As in the last vehicle I worked on when working for a big corporation and which was being designed against a specific requirement.

  12. @Chris
    The increase in size of the average person fit enough for military duties is tailing off but still increasing and with a vehicle lifetime expectancy of 50 years is perceived to need all of room for growth , not just itself! As you say with the addition of full battle armour , as well as blast absorbing seats needing additional space the internal volume required just grows and grows whilst the maximum external envelope for rail transit isn’t. A designers nightmare , yours I believe . Thinner battle armour in the future due to new materiel’s ( grapheene or whatever ) could slim this down but would it ? Surely they will keep the same thickness of a soldiers battle armour for more protection? Similar for the vehicle armour , but I think they have to say eventually enough I good enough and soldiers personal mobility as well as vehicles is higher on the spiders web chart that TD posted a while ago. If you cant move to react to an external input quick enough you will be hit more than the initial round and the armour will start to fail negating its benefit. A difficult balance.

  13. Correct monkey its all a compromise – I’m sure there are smart people using smart software to model survivability to the Nth degree; I don’t have access to major simulation tools on supercomputers so go with what feels about right. Should the designs be picked up for development, no doubt they would be refined using lots of Gucci tools. The funny thing is, the world is not precise and uniform and all sorts of variation in weapon effect will be injected by the environment its used in/on/through. A bit of gut feel may well prove as accurate in reality to months of supercomputer number crunching. In the end real life is done in handfuls not precise and repeatable nano-pascals per cubic metre…

    The sort of compromises are just how much space to provide internally against external size against weight against mobility against mechanical systems volume against transportability envelope against preparation time for transport against protection levels against stealth against sensors against firepower against weapon system/ammo volume against stowage capacity – all tipping the balance against something else. Which is why vehicles can end up in quite a diverse array of shapes and sizes. There is no ‘right’ answer, just the best compromise for the given required capability.

  14. Chris, we are noticing the same problem as well, the 80s generation average is about 4 inches shorter than the current average. If it continues, the average soldier might not be able to fit. Could be a problem in the future, might have to selectively recruit people for armour instead of expanding the vehicle to fit. Which is why I think JH’s suggestion of the Bionix might not work. It’s already quite snug for us.

  15. @Chris
    An engineers lifes is often not a happy one as there are so many ‘right’ answers but one has get others to accept there is no ‘right/perfect’ answer just the best compromise which people seem so difficult with. As when you mentioned sticking the weight of a medium weapon in a manned turret on top of an already tall APC to make the more ‘firepower/versatility’ crowd happy it can all go very wrong. Even the Israelis’ with their very limited scope of deployment have moved away from the combined heavy APC/MBT of the Merkava to the all APC of the Namer with a little self defence remotely controlled gun. You cannot have all things to all men all the time in all conditions.

  16. An engineers life is often not a happy one…

    Are you kidding? Some of us got to play with jet engines, wriggle around in crawl spaces with power tools and fire rockets!

  17. TOC – despite the hassles that engineering brings, I’m with you on that. So many times the thought “How good is that!!” becomes the only way to express the fine satisfaction of either designing something really good or discovering some bit of really clever engineering someone did before. I am lightyears away from being bored with engineering…

  18. monkey, the Namer was not an APC, it was originally designed as a field ambulance IIRC. The Israelis are still using Merkavas. You misunderstood why they developed the Namer, not to replace the Merkava but to extract people under fire.

  19. Observer makes the right point (though the uses have since evolved). Namer derives from a shameful (not to any individual, but to the reputation of the IDF) situation at the very end of the fighting in the Bekaa valley. A lead armoured bn got cut off, could not be relieved, and had to make a run for it, with the help of 11 arty bns fire diverted to cover that:

    ” Eventually, the IDF was unable to mount a large-scale operation in time to recover the embattled battalion; the 90 and the nearby 880 Ugdas – deployed to Lebanon only a day earlier – were busy attempting to prevent the 3rd Syrian Armoured Division’s attempt to advance towards the south, and preven the 1st Armoured Division from deploying along the Beirut-Damascus road towards west.

