The US Marines have been planning up the "Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connector" (UHAC) to replace their beach-storming hovercrafts since 2008. They started building this one in 2012, and have finally brought out of the garage for a little test drive.
This UHAC is a massive 42' long, 26' wide, and 17' high... and it's only a half-scale demonstration version. The final form will have 2,500 square feet of parking space on the deck, be able to carry 150 tons of gear (or 190 tons with special upfitting).
Maybe next year they'll combined it with the Black Knight Transformer to make it fly...
The Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) hovercrafts that Marines have been using since the 1980's only have 1,800 square feet of parking space, with a range of 86 nautical miles. The new UHAC would be able to go 200 nautical miles before a refuel. Plus it can climb ten-foot walls.
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The LCAC is pretty sweet though. Here's one storming San Clemente Island in training.
Captain James Pineiro, Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab's Science and Technology Division, the Marine Corps Times that the vehicle's overland travel is enabled low pressure captive air cells in the tracks. "At about a pound per square inch, the UHAC can cross mud flats and tidal marsh areas. And the tracks can crawl over a sea wall of up to 10 feet," he said.
Those tracks kill the vehicle's hydrodynamics so much that it can only do about 20 knots in the water, compared to the hovercraft's top speed of 40. But the UHAC's climbing and crushing skills seem to make the trade off worth it.
Business Insider says the UHAC began testing on July 9th at the Marine Corps Training Area Bellows on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Hawaii. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and the Office of Naval Research are eager to see how their new creation will run with other military toys at the "Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014" down there, which is going on through the end of the month.
Marine Corps Times reported that "the Navy began purchasing its 91 LCACs in the early 1980s at per-unit costs ranging from $22 million to $32 million, or between $45 and $75 million with inflation adjusted." Apparently the UHAC cost about half that.
If the military likes what it sees with the half-sized UHAC demo rig, they'll commission a full-scale version and after that potentially a fleet of them. I wasn't even aware that beach-storming was still a priority for the US military, but it sure looks like their engineers are pretty fired about this bad boy.
Images: Corporal Matthew J. Bragg/USMC & US Navy/Flickr