Amphibian MK3 Commando Kayak [61]

The Design, Development & Production of Australia’s First Military Folding Kayak for ‘Special Forces’

By Peter Rattenbury

This Is Peter James Pool’s Story Of The Design, Production, Testing And Delivery To The Adf Of The Australian Designed & Manufactured Special Forces Two-Person Collapsible Sea Kayak – Amphibian MK3

The USA published Folding Kayaker explored what civilians can learn from the specifically designed amphibious equipment and techniques used by Special Forces (Australian Commandos) who put their lives on the line at sea with their folding kayaks. Now, thanks to Folding Kayaker subscriber, Peter Rattenbury (retired SMH journalist) of NSW, Australia, here is a look at a unique military, foldable, Australian designed and developed kayak called the Amphibian Mk 3 that was designed by an Australian Commando and Marine Engineer, Peter James Pool, twenty five years ago.

The Amphibian Mk3 is a remarkable kayak of which I have heard a bit about over the years from the Australian Special Forces and Navy Special Underwater Operations Group (a project approved by the ADF and Special Forces in 1983, of which the design details remained classified until 2003).

Background of Special Forces Commando Operations

The Australian designed Amphibian MK3 folding kayak was designed and developed for Special Forces units throughout the world. The craft was designed to operate in extreme sea conditions and carry maximum loads without being lost at sea, even when totally swamped and launched from submarines or coastal patrol vessels.

Australian Specialised Defence Equipment, along with Defence Engineers and Australian Commando Unit (1 Company based in Sydney) and members of the SAS regiment, required the Amphibian MK3 to be capable of carrying its two-man crew and a payload of 200kg of equipment in Beaufort Sea State 5.

The operational role of this type of craft today is still significantly important in that special Commando forces or SAS teams can carry out operational missions without being detected by sophisticated radar systems. Conventional high speed, rigid, motorised craft are easily detected and may be destroyed or fired upon before even getting within range of their target. The British SBS Commandos who used kayaks during the Falklands War and some two hundred SBS operations during WWII found that they could successfully send in reconnaissance teams, secure beach landing positions, set up communications and provide an initial fighting force prior to a main invasion. During WW2 SBS Commandos also used kayaks to rescue Special Forces pilots and allied officers in Europe, including Australians.

Conventional air force and naval landings were near impossible during the Falklands War due to the accuracy of air to surface Excocet missiles. The Middle East War in the Gulf experienced a similar fate because of the quantity and varied air-to-surface missiles that have a heat seeking sensor. The Amphibian MK3 with its plastic skeletal frame and hypalon hull skin is capable of evading radar as well as heat seeking and noise detection devices. The craft has a carrying capacity of 300kg, that is, it could carry two Commandos fully equipped with two hundred kilograms (100kg) of equipment if required.

The unique Amphibian MK3 GRP laminated composite, twin keelson, rigid folding frame provides stability, load support and structural strength when operating in the worst sea conditions. The high strength plastic/fibreglass foam sandwich, resin-injected frame components provide the most modern high tech materials and at the same time make the craft totally unsinkable. It also has advantages over timber-framed craft in that it does not break down (rot or fail to fungus) when immersed in fresh or salt water. Providing the craft is maintained in a serviceable condition, no components will need to be replaced in the field of operation.

The remarkable exploits by elite Australian Commando units during World War II are not only the pride of today’s Special Forces and ADF but also the stuff of popular legends immortalised in Australian literature and documentary feature films. No one has to explain what a folding sea kayak is to the Commando units and the sport of sea kayaking is today one of the most popular water sports in Australia. The first Australian sea kayakers were Commandos from 1 Commando Company in Sydney after the accomplishments of the Australian Z Special Forces of World War II. The British SBS Commando Unit trained the men of 1 Commando Company 50 years ago in the UK using the original MK1 Slazenger folding kayak and this training has been continued in Australia since that time.

The Amphibian MK3 is capable of being launched from any defence transport system, that is, air, sea or land. The craft has been tested in Beaufort Sea State 5 by the Australian Commandos and can operate up to twenty-five (25) nautical miles out to sea. The Australian designed Amphibian MK3 has the capability of carrying out its operational mission without being detected by sophisticated and extremely effective missile systems such as Exocet and other heat and radar tracking systems.