    Eventually, what was left of the 362 Battalion had to dash for Israeli lines in the course of the morning, with massive artillery support, but leaving some eight destroyed or abandoned M-48s behind.

    There was a sense of urgency in extracting the remnants of the 362 Battalion from behind the Syrian lines, then meanwhile the final Israeli push towards north was in full swing, while the Syrian 1st Armoured was deploying along the highway from the border towards Beirut. Besides, the Israeli and Syrian governments agreed to a ceasefire, to start at noon of 11 June”

    Does not sound like much, but those modernised M48s had onboard the very latest US armour piercing rounds, which in the hurry were left intact. Syria shipped them to the USSR plenty quick, and the frontal armour of T72 (only the real thing, not the export versions) soon became protected against them (and anything older)… a major shift in power balance as the T72s were counted in thousands.

    Uncle Sam has not forgotten, and the IDF promised not to foul up again (in order to be resupplied again in the hour of need).

  20. Don’t know about that ACC, my first recollection of the Namer was the nickname “Tankbulance”.

  21. Observer,

    Merkava itself, in the space meant for bringing in extra rounds, can take a stretcher, or a whole tank crew from a stricken tank, huddled together under tight conditions.

    Bringing back a whole stricken/ immobilised unit was a new experience. I think that is what you are referring to.

    Since, Namer has found many other uses against an opponent without armour, but preferring to fight in built-up surroundings and possessing a lot of close-up AT weapons.

  22. Observer, One solution would be to abandon the 3 crew + 7 to 9 dismounts in the Bionix brochure, fit bigger seats & just have 3 crew + 4 or 5 dismounts. Sorted.

  23. JH, it’s not the width only. It’s the height. The next generation of vehicles will catch up to the body sizes of you guys, or at least European sizes will be taken into consideration for possible foreign sales (actually it already has) but not for the small box that is the Bionix. It was developed too long ago that foreign sales and larger soldier sizes were not a consideration. Though it was slightly taller than the old CVR(T)/Stormer. Soldiers seem to have grown a lot since then.

    The Terrex might be a much better fit with some advantages, for example the conversion to swim mode is much faster without added modules, just extend the trim vane, the dismount sizes are already adapted for larger soldiers, propeller instead of thread propulsion in water, thicker side armour, less maintenance and more strategic reach (wheeled vs tracked debate). Unfortunately, it is too much like your FRES UV, so it would actually make more sense to slap a 30mm on a future FRES UV than to buy from ST Kinetics.

    Still think the Warthog might be worth a second look, I personally think that the tactical and strategic implications of ATTCs have not been fully utilized yet, both in terms of logistics and deployment. The ability to disconnect a group of rear modules into a fast firebase with AR level resistance might be worth a look, or even the tactics used in Afghanistan, the “combat caravaning” where they circle the wagons to provide a quick safe haven. It’s something like the old Roman tactic of forting up whenever they encamp, but much faster. Not to mention that the ability to convert “fighting vehicles” to “movers” would help logistics a lot, no need to have dedicated logistics vehicles, just get the unit to send one of their guys back to lug all the stuff forward in a cargo module. Something that might be worth thinking of.

  24. The CTruck Avenger looks like it was designed with Morecambe Bay in mind. Might make a good addition to Bay Rescue’s fleet.

    Other than that, one might suggest that the Coastguard could use something like the Gibbs Phibian. You know, so that they can actually get about along the wet bit of the coast instead of having to call out the RNLI whenever someone gets stuck where an Landrover cannot go. Not that I’m suggesting the chaps in blue overalls aren’t splendid, but we must have the only landlocked coastguard in the world.

  25. @mark1603 – they may not be as useful in dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane, as you might think. A lot of Caribbean islands have main roads that run along the coast, which makes them very vulnerable to storm damage. Those bits that haven’t been washed away are usually covered in storm debris (think palm trees, electrical and telephone poles and cabling, roofs, cars, small boats, bits of (sometimes entire) beach-front apartment blocks etc.) Even an amphibious ATV is going to have trouble getting through that. Good for getting stuff to, and up, the beach, but not necessarily far beyond that. Tracked vehicles may be more appropriate

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