WAIMANALO, Hawaii –
The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab sponsored an Advanced Warfighting Experiment, featuring a half-scale Ultra Heavy-lift Amphibious Connector (UHAC) prototype at the Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, July 11.
The UHAC is a track driven connector that can reach reasonable water speeds and access beach areas that Landing Craft Air Cushion's (LCAC) and Landing Craft Utilities cannot. The UHAC was originally created by Navatek and the project was funded and carried out by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
"It has taken a number of years of development to get to this point," said Dr. Frank Leban, program officer at ONR. "This is actually the third demonstration vehicle in this program. There has been a one-fifth scale model, then a one-quarter scale model and this is a half scale model, so we have been progressing. Every vehicle has incorporated more features and technology to help get us to the full scale. 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."
The goal of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab was to assist with the development of the UHAC technology and feature the half-scale model during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2014.
"Showcasing the UHAC during RIMPAC is a big deal," said Dave George, project officer assigned to the Ground Combat Element Branch of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. "This is a great way to let people know that this new technology is being developed and this is a great way to show what it can do. Today went quite well. We had much better seas then we anticipated and we were still able to get onto the well deck of the USS Rushmore."
The model consists of two tracks that are made out of captured-air foam blocks, which gives the vehicle the propulsion it needs for land and sea travel. The UHAC is intended to be a heavy lift vehicle; the full scale UHAC will be able to carry three times more than an LCAC and can go over more obstacles including 10-foot-high sea walls.
"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," said Cmdr. Thomas Stephens, commanding officer of amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). "At the same time, there was an excitement about being in a position to assist in the development of something significant like UHAC. I saw that excitement and pride on board Rushmore a great deal today. It was awesome to see them so proud of what it is they do so well day in and day out. I'm very proud of my crew's support to the UHAC endeavor."
The UHAC departed Marine Corps Training Area the Bellows and made its way to the Rushmore, where it embarked the ship's well deck. It then picked up and transported an assault vehicle back to shore.
"Today's successful demonstration of the half-scale UHAC is the culmination of months of research and risk analysis," stated Capt. Clint Carroll, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3. "Setting the right conditions in the well deck was critical to the safe execution of this proof of concept. The Sailors of Rushmore performed flawlessly and the data collected during this well deck evaluation provides important information for follow on studies and design improvements."
Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.