Today, with the realisation of the devastation capability of air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile systems, the Amphibian MK3 kayak provides a method to achieve a successful mission. For example, Special Forces can be deployed from submarines to a secure landing beach for reconnaissance followed by a safe withdrawal without detection by enemy forces.

There are a number of reasons why the ADF required a new military folding kayak that was to be designed and developed in Australia for Commandos:

  1. Far removed from manufacturing sources for military hardware, Australia’s military feels vulnerable and has a need to nourish local alternatives. So when Klepper temporarily closed its doors in the late 1970s due to bankruptcy, alarm bells rang at Defence Headquarters in Canberra. If Klepper weren’t in business, who would supply vital folding kayaks and spares to the Australian Special Forces?
  2. In 1980 the Australian Defence Department decided to develop an Australian designed and manufactured two-person folding kayak for the Australian Army Commandos and naval ship CD assault divers from the R.A.N.
  3. These new SF kayaks were to be PLF air deployable and submarine stored and launched from the Oberon and Collins class vessels and high-speed coastal patrol vessels.
  4. Folding kayaks have always held a particular place in the operational history of Special Forces from Australia, Britain and New Zealand. More so than counterparts in other countries such as the US Rangers, Navy Seal teams and the Australian and New Zealand Special Forces continue to depend on folding kayaks extensively. Folding kayak training is integral to all the Special Forces units for submarine stealth operations (reference operations: Z & M Special Units Jaywick and Rimau Commando operations).

Design Considerations for Special Forces Operations

Australia has one of the longest coastlines in the world. The distance around Australia’s coastline is more than 12,000 nautical miles with 9,642 beaches and that isn’t counting every harbour, river and cove. So there is more at stake for its armed forces in having every type of weapon to protect its shore in remote, hard-to-reach regions and inland waters which are a folding kayak’s specialty. The Amphibian was to be transported by submarine or special operations aircraft, that is, Chinook CH47 and Hercules HC130 and deployed anywhere in the world.

The project gained approval in 1982 and the ADF and the Army Materials Branch HQ in Canberra appointed a team of twelve engineers and Army officers from their branch and Special Forces. A public tender was called and a design competition held to see what Australian industry could offer the ADF Special Forces.

When tenders were advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper to design and build Australia’s own folding kayak using local companies and new hi-tech materials, Peter James Pool jumped at the opportunity to tender along with more than 10 other Australian and New Zealand companies. His newly formed company, PJP Marine Consultants, won the contract and built the first Australian designed and manufactured Amphibian 2-person folding kayak for Australian Special Forces. It was to be known as the Amphibian Mk3 two-person collapsible sea kayak.

Amphibian’s Genesis in Design & the Design Team

Senior Defence Industry D.O.D Engineer, Bruce Quinlan, quoted in February 1983:

“Peter Pool was in an ideal position to help. He had just left the Army after serving in the Royal Australian Engineers and 1 Commando Company to set up his own marine design and engineering business. He had over a decade of experience using Kleppers and training Commando units in water operations and he had service with the 32 Small Ships Squadron in Vietnam as a marine engineer. Before volunteering for the Commandos, Peter qualified as a designer and marine engineer in naval and commercial marine systems. Peter Pool also undertook Special Forces amphibious training programs in South East Asia, USA, UK, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei for the Australian Defence Department.

While in Army Commando service, Peter had done everything Special Forces do with folding kayaks like having launched from submarines over the horizon and having landed in pitch-black night for operations through pounding surf while struggling to dismantle and pack away kayaks with cold-numb fingers in a state of exhaustion. Or like getting towed at speed behind a Navy patrol boat in Kleppers loaded with weapons and equipment. Peter knew what elite crews needed for their folding kayaks to complete a mission from both submarine and airborne operations from first-hand experience.”

In an interview with Peter Rattenbury, Peter Pool admitted that, in retrospect, getting the contract probably was the easiest part. The Army had presented him with several challenges. These included making a craft that had no radar signature, that was quicker to assemble and more stable than the German-made Klepper Aerius II under high-speed towing and during heavy sea operations and that was also required to carry up to 300kg in weight in sea state ‘3’ during night time operations and be capable of sailing..

When Peter Rattenbury met him at his Sydney kayak showroom/marine design centre, Peter Pool wanted to underline one point – his utmost respect for the brilliance of the Hans Klepper design and the craftsmen of Rosenheim Germany who he felt had improved on the concept decade after decade. Early Kleppers and memorabilia adorn the racks and walls of Pool’s showroom, along with the latest Klepper model. Pool also acquired from the ADF the first Klepper that went into service with Special Forces 1 Commando Company in 1967. He and Jim Pullin had unpacked and assembled this Klepper Aerius II in 1967 and trained the men who formed the early 1 Commando SBS Troop in Sydney on Klepper Aerius II kayaks.

