The U.S. Marines have shown off their new amphibious vehicle designed to storm beaches, transport troops and scale buildings.
The Ultra Heavy-lift Amphibious Connector (Uhac) was unveiled at the Marine Corps Training Area Bellows in Hawaii during a month-long training and demonstration exercise.
When it enters service at an unknown date the final vehicle will have a top speed of about 25 miles (40 km) per hour and be capable of scaling obstacles such as sea walls 10 feet (three metres) high.
This particular vehicle on show was a half-scale prototype of the eventual Uhac.
It was shown as part of the Marine Corps Warfighting laboratory during the at-sea phase of the Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) 2014 exercise.
This involved 22 nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, 25,000 personnel and more than 200 aircraft in demonstrations of new and existing technologies and procedures.
The half-scale version, made of aluminium, measured in at 42 feet (13 metres) long, 26 feet (eight metres) wide and 17 feet (five metres) high.
The full-scale Uhac will be able to carry the equivalent of three M1A1 tanks, or cargo weighing up to 200 tons, at speeds of 25 miles (40 kilometres) per hour.
It will ultimately be 84 feet (25 metres) long, 34 feet (10 metres) high and have a range of 200 miles (320 kilometres).
The Uhac model consists of two tracks that are composed of dozens of air-filled foam blocks, which gives the vehicle the propulsion it needs for land and sea travel.
In the water the tracks act as paddles but on land they are similar to a tank, letting it traverse across difficult terrain such as mud and sand.
They also barely leave an impression on the ground as they flatten out on impact with a hard surface; in a demonstration the huge vehicle moved over a tar road without leaving a mark.
In a test Uhac drove to the USS Rushmore, picked up an assault vehicle and took it back to shore.
Although the final version will be bigger overall it will have a lower profile, as the elevated ‘cab’ will be removed.
While the prototype can only go five miles (eight kilometres) per hour on water, the final version will be about five times faster.
That’s half the speed of the Navy’s hovercraft known as the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), but the latter isn’t as adept as the UHAC of moving over tough terrain.
‘It has taken a number of years of development to get to this point,’ said Dr Frank Leban, program officer at the Office of Naval Research.
‘Over the past year the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab has gotten involved and they are looking at trying to put this technology in an operational context.
‘They have been coming up with vignettes and scenarios on how the UHAC can be used.’
Commander Thomas Stephens, commanding officer of the USS Rushmore, added: ‘There was generally some degree of apprehension since it is a new and unfamiliar piece of equipment and how it would operate with the ship.
‘At the same time, there was an excitement about being in a position to assist in the development of something significant like UHAC.’