During the 1950s and 1960s, NATO placed considerable emphasis on the development of amphibious vehicles.
It was believed that a Soviet invasion would cross the East German plains and that the Soviets would have destroyed as many river crossings as possible. Serious experiments were conducted with a view to making vehicles of all sizes capable of floating or deep-water wading, and various amphibious vehicles were produced as a result. Most armies were able to field small armoured vehicles which were amphibious or capable of being made amphibious. Russia remains an enthusiastic user of the amphibious combat vehicle.
Wartime amphibious vehicles included the US-built DUKW, which was based on the CMC 6×6 truck, the Jeep-based Ford GRW, and the Porsche-designed VW Schw/mmwagert. The DUKW can almost certainly be considered the most successful amphibious military vehicle of all time and, unsurprisingly, provided the model for many of the vehicles which followed. Other less successful vehicles were produced by Britain and Japan.
In the USA, GMC produced prototypes for the so-called “Soper Duck” around 1953, with a 2Vj- to 4-Ion cargo capacity.
In 1956. this was followed by the 8×8 “Drake” with an increased payload of 8-10 tons. Both were amphibious trucks which were equally suited (or equally unsuitable) on roads or relatively calm water. The LARC (Lighter, Amphibious. Resupply, Cargo) and BARC (Barge, Amphibious. Resupply. Cargo) were more like boats that were also fitted with wheels, enabling them to traverse beaches or loading ramps. There is no question that these vehicles could Lave been used in road-going supply convoys. Other US trucks which were required to provide some degree of amphibious operation included the M561 “Gama Goat” and the Caterpillar “Goer” family. Also the 5-ton 8×8 cargo vehicle prototyped in 1959-60 by Ford and others, such as the “Mover’’, It would be better to consider these as trucks which could float, should it be necessary, rather than fully amphibious vehicles.
The DUKW remained in service with the British Army for many years after the war, but it was eventually superseded by the Alvis Stalwart, a 5-ton 6xfi high-mobility load carrier that was fully amphibious. Unlike the US-built DUKW, and the “Super Duck” and ‘”Drake” experiments, the Stalwart was both steered and powered in the water by a Dowty Hydrojet system that provided improved performance. Notwithstanding drive-line problems caused by having just one differential, the Stalwart remained in service for 25-30 years. For the last 10 years in service the truck lacked any amphibious capability since the Hydrojet system was removed. There were also experiments with amphibious Land Rovers, both in Britain and Australia.
Berliet almost negotiated a licence to manufacture the Stalwart under the name Aurochs, but declined at the last minute. Marmon-Bocquet produced a similar 4-ton 4×4 amphibious truck which used Dowty Hydrojets for propulsion in the water. France, Germany and Italy also co-operated on the early development stages of an amphibious Jeep-type vehicle that would have been manufactured by Hotchkiss, Bussing and Lancia, but the project never passed the prototype stage.
The Soviet Union had used large numbers of Ford GPW amphibians during World War II and built a virtual copy, the GAZ-46 in the post-war years. Similarly, a DUKW copy was built from 1952 as the 2iL-485. Dating from the end of the 1950s, the LuAZ-967M was a small amphibious vehicle intended for ferrying supplies to the front line across difficult terrain, or for evacuating casualties carried on stretchers either side of the central driving position.
The truth is that the performance requirements for the two modes of operation of an amphibious vehicle are in conflict and most such vehicles are neither good trucks nor good boats. By the end of the century it was widely accepted that heavy-lift helicopters could be used to fulfil the role previously allocated to amphibious trucks, and such vehicles that remained in service were consigned to ferrying supplies from ship to shore.