Both Jim Pullin and Peter Pool were two of the few people in 1 Commando Company that had operated both the Mk1 Slazenger (UK) design 2-person kayak and the Klepper Aerius II kayak. 1 Commando Company had been trained by SBS Commando instructors from the UK in the early 1960s.

In coming up with the design for the Amphibian, Peter Pool said “We looked at the best features of the Klepper Aerius II…..and there were many of them, particularly its sea-keeping (Aussie speak for seaworthy) capability. However one of the disadvantages of the early models, was that if you loaded it with enough equipment and supplies the boat would sink because it didn’t have enough inherent buoyancy to support two large men, their weapons and equipment.” The Klepper Aerius II kayak was also unstable during high speed towing by patrol vessels or support craft, therefore, stability at speed was an issue for Commando operations.

The Army Special Forces had several other challenges for Peter Pool. No wood was to be used for the frames or paddles. The new boat had to meet particular Australian needs such as longer-range operations capabilities, rough surf handling, etc. and faster assembly. The vessel was to be built from modern aerospace composite materials to evade detection by modern radar tracking systems.

Peter Pool went on to engineer and supervise the trials with Major Geoff Kidner, who was nominated by the ADF as the Special Forces representative on the design and development committee. Geoff was the most qualified in SBS operations and also had more than 20 years experience in Commando and the SAS water operations squadron.

Search for New Materials & Manufacturing Technology to Meet Adf & Special Forces Requirements

Peter Pool admits the Army had a point about wood. “This was a weakness in the Klepper. Once the varnish came off, the wooden frame could become saturated, not so much with seawater, but from the fresh water used to wash them out and fungus and wood rot occurred. Failure to dry them out properly led to rot setting in and to the failure of keelsons and, in particular, the Number 4 and 5 cross ribs.” However, the types of timber chosen by Klepper were excellent for absorbing energy and shock loads in the sea (wave action and beach landings). However, wooden frames required maintenance by being oiled regularly to prevent dry rot and fungus growth.

In January 1983, Peter Pool’s design team began by concentrating on a new frame design. The first thought was toward aluminium coated in polyurethane. Months of frustrating work followed until finally two prototype frames were built. Pool wasn’t satisfied with the way aluminium behaved. He knew Klepper’s frames had ‘memory’ when manufactured from timber. They bounced back from impact, or else, the timber frame could be easily repaired. Aluminium bends and stays bent or worse, can break. It didn’t have ‘memory’ built in as timber did. As Peter put it, “That’s not good when you’re launching boats off submarine hulls, or dropping them out of planes, winching them on to patrol vessels and helicopters or taking on the big surf beaches of Australia. A high strength material standard was required to absorb the energy impact of the sea and in Commando operations.”

A complete alloy frame was manufactured to Peter Pool’s design by Fred Short, one of Australia’s best boat builders.

Composite Design Theory

“Our prime objective, was to make it as light as possible, as strong as possible, as simple as possible…..and meet stringent military testing requirements. I decided some six months into the project, that aluminium could not give all of these characteristics and still be in service in 20 years time, which is what the Kleppers had achieved with wooden frames.” It was back to the drawing board for a new material that had strength, buoyancy and could absorb shock and wave energy.

Developing such a special composite material proved the way forward. It’s interesting now to ponder the coincidence that as a heavily funded US Air Force was working to produce the ultra-secret Stealth fighter/bomber out of composite materials, a specialist design team in faraway Sydney was struggling with the same technology for, of all things, a folding kayak! Well Peter Pool did it with the assistance of Jack and Peter Herbert and their senior designer, Janet Langley!

The outcome: The Amphibian today boasts an immensely strong (GRP composite) but light frame with super-strong load points to cope with being slung under helicopters, dropped by parachutes and snatched up by submarines. “It’s the same materials as used in the Stealth fighter, that is, carbon fibre laminated onto Airex” say Peter Pool. “Our problem was that in 1983 little of this aerospace technology had been developed in Australia.” Peter built three different composite structures and tested them all in sea operations and with 1 Commando Company and Army Engineer Development in Melbourne (EDE). Peter Hanlon, the senior mechanical engineer, was the EDE representative who tested all structures and materials.

