It's not every day you wake up to find your local state park has been transformed into a landing zone for what appears to be a very localized amphibious assault. However, that happened Tuesday at Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, New Jersey. Two massive Vietnam-era amphibious vehicles with engine issues drove ashore for repairs on their way from Staten Island to the Chesapeake Bay area, and boy did people notice.
The pair of vehicles are LARC-LXs, the largest 4x4s the U.S. Army has ever operated. Built by LeTourneau Technologies—the same people behind the military's unbelievable overland trains—the 100-ton vehicles were initially used for delivering men and equipment from ships offshore to nearby beaches. They were all retired from service in 2001 after first entering the Army's motor pool in 1952. As to why they were ever in a position to wash up on a beach in New Jersey is a pretty straightforward story, as it turns out.
As News12 New Jersey reports, the two vehicles were purchased a few years ago in Staten Island by a brother and sister who plan to use them as a part of a marine construction business in Virginia. After months of fixing them in preparation for the journey, the two vehicles set sail from the New York metro area but didn't get very far. Luckily, each has a single Detroit Diesel engine per wheel, so even losing two engines isn't the end of the world. After limping ashore early Tuesday morning, the two vehicles have been sitting on the beach waiting for repairs that will enable them to continue their journey.
But how did such massive vehicles end up for sale in the first place? After the LARC-LX was finally retired from active service just after 2000, many were purchased by regular civilians from the government. Yes, Uncle Sam just sold them to the highest bidder. As it turns out, they still are handy for construction on things like islands or otherwise difficult-to-reach areas. A few are still operated by construction companies, especially on the East Coast. We have previously written about the LARC-LX and were able to identify at least two instances of businesses using them for marine construction. Below, you can see a video of one delivering a cement truck to a beach in New York.
These tired old beasts are making ground at just six knots, according to their new owner. Despite this, he's optimistic they'll be useful further south where there's demand for their capabilities. “There's a lot of need for erosion mitigation, dredging, riprap, all the problems that you’ll have up here, we have the same problems on the bay,” John Hennage, the buyer of the two machines, told News 12. “It's just we don't have the infrastructure... so [the LARC-LX] allows all the equipment to be brought in from the water.”
When they eventually do arrive in the Chesapeake Bay area, I'm sure we'll see plenty more videos and pictures posted to social media, though. No, your local beach isn't being invaded by a well-equipped private army. It's just Hennage probably delivering some building supplies.
Man. I should buy one of these.
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