M Amphibious ATV
Land Tamer amphibious 8×8 remote access vehicle
Amongst the smallest non air-cushioned amphibious vehicles are amphibious ATVs (all-terrain vehicles). These saw significant popularity in North America during the 1960s and early 70s. Typically an amphibious ATV (AATV) is a small, lightweight, off-highway vehicle, constructed from an integral hard plastic or fibreglass bodytub, fitted with six (sometimes eight) driven wheels, with low pressure, balloon tires. With no suspension (other than what the tires offer) and no steering wheels, directional control is accomplished through skid-steering – just as on a tracked vehicle – either by braking the wheels on the side where you want to turn, or by applying more throttle to the wheels on the opposite side. Most contemporary designs use garden tractor type engines, that will provide roughly 25 mph top speed on land.
Constructed this way, an AATV will float with ample freeboard and is capable of traversing swamps, ponds and streams as well as dry land. On land these units have high grip and great off-road ability, that can be further enhanced with an optional set of tracks that can be mounted directly onto the wheels. Although the spinning action of the tires is enough to propel the vehicle through the water – albeit slowly – outboard motors can be added for extended water use.
In October 2013, Gibbs Amphibians introduced the long-awaited Quadski, the first amphibious vehicle capable of traveling 45 mph on land or water. The Quadski was developed using Gibbs’ High Speed Amphibian technology, which Gibbs originally developed for the Aquada, an amphibious car, which the company has still not produced because of regulatory issues.
VW Schwimmwagen in June 1944
Amphibious automobiles have been conceived from ca. 1900, however the Second World War significantly stimulated their development. Two of the most significant amphibious cars to date were developed during World War II. The most proliferous was the German Schwimmwagen, a small jeep-like 4×4 vehicle designed by the Porsche engineering firm in 1942 and widely used in World War II. The amphibious bodywork was designed by Erwin Komenda, the firm’s body construction designer, using the engine and drive train of the Kübelwagen. An amphibious version of the Willys MB jeep, the Ford GPA or ‘Seep’ (short for Sea jeep) was developed during World War II as well. A specially modified GPA, called Half-Safe, was driven and sailed around the world by Australian Ben Carlin in the 1950s.
One of the most capable post-war amphibious off-roaders was the German Amphi-Ranger, that featured a hull made of seawater-resistant AlMg2 aluminium alloy. Extensively engineered, this costly vehicle was proven seaworthy at a Gale force 10 storm off the North Sea coast (Pohl, 1998). Only about 100 were built – those who own one have found it capable of crossing the English Channel almost effortlessly.
Purely recreational amphibian cars include the 1960s Amphicar and the contemporary Gibbs Aquada. With almost 4.000 pieces built, the Amphicar is still the most successfully produced civilian amphibious car to date. The Gibbs Aquada stands out due to its capability of high speed planing on water. Gibbs built a couple dozen Aquadas in the early 2000s after it was developed by a team assembled by founder Alan Gibbs before the company’s engine supplier, Rover, was unable to continue providing engines. Gibbs and new partner Neil Jenkins reconstituted the company and are now seeking U.S. regulatory approval for the Aquada Other amphibious cars include the US Hydra Spyder.
An amphibious cycle is a human-powered vehicle capable of operation on both land and water. Saidullah’s Bicycle uses four rectangular air filled floats for buoyancy, and is propelled using two fan blades which are attached to the spokes. Moraga’s Cyclo Amphibious uses a simple tricycle frame to support three floaters which provide both the floatation and thrust. The wings on the powered wheels propel the vehicle in a similar way to a paddle wheel.
The SBK Engineering Shuttle-Bike consists of 2 inflatable floats with straps that allow the carrying of a bicycle with passenger. The ensemble, when deflated, fits in a backpack for carrying by the cyclist.
Several amphibious cycles have been created by engineering students as university projects.
Amphibious buses are employed in some locations as a tourist attraction. A recent design is the AmphiCoach GTS-1.
With more than 20,000 units produced, the DUKW was the most successful amphibious truck of World War II. This 31-foot (9.4 m) 6×6 truck was used to establish and supply beachheads. It was designed as a wartime project by Sparkman & Stephens, a yacht design firm who also designed the hull for the Ford GPA ‘Seep’. During the war, Germany produced the Landwasserschlepper. In the 1950s, the Soviets developed the GAZ 46, BAV 485, and PTS.
During the Vietnam War, the US Army used the amphibious articulated Gama Goat and the larger M520 Goer truck-series to move supplies through the canals and rice paddies of Southeast Asia. The latter was based on a 1950s civil construction vehicle and became the US Army’s standard heavy tactical truck before its replacement by the HEMTT. Although the vehicles’ wheels were mounted without suspension or steering action, and land speeds over 20 mph were ill-advised, its articulated design provided it with good maneuverability and helped it to keep all four wheels firmly in touch with uneven ground. Coupled with its amphibious capability, in the Vietnam War, the M520 Goer developed a reputation of being able to go where other trucks could not.
For taking vehicles and supplies onto the beaches the US used the 1950s designed LARC-V and the huge LARC-LX which could carry 60 tons of cargo.
The British Army used the 6×6 wheeled Alvis Stalwart as their amphibious cargo carrier. In the water it was driven by vectored thrust water-jet propulsion units at about 6 knots.
The M3 Amphibious Rig can be used as a ferry or as a floating bridge for trucks and heavy combat vehicles.
Gibbs has also developed other types of fast amphibians including the Phibian, a 30-foot amphibian that is aimed at first responder market, and the Humdinga, a 21-foot amphibian that is capable of traversing extreme terrain.
BTR-80s coming ashore, engine snorkels and waterjet deployed
Many modern military vehicles, ranging from light wheeled command and reconnaissance vehicles, through armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and tanks, are manufactured with amphibious capabilities.
The French VBL is a compact, lightly armored 4×4 all-terrain vehicle that is fully amphibious and can swim at 5.4 km/h. The VAB is a French fully amphibious APC, powered in the water by two water jets, mounted one on either side of the rear hull (see detail picture above). It entered service in 1976 and around 5000 were produced in many configurations.
During the Cold War the Soviet bloc states developed a number of amphibious APCs, fighting vehicles and tanks, both wheeled and tracked. Most of the vehicles the Soviets designed were amphibious, or could ford deep water. Wheeled examples are the BRDM-1 and BRDM-2 4×4 armored scout cars, as well as the BTR-60, BTR-70, BTR-80 and BTR-94 8×8 APCs and the BTR-90 infantry fighting vehicle.