This new material had other advantages for a folding kayak besides strength and weight. It had inherent flotation. “Every cross rib and piece floats. That’s a big plus when you’re assembling a boat on a rocky ledge washed by seas and a frame piece is swept away. The wayward part can be recovered and the operation is not compromised. Having no radar signature also gave the Amphibian Mk3 the edge for Commandos.” When the Amphibian MK3 folding kayak designed by Peter’s team was fully assembled, the craft remained afloat even when filled with water or swamped from large waves at sea.

Army Engineering Development & Testing Establishment (EDE) Report Data and Operational Requirements of Commandos

Big issues for the Australian Special Forces are the effectiveness of equipment in surf and on long remote sea operations. These are demands that differentiate the boat needs of Australian crews from those of their US and European counterparts. Australian Special Forces, particularly Commandos, would be operating these kayaks off the world’s more dangerous coastlines, that is, the east coast of Australia in heavy sea conditons.

Peter points out “the Australian coastline is more than 12,000 nautical miles and about two thirds of that is in isolated regions of the coastline. Our crews may be asked to insert by submarine or by aircraft on to a beach or island. They may have to sail and paddle 50 to 150 nautical miles back to a pick up location by submarine or patrol vessel. For that very reason we needed a sea kayak that could sustain that kind of operation in all kinds of weather.” The Sydney coastline and coast of southern NSW can be the most treacherous seas in the world as was seen during the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Production and ADR Acceptance

The ADF design and approval committee appointed one of the Special Forces most competent and qualified SAS and Commando instructors, Major Jeff Kidner, to oversee the final design acceptance and first eight production vessels. Major Jeff Kidner and Peter Pool worked well together and Major Kidner was keen to ensure the best craft for SAS and Commandos as there would be no compromise in design and manufacturing standards for this new craft as he was the most qualified SAS and Commando water operations officer in Special Forces.

Dealing With Sea States and Surf Negotiation

1. Work on the Amphibian’s Bow for Surf Landings & Operating in Heavy Seas

“The Army put a great deal of emphasis on the ability of the bow to come out of a wave in surf negotiation. We designed what we called a ‘platypus bill’ that we actually fitted on the first Amphibian MKI prototype to pull the bow up on a wave. It was a good idea, but it became a disadvantage when packing and storing the kayak and for that reason it was dropped. What we finally did was to change the line of the kayak itself to give the boat more prow lift.” Bob Ford, Jim Pullin and Peter Pool (all members of 1 Commando Company) tested the Amphibian prototype in surf operations prior to re-designing the bow and the S.O.P’s for surf operations and night time beach landings. This was carried out in heavy surf conditions in July 1983.

2. Design an Effective and Unusual Rudder.

“We designed a deeper rudder for more bite in the surf and we fitted it with a unique hand piece. When surf landing, the Commando seated in the forward position (the designated swimmer/diver) goes over the side and to the stern. He then gets behind the kayak where he can hold on to the rudder to help guide the boat safely through the surf. The rudder has a comfortable hand-sized cut-out for the swimmer/diver to grasp. The cut-out also helps reduce water pressure that tends to make a boat broach in waves.” This was a great design feature that assisted the Commandos in their operation of the craft. This design principle was developed by PJP’s senior designers, Janet Langley and Robert Love.

Sailing and High Speed Towing Operations

As for the need to operate over long distances in remote areas, it was clear that the Amphibian had to be able to sail better than a Klepper in order to conserve the crew’s energy. For this Peter Pool called in one of Australia’s top sail designers, Ian Short. The result is a wardrobe of main, jib and genoa that fits the Amphibian’s role perfectly. Practical experience is showing that operators quickly become confident sailing the kayak reaching and running in winds as high as 20 knots. The Amphibian has an advantage over a Klepper with greater stability from a wider stance at the keel (the distance between the Amphibian keel’s twin rails is wider than that on a Klepper). This was known as the twin keel principle designed by Peter Pool for stability, high-speed towing and sailing efficiently.

