ATTACK! Why the army?s surfing our beach

By ANN-MARIE MAY

REST easy, Coffs Harbour ? the army has arrived.

And in their first week in town they have already had to perform many rescue missions.

"We have had to tow a couple of vehicles off the beach," Lt Clarke Brown.

Lt Brown is the officer in charge of the month-long Exercise Surfing Penguin, which involves five amphibious vehicles and about 40 personnel using Boambee Beach as their training ground.

The name of the exercise, while sounding strangely cuddly for an army activity, comes from the amphibious vehicles called LARC-Vs (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo 5 Tonne).

"Essentially the LARCs are surfing and they were used on the Australian National Antarctic Research Exhibition transporting scientists around, hence the penguin," Lt Brown said.

Unable to operate the vehicles in surf at their base in Towns-ville, Boambee Beach was chosen as the perfect location after members of the squadron went on a reconnaissance mission along the East Coast.

"We can't practice like this in Townsville and Boambee Beach was a great location for a number of reasons. First it has 4WD access, the army base is close by, and the council and other authorities were very helpful," Lt Brown said.

Weighing in at 10 tonne, stretch- ing 11 metres in length and with a grunt of 300 horsepower, the LARC-V can reach a speed of 60km/h on the road and eight knots in the water.

And for those who wouldn't mind a LARC-V in their garage they go for between $25,000 and $40,000 at Sydney auctions. But be warned ? you can't buy parts off the shelf.



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