Lockheed Martin has conceived a new class of high-speed amphibious combat craft with a top speed of up to 50 knots on water and up to 80 miles per hour on land. Significantly, the vehicles can make the transition from land to water and vice versa in five seconds and will be capable of traveling 50 miles on sea and then 100 more on land without having to refuel. The new concept is to be announced at the Navy League show in Washington, D.C., starting April 2. The United States plus Brazil, Colombia and Israel are among those that have already shown interest.
Lockheed Martin proposes to build the new craft for U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces as well as for Foreign Military Sales. The vehicles are based on a family of commercial high-speed amphibians developed by British-based Gibbs Technologies Ltd. The British company, founded by New Zealand entrepreneur Alan Gibbs, in 2006 was invited to participate in U.S. foreign comparative testing.
As part of this, the U.S. Navy has "played" with Gibbs’ technology to find its capabilities and limits, including potential deployment from the well dock of a landing platform dock (LPD) ship like the new class of LPD-17s. The Aquada amphibian car, the Humdinga 4x4 utility vehicle capable of travelling up to 80 mph on land and 45 mph on water, and the Quadski high-speed amphibian quad bike were all evaluated.
Since then, Gibbs has teamed with Lockheed Martin to specifically develop and market military craft based on the high-speed amphibian concept. The first of Lockheed Martin's new designs is the 35.4-foot, six-wheel Amphibious Combat Craft/Riverine (ACC/R) that weighs 19,276 pounds. It would be capable of carrying up to 20 personnel above 35 knots on water and faster than 65 mph on land. The second is the four-wheel Amphibious Combat Craft/Expeditionary (ACC/E). This 8,800-lb vehicle measures 20 feet in length and can carry up to eight personnel at 40 knots and 80 mph, respectively.
The six-wheel, all-terrain ACC/R will be designed for assault and armed-escort operations for ship-to-shore maneuvers, insertion/extraction of ground forces as well as patrol or transport operations. Typically its armament would include a remote-controlled weapons station such as Kongsberg's M151 Protector, supporting a .50-cal. or 7.62-mm machine gun or automatic grenade launcher. The smaller ACC/E may be outfitted with an antiarmor missile launcher. It also can be used for reconnaissance or medevac, as well as for assault, patrol or transport.
Lockheed, meanwhile, is contemplating a small-size all-terrain amphibious vehicle known as Terraquad, a two-person craft ideally suited for harbor and coastal patrol. Marine propulsion for all variants will use Gibbs' proprietary waterjet technology. Gibbs Technologies representatives toured automotive industries in the Detroit area earlier this week to look for possible engine suppliers.
--Joris Janssen Lok