Rescuers, volunteers and firefighters: the importance of amphibious vehicles

(To Gianluca Celentano)

It is truly dramatic to retrace the tragic hours of the emergency in Emilia-Romagna; the water has submerged entire villages, erasing all architectural references and forcing thousands of people to be evacuated.

We have water at our throats, this is the dramatic sentence uttered on Thursday the 18th by one of the first interviewees. Rivers and canals have passed the hydrometric warning, overflowing and creating hell above all in Ravenna, Forlì, Cesena and Faenza. Minister Musumeci himself spoke in the following hours of 15 thousand displaced persons (source Rai).

The alert is red and Italian solidarity is not long in coming even if the roads and railways are blocked and the only way to approach and bring help is to use helicopters, boats and amphibious vehicles.

Helicopters and rescue boats are the carriers on which the greatest emphasis has been placed in emergency organization, being in force in the police and fire brigade corps. With climate change so violent and unpredictable the importance and usefulness of amphibious vehicles is back in the spotlight. There is no shortage of controversy that has arisen over the poor cleaning and maintenance of watercourses, but the rescue sector will undoubtedly also need more public attention and a few more vehicles.

Amphibious vehicles: a niche product

In the military field, the concept of amphibious "multitasking" vehicle capable of diving into the sea and moving in water finds the AAV7 Assault Amphibious Vehicle, serving in the lagoon regiment Serene and in the Marine Brigade Saint Mark (waiting for 36 VBA 8×8 from Iveco Defense Vehicles) and also appreciated by the United States Marine Corps (Amphibious Combat Vehicle of Bae Systems/IDV acquired in over 500 specimens, ed). It is the armored vehicle with 2 adjustable hydro-jets capable of fulfilling navigation and vehicle needs off road.

Recent projects of amphibious vehicles are above all military, such as the STORM-MPV high-performance crawler built in the United Arab Emirates, one of the most versatile, while, in the civil sector, it is the bus (you got it right) AmphiCoach GTS-1 is the ideal vessel for crossing the waterways that invade city streets, reaching a cruising speed of 20 knots. It is built on an Iveco base with a Tector engine (the same as Eurocargo) and permanent four-wheel drive.

Il Daffy (duck)

The first 6640 A series was made by Fiat in 1950 and it was only in the 80s, with the newborn Iveco, that a makeover technician who had it baptized 6640 G. Although it does not appear in the technical manuals, unofficially the amphibious vehicle from the Fiat-Iveco house has taken on a singular nickname: Daffy, i.e. "weird". This is due to its design ambiguity, but the nice nickname, which immediately makes one think of Daffy Duck the duck from the Warner Bros comics, the official name was confirmed above all in the National Corps of Firefighters and in rescue, where it is still in service.

Il Daffy it has allowed our firefighters who arrived first with mobile columns in Emilia-Romagna to bring relief to the population, saving hundreds of people and bringing basic necessities. He has incessantly traveled roads that at a certain point became navigable, in a complementary work with hovercraft and helicopters.

As did

The 6640 G 4x4 code identifies the vehicle which, even for personal data, has at first glance some points in common with the popular ACM80 truck, for example the instrumentation. The chassis derives from a truck and what changes are the two axles, the pneumo-hydraulic systems and the cab layout and, of course, the large 4mm aluminum hull that descends from the high waistline.

From bow to stern it measures 8,2m and its load stands at 2t; appreciable the bridge with a large surface to transport the people rescued. The overall capacity is 8460 kg which does not affect the marine or road characteristics.

There is a winch with a capacity of 4,5 t that can be used, thanks to referrals, both at the bow and at the stern, where a small and practical crane can be applied.

After the restyling, the submerged propulsion went from propeller to Ultrajet 305 hydrojet which generates just over 5M (10 km/h), even if some say it is faster.

The engine is a 6 cm5499 3 HP 192-cylinder turbodiesel combined with a 100-speed TX 3 automatic transmission with clutch lock up on the converter.

The transmission system is designed to take advantage of the hydraulic torque multiplication for heavy efforts or to exclude the semi-tors of the converter (lock-up clutch) based on which position is selected on the gear ring nut. The selector positions are unique compared to the standards: R>N>3-6>3-5>3-4>1-2 where, the engagement 3-6 is for flat and "fast" gear, 3-5 for light ascents or descents, 3-4 inoff road and 1-2 on steep slopes.

Traction is rear (part time) but can also be engaged at the front and the differentials can be excluded with a command identical to that of the ACM80. A handwheel placed between the front seats governs the jet which rotates 360° and is activated by a command placed near the handbrake with gear position N. Like a boat, it is equipped with white, red and green navigation lights.

The RAV 6x6

Observing the three axes of the RAV, there is some resemblance to the VBTP-MR military tactician Guarani 6x6. The most recent amphibian production dates back to 2012 (the VBTP also entered service in the same year) and is signed by Iveco Magirus: the Rav 6x6 Duffy.

We are talking about a versatile and updated amphibious vehicle where we are not talking about the chassis but a 15-ton chassis with three axles, equipped with an FPT Industrial N60 ENT engine and an automatic gearbox Allison.

Interesting system backup emergency aid for navigation and fully enclosed cockpit in light alloy. The vehicle is in service in the CNVF and is flanking the smaller and older 6640G in Emilia-Romagna.

The project, specific to Iveco, was born from the experience gained with previous models, required a long development, since the request of the rescue services was for a vehicle with high transport capacity for the supply of isolated populations following floods or the rescue of populations.

Relief consideration

Discussing rescue brings to mind three main figures: the fireman, the volunteer rescuer/logist and the ambulance, i.e. Healthcare. It is therefore good not to forget the role that is increasingly under the spotlight today of these indispensable figures and roles, which are remembered only when there is an emergency. A joint work where thousands of volunteers are added, animated by altruism and a sense of duty, but very little considered.

Photo: Fire Brigade / IDV / Threecharlie / Iveco