Gibbs Phibian sets course for land and sea operations

It can carry 15 people off-road, onto the highway and into the sea without missing a beat.

The Phibian is the latest all-terrain concept from Gibbs Amphibians, aimed at law enforcement and military agencies looking for a single solution to rapid response needs in regions where land and water operations are regular occurrences.

The 30-foot rolling boat features an upsized version of the unique water-jet propulsion system and retractable wheels first seen on the Gibbs Aquada. In 2004, Richard Branson set a world record for amphibious vehicles by piloting an Aquada across the English Channel in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Weighing just 4500 pounds, about the same as a full-size SUV, the carbon-fiber hulled Phibian is powered by a 500 hp turbodiesel drivetrain capable of propelling it to highway speeds on land and can be driven directly into the water and be up to planning speed in less than 10 seconds, hitting a top speed of over 25 knots.

Along with the smaller Humdinga II, Gibbs is pitching the Phibian as the ideal vehicle for search and rescue operations in areas struck by natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes, as well as an efficient way to deploy personnel and cargo throughout an operational theater without having to rely on several different modes of transportation.

The Michigan-based subsidiary of Britain’s Gibbs Techology has been trying to gain a foothold in the United States market since it announced plans to sell the Aquada here in 2008. Myriad state and federal regulations governing the licensing of cars and boats for personal use have prevented it from selling that vehicle here commercially as of yet.

While it continues to work toward that goal, Gibbs has now tasked its 80-person strong Auburn Hills engineering facility -- established with the help of a $5.9 million tax credit from the state of Michigan -- with developing vehicles for government applications, like the Phibian and Humdinga II. If the company can find any takers and put either of them in production, it says it will add at up to 170 jobs at the location.