The Australian Defence Force has signed contracts worth $109million (£53m) with British military bridge manufacturer WFEL for two new tactical bridge systems – one of which is a new capability for the ADF.
This new acquisition is in addition to the Improved Ribbon Bridge purchase CONTACT reported on in November.
Project liaison officer for the ADF Major Ben Bridge said the contracts awarded to WFEL for the provision of Medium Girder Bridges (MGB) and Dry Support Bridges (DSB) would greatly enhance the Australian Army’s ability to manoeuvre across wet and dry gaps in complex terrain.
“While the MGB is replacing an earlier version of the same bridge, which entered service decades ago, the Dry Support Bridge capability is new to the Australian Army and will provide our manoeuvre commanders with the ability to cross significant wet or dry gaps in a fraction of the time it would have previously taken,” he said.
“Notably, the ability of the Dry Support Bridge to support gap crossings within a 90-minute timeframe is a significant capability enhancement for the Australian Army.
The bridges are designed to provide temporary infrastructure and can be used in combat situations or in the event of natural disasters.
They will be manufactured at WFEL’s production facility in Stockport, UK, and delivery will begin in late 2017.
WFEL chief executive Ian Wilson said the deal was another major contract for the company and one which extended its long-standing relationship with the ADF.
“Our Dry Support Bridge is the world’s most technically advanced, rapidly deployable military bridge of its type, while the Medium Girder Bridge’s modular design continues to prove its worth in both combat and natural-disaster-relief situations time and again,” Mr Wilson said.
“By choosing to order both bridge types, the ADF is ensuring it has the future capability to quickly cross physical terrain as complex as rivers, ravines and man-made gaps as efficiently as possible and under the widest possible operational scenarios.”
MGB first entered service more than 30 years ago and has played a major role in both military and disaster relief operations around the world and is used by more than 40 armed forces worldwide.
Mr Wilson said that under the ADF contracts, WFEL would supply double-storey, link-reinforced MGB sets which can span up to 49 metres.
“These bridges will be supplemented by additional equipment that will allow bridges of up to 76m to be constructed, using WFEL’s portable pier sets.
“WFEL will also supply DSBs which can be deployed by just eight people in under 90 minutes.
“The bridges will be specially manufactured by WFEL to be launched from the ADF’s RMMV Rheinmetall MAN 10 x 10 fully-armoured military vehicles.
“The DSB – of which more than 130 systems have been sold – is already in use with the US, Swiss and Turkish armed forces and has been used as temporary infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Its adoption by Australia further strengthens the DSB’s market dominance as the system of choice.”
Both the MGBs and DSBs will be supplied with additional walkways, which allow foot traffic to safely cross the bridge separated from vehicular traffic.
Mr Wilson said the growing adoption of this supplementary equipment showed the greater involvement of the military worldwide in support of natural disasters and illustrated the dual-role capabilities of the range of WFEL bridging systems.
WFEL traces its roots as a defence engineering business back to 1915. It has been designing and manufacturing tactical military bridges in Stockport since the 1970s.
The contracts signed the ADF and WFEL fall under Project Land 155, a program to provide land forces with the ability to cross wet and dry gaps during combat operations – and is in addition to the Improved Ribbon Bridge system purchase we reported on in November.