Peter Pool and Jim Pullin demonstrate to Special Forces the sailing ability of the Amphibian MK3 in August 1983

Australian Design Capability

The Australian Army’s stringent requirements regarding sourcing as much material as possible locally put some pressures on the Amphibian’s designers. “By the end of 1983 we had two composite prototype frames; the trick now was to fit a hull to it.” Peter Pool and his team found it daunting to come up with a hull even close to Klepper quality. Peter reflects “They (Klepper) did it better than anyone else in the world and still do.” Peter remembers the “great frustration.” Six skins were all painstakingly drawn, cut and re-cut by hand, but all were rejected by the PJP design technical committee due to water line distortion thus reducing the speed of the craft through the water.

Peter Pool’s Design & Manufacturing Solution

“I came to the conclusion that the only way was to get a top-class dress designer to make the patterns. We had the theory that if a dress could be fitted perfectly to a woman’s figure, so could a skin be fitted to a frame. My sister, Mary Anne Pool, was a dress designer. She and a friend, also involved in the fashion industry, laid the patterns out on the floor of my sister’s garage. For six or seven days they worked virtually non-stop to create the pattern that finally fit. Our Commandos and SAS operators probably don’t know that the skin of the boat they’re using was designed by a dressmaker using the principle of designing and fitting a dress to a woman’s body shape.”

Hull Material

Nobody in Australia was producing the mix of materials that make up the Amphibian hypalon hull. But the complicated manufacturing process was finally cracked by a Melbourne company (Bramac Laminated Fabrics) and Peter says the material equals that of a Klepper. As for the deck, an Australian fabrics company, whose main products are items like awnings and sun umbrellas, came up with a special woven material. It’s waterproof, unaffected by oil, fireproof, able to stand up to the Australian sun and resists fungal growth in tropical waters.

Design Principles & Commando Operational Requirements

Ease of Assembly

The Klepper Aerius II has something like 33 parts; the Amphibian Mk3 has only 21. Moreover, the Amphibian has several sub-assemblies. This makes for bigger duffle bags but allows the bow and stern assembly to snap together quicker than the previous craft. The ribs nearest each end of the boat are pre-attached and swing up into position. There are only five ribs altogether but with no sacrifice in strength. The sturdy materials account for this in part. But also so do the solid gunwales. Unlike Kleppers, in which the gunwales are made of parallel rails spanned by spaced out plywood panels, the Amphibian’s gunwales are full, solid pieces (similar to pre WWII Kleppers).

Other features make for strength and rigidity, despite less crossribs. The fittings are stainless steel rather than aluminium. The horseshoe and block connections for the gunwales and keel have an extra locking device. The cockpit crossribs have beefier connection points than a Klepper and the coaming has more attachments points with more solid connection at the front and rear end of the cockpit.

A Maintenance-Free, Two Piece, Commando Designed Paddle.

“We looked at aluminium shafts but rejected them because of the coldness of the metal in cool weather. We designed a wound-fibreglass shaft that has grip and it was reinforced around the middle with additional winding so it wouldn’t break.”

The blade can be used both as a double or single paddle with a quick connection sleeve that allows variations in feathering. A range of exotic connecting devices were rejected in favour of a beefed up version of the plastic clip found on sun umbrellas. These are tough, work in all weather, sand and mud, and can be replaced in seconds by Special Forces during in the field operations.

Design Innovations

The Amphibian has a number of innovations beyond those mentioned above. One of these is the spraydeck. In front of the rear paddler is a clamp for a removable compass. To support the weight of the compass and keep the spraydeck from sagging thus shedding the seawater and heavy rain, several bracing pieces swing across from gunwale to gunwale. The braces also make possible a large wet gear pocket on the deck between the paddlers that won’t sag when loaded. A chart pocket was also incorporated into the spraycover of the Amphibian.

Another creative idea was the strong u-bolts used to safely lift the Amphibian on and off ships and helicopters. The vertical lift u-bolts are firmly attached to the crossribs fore and aft of the cockpit and protrude through slits in the deck. Neoprene gaskets across the slits keep water out. The Amphibian MK3 also had a luminous patch at the rear of the cockpit to enable SF operators to follow each other at night.

The frames front and rear ends comprise of strong fibreglass end caps that are cushioned with external rubber mouldings to absorb impacts. The seats are mounted on rails for easy adjustment for body fit and change position to alleviate stiffness while paddling. Foot braces and rudder pedals are also on rails for easy adjustment. The deck has well secured handles at the bow and stern that are capable of supporting the weight of the boat without ripping out. There are also portaging handles on both sides of the boat, roughly straddling each end of the cockpit. These portaging handles (two on the bow and two on the stern beam section) could also allow the kayak to stretcher a wounded man from the beach. The deck has numerous storage pockets such as one on the starboard side alongside the cockpit which holds a towrope and a large pocket near the stern for an anchor.

