This Tank Thinks It's a Beach-Storming Hovercraft

As the U.S. military explores the idea of moving our forward operating bases offshore, it is faced with the issue of actually getting troops from ship to land. However, at last month's RIMPAC exercises in Hawaii, the Navy showed off the future of landing craft with a gargantuan aquatic tank prototype—and even that's only half the size of the final design.

Developed by the Office of Naval Research in collaboration with Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, the Ultra Heavy-lift Amphibious Connector (UHAC) prototype measures 42 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 17 feet tall. It rides atop a pair of massive treads filled with captured-air foam cells that provide buoyancy and double as paddles in water but flatten out when rolling over hard surfaces to minimize the 100 ton vehicle from sinking into sand or tearing up tarmac as it rolls across.

"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," Captain James Pineiro, Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab's Science and Technology Division, told the Marine Corps Times.

The 200-ton full-size production vehicle, as of yet unbuilt, will measure a staggering 84 feet long, 34 feet tall, carry nearly its own weight in gear and smaller vehicles (190 tons—that's three M1A1 Abrams tanks) at speeds up to 25 mph, then climb over 10 foot tall obstacles on the beach without breaking a sweat. It is being built to replace the current fleet of Landing Craft Air Cushion (read: hovercraft) vehicles, which offer barely a third of the UHAC's estimated carrying capacity. It's debut at RIMPAC went swimmingly, however the Navy remains mum on when we'll see the full-size version. You can be sure though, it won't be easy to miss once the UHAC does enter service. [Gizmag - Guns - Daily Mail]