ADF Trials (Special Operations)

By the end of 1985 after two years of work in design development and testing throughout the 83/84 period, the Amphibian was finally ready to pass Army acceptance trials. Just how it measured up against the Klepper in military use is classified, given the clandestine nature of Australian Special Forces operations including the Navy Clearance Divers. Production and design acceptance by Special Forces and the Defence Materiel Organisation was signed off in April 1986 and 120 Amphibian MK3 two-person folding kayaks were manufactured and delivered to the Special Forces, SAS, Commandos and Special Ship Assault Navy Diving Teams.

Major Geoff Kidner of Special Operations SAS & Commandos completed all final evaluation trials and inspections of the first six production vessels before being re-posted to SAS as second in command of the SAS regiment in Perth prior to his retirement from Special Forces.

Amphibian Special Forces kayaks were also demonstrated to USA Special Operations Commandos and a presentation was given by Australian Commando Bruce Parr to the SBS UK Special Forces in 1984.

Acknowledgements

The design and development of the Amphibian Mk3 Australian 2-person folding military kayak is a credit to the ADF and the Australian industry teams who worked together with the Special Forces operational units.

Special acknowledgment is given to the following people:

ADF Committee & Special Forces Representatives:

  • Brigadier Terry Nolan (Commando & SAS)
  • Major Jeff Kidner (Commando & SAS)
  • Lt. Colonel Eric Rigter (Army Project Directors)
  • David Lewis (Engineer, Aust. Army Materiel) DVP
  • Peter Halon (Engineer) EDE
  • Bruce Quinlan (Engineer) IND DEV ADF
  • Warwick Blake (Engineer) IND DEV
  • Major Bob Quodling (Special Forces)
  • Major Tom Hall (1 Commando Coy. Historic Specialist & CDO/SBS instructor)
  • CPO Eric Johanssen & CPO Tim Hayes (RAN CD Operations Team One & Aust. Industry members)

PJP Consultants:

  • Peter James Pool (Senior Designer & Project Director)
  • Janet Langley & Robert Love (Designers)
  • Fred & Ian Short (boat builder & sailmaker)
  • Jim Pullin – Sydney Ports Authority (ex Commando)
  • Bob Ford – Qantas (ex Commando)
  • Mary Anne Pool (Design & Development)
  • Stirling Smith (Amphibian Kayaker across Alaska)
  • Peter Rattenbury (author of Amphibian Mk3 article for Folding Kayaker)
  • Peter Herbert
  • Geoff Steel (PJP Production Manager)
  • Allan Foster (Marinercraft)
  • Brian Pearson & John Herbert (Aust. Industry members)

Appendix:

Australian Army Specification and Compliance Certificate of Amphibian MK3 Kayak for Special Forces

1. Scope

This specification defines the requirements for a collapsible, portable, double ended, two-man kayak for use by the Australian Army Special Forces. (Designer & Naval Architect Peter James Pool of Sydney – ADF Committee approval).

2. Applicable Documents

Reference may be necessary to the latest issue of the following documents:

2.1 Specifications

Specifications are available from PJP Aerospace and Defence, 475 Princes Highway, Kirrawee NSW 2232. Australian Army Specification Ref. No. 6359.

3. Definitions

3.1 “Quality Assurance Authority” (QAA) shall mean the Defence Quality Assurance Authority nominated in the tender invitation and the contract.

3.2 “Quality Assurance Representative” (QAR) shall be the person nominated by the Quality Assurance Authority to act in respect of the quality assurance and technical acceptance provisions of the contract.

3.3 ‘Approved’ shall mean approved by the QAR, except where otherwise indicated.

3.4 ‘Craft’ shall mean collapsible craft, two-man (including all necessary accessories and ancillary items).

4. Requirements

4.1 General

The new Australian Army Special Forces 2-person collapsible kayak for submarine and airborne operations will:

  1. be robust and lightweight
  2. be capable of simple and rapid assembly and disassembly
  3. have good sea-keeping and manoeuvrability qualities
  4. safely accommodate two fully equipped swimmer/kayakers of 100kg each, plus a payload of up to 90kg (total net mass 290kg)
  5. be capable of one or two man operation
  6. must be capable of sailing and high-speed towing operations
4.2 Dimensions

4.2.1 The craft, when assembled for use, shall have the following maximum dimensions:

  1. Overall length – 5200mm – less rudder
  2. Width – 900mm
  3. Height – 750mm

4.2.2. The craft, when assembled, shall be capable of passing through a hole of 750mm diameter. This is achieved with the current in-service craft by deflating a buoyancy tube, thus reducing the width of the craft from 900mm to 750mm.

4.2.3. The craft, when disassembled and packed, shall be capable of passing through a hole of 750mm diameter (see para 4.8.3)

4.3 Mass

The craft mass shall no exceed 65kg, excluding anchors with rope/chain attached and all accessories.

4.4 Performance

4.4.1 The craft in its assembled state with its maximum cargo load (90kg) secured in board shall be man portable by a two-person crew without suffering any damage.

4.4.2 In the fully loaded condition, the craft shall be capable of operation by a one or two-person crew in the following conditions:

  1. Waves 2.4m to 4.0m – sea state 5
  2. Wind 31km/h to 39km/h – Beaufort 5

4.4.2.1 The craft, when used by experienced operators, shall be capable of safely negotiating the surf conditions arising from the sea and wind conditions in paragraph 4.4.2.

4.4.3 The craft shall be capable of propulsion by paddle or sail, by one or two persons.

4.4.3.1 When under sail, the craft shall be capable of sailing to windward in seas up to Sea State 5.

4.4.4 The craft shall have sufficient stability to permit entry and egress of the crew in waves of 1.5 metres in height without overturning the craft ie. Sea State 3.

4.4.5 The craft shall be capable of being ‘righted’ by the crew when swamped and overturned in seas of up to 1.5 metre wave height and shall have sufficient buoyancy to be capable of supporting the crew (without life jackets) and a 90kg payload under these conditions.

4.4.6 The craft shall be capable of being converted into a packed state by the crew in not more than 15 minutes in darkness.

4.4.7 The craft shall be capable of being assembled by the crew in not more than 20 minutes in darkness.

4.4.8 The craft should have an expected minimum useful service life of five years.

4.5 Construction

No timber sections are to be used in this new design

4.5.1 The craft shall be robust and constructed from material with low maintenance characteristics. The hull skin shall be oil, solvent, seawater and abrasion resistant. Reinforcement is to be provided on those areas of the craft susceptible to wear due to beaching, dragging on sand, in transportation and in assembly and disassembly.

No timber components will be allowable.

4.5.2 Material used in the construction of the craft or accessories are to be proofed and/or made resistant to:

  1. Corrosion and rot
  2. Fungoid and insect attack
  3. Combustion
  4. Shrinkage
  5. Direct sunlight

4.5.3 The craft shall be finished in materials of neutral colours that will facilitate its camouflage for concealment on shore or at the water edge. The finish shall be anti-infra-red detective. User units will carry out final camouflage colouring. Tenderers are to state the type of finishing materials that are compatible with the kayak surface.

4.6 Materials

4.6.1 Materials used in the construction of the craft shall comply with the relevant Australian or British standard or such other standard as is approved by the QAA.

4.7 Workmanship

Australian Army standards.

4.8 Design Features

4.8.1 This collapsible 2-person folding kayak shall be designed to be deployable from submarines. For airborne deployment it can be para-dropped using a load following concept on a pallet or alternatively parachuted by two Commando SBS operatives using a CWEP concept attachment.

4.8.2 To facilitate concealment and transportation, the craft shall be readily disassembled into a packed state with the minimum number of loose components and without damage to the component parts. Subsequent assembly is not to result in degradation of craft characteristics.

4.8.3 Assembly and disassembly shall be completed without the use of tools. There shall be no small parts such as nuts, bolts screws or clips that are not permanently attached to, or are an integral part of a structural member of the craft.

4.8.4 In its disassembled and packed state, the craft shall consist of not more than three, and desirably two, packages. It should be capable of being man-packed by not more than two soldiers in combat order, working together, for any distance over any terrain capable of being traversed on foot. Each package shall be capable of being passed through a 750mm-diameter hole.

4.8.5 Stowage space shall be provided in the Craft for the valises or stowage bags in which the disassembled craft will be packed.

4.8.6 The hull and decking shall be waterproofed and the decking shall be designed for maximum water shedding. Any openings in the decking shall be provided with positively attached skirting to maintain maximum waterproofing of crew and stores.

4.8.7 The craft shall be fitted with lifting points and fittings to enable:

  1. Towing fore and aft
  2. Hoisting vertically in and out of a parent craft
  3. Hoisting vertically or horizontally in and out of the water with a 90kg payload
  4. Anchoring with sea and bottom anchors. A carry all bag for the anchor and rope/chain is to be provided by the tenderer
  5. Paddles to be secured externally
  6. Fitting of a sail and rudder kit. The sail is to be dark in colour and the rudder to be detachable. The rudder is to be operated by a pedal control system from the rear seat position.
  7. Carrying by hand by two men and a small seat in each operator compartment shall be provided

4.8.8 The Craft shall be capable of being fitted with a transverse mounted compass. When mounted forward of rear operator, it is to be useable in all operating conditions. The compass will be provided by the designer and builder.

4.8.9 The Craft and accessories shall be capable, after suitable preparation, of storage in temperate areas for periods of 12 months duration without material or performance degradation.

4.8.10 The Craft should be capable of being fully submerged to the sea bottom for concealment and of being subsequently retrieved using minimum effort for further operational use.

4.8.11 The Craft shall be complete with the following items:

  1. Three pairs of paddles (includes one spare set), shall be provided and each should be capable of being used as a single paddle or joined to form a double paddle.
  2. Two bailing utensils or equivalent and a sponge
  3. A coverable, luminous patch or beta light mounted to the rear of the canoe for the purpose of night time station keeping
  4. Field service repair kit to be used by Commandos and SF operators
4.9 Repair and Maintenance
4.9.1 Emergency Repair

The crew shall be capable of effecting emergency repairs to the craft in the field using an on-board emergency repair kit without requiring special tools, materials or excessive curing time, glues or resins.

4.9.2 Normal Repair

4.9.2.1 The Craft shall be capable of being repaired without the use of special tools or jigs.

4.9.2.2 The Craft shall be capable of being repaired readily in the commercial marine market.

4.9.2.3 Tenderers shall state if they are capable of executing major repairs to the craft.

4.9.3 Spares

Will be provided at call and maintained in service for the Craft for a minimum of 5 years.

4.9.4 Documentation

The following documentation is to be provided:

  1. User Handbook – Craft Operation and Handling
  2. Maintenance Manual
  3. Repair parts list
4.10 Guarantee

Tenderers shall state the period for which they are prepared to guarantee the Craft and fittings against faulty materials, design and workmanship.

4.11 Tendering

Notwithstanding anything specified herein as to the type, construction or design of craft, the Tenderer is free to submit any design of equipment which, in their opinion, will be equal or better than that covered by the requirements of this specification. The onus is on the Tenderer to prove that the variation so submitted is equal or superior to this specification.

5. Quality Assurance Provisions

5.1 The official tender invitation and contract shall nominate the QAA, the conditions of inspection and the requirements for Contractor’s quality control.

5.2 All Contractors shall perform, or have performed, the examinations and tests necessary to substantiate that the supplies and/or services conform to the requirements, as specified herein, and shall offer for acceptance only supplies and/or services that conform to theses specification requirements.

5.3 The QAA reserves the right to perform, or have performed, any examination or tests deemed necessary to ensure that supplies and./or services conform to the contract specification requirements.

5.4 The acceptance of all supplies and/or services shall be subject to agreement by the QAA to ensure that the quality requirements of the contract and specification have been fulfilled. The QAA reserves the right to reject supplies and/or services which, in its opinion, are inferior in quality of materials or workmanship, or differ in any respect from the contract and specification requirements.

6. Preparation for Delivery

Packaging and marking shall be detailed in the Tender Schedule and the Contract.

7. Notes

7.1 The “AMPHIBIAN MK3” kayak for the Australian specialised forces, SAS and Commando units was designed and tested and fully complies with the above specification. Production was authorised after the completion of all trials, which were conducted during 1984, 1985 and 1986.

7.2 Peter James Pool (Capt) ME CDO MCIT MM who designed the Australian built Special Forces 2-person collapsible kayak supervised the production of 120 of the Amphibian MK3 kayaks (and supporting spare parts), which were delivered to the ADF in 1986. Twenty of these kayaks were used by the Naval CD ship assault special units and were still in service in 2001.

7.3 The Amphibian Mk3 was also in service with Team 1 and Team 2 of the Royal Australian Naval Clearance Diving Teams in Sydney and Perth during 1990’s

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