The goal of the British project "Tight" is to acquire a bridge system for heavy forces CSB (Close Support Bridging) no later than 2040, while the "Triton" project provides for the delivery of a promising wide bridge for water obstacles WWGCC (wide wet gap crossing capability) to replace the bridges of the Ministry of Health the British Army by 2027, which marks the end of the life of these systems. The Bundeswehr can take part in this British program, since it has the bridge systems of the MZ Amphibious Rig from the Cold War, which will expire in 2030. On this occasion, a discussion is underway between the two countries. The Czech army expects to purchase a wheeled bridge layer from 2021 to 2023, the purchase of a pontoon bridge is planned for 2021-2024. The Turkish ground forces are seriously aiming to improve their obstacle crossing capabilities, while the French army has embarked on a program to modernize its PFM self-propelled floating bridge, mainly with the aim of improving its deployability. The Italian army is looking at a similar solution, possibly wishing to upgrade the MLC's payload class as well. At the same time, NATO is working to define the requirements for promising bridges. To date, for tracked vehicles, the target class of carrying capacity is called MLC100 (that is, up to 100 tons), while for wheeled vehicles it has not yet been determined, however, this also applies to the maximum speed of the river. Thus, the industry of Western countries is still in anticipation of these figures, after which it will begin to design new generation bridge systems, which may well appear in ten years, but for now many companies are busy modernizing existing systems.
Floating bridges and ferries
There are two methods for crossing water obstacles: building a self-supporting mechanical structure or using floating elements. Among floating bridge systems, we see self-propelled systems - buses-like cars that unfold before entering the water and turn into bridge or ferry modules; systems carried on board trucks, the modules of which are launched and moved through the water using their own engines; finally, floating modules, which require powerboats to take the correct position and hold this position along the river.
Among the self-propelled systems of General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), the MZ floating bridge is arguably the most widely used bridge, and is used by the armies of Great Britain, Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Singapore and Taiwan. Originally developed by EWK (Eisenwerke Kaiserslautern), it became part of the GDELS portfolio when it bought the German company in 2002. It replaced the previous M2 model, created back in the 60s, its carrying capacity was increased from MLC70 (G - tracked vehicles) to MLC85 (G) and to MLC132 (K - wheeled vehicles), which made it possible to transfer the heaviest Western tanks 80- x years. Its design began in 1982, and it entered the army in the mid-90s. A 4x4 vehicle weighing 28 tons is equipped with a 400 hp diesel engine, which allows a maximum speed of 80 km / h, two water cannons provide a speed of 3.5 m / s on the water. The GDELS company emphasizes that its system is lighter and smaller than its competitors, as a result it has “better off-road passability, not least due to the centralized tire pressure regulation system”; its speed on water is higher due to its higher power density, as well as retractable bridges, which reduce hydrodynamic resistance.
According to the company, the secret to the success of the self-propelled M3 ferry lies in its unique 4x4 configuration with all steering axles, selected from a comprehensive mobility study in which Germany and Britain also examined 6x6 and 8x8 configurations. Solutions with a large number of axles are heavier, and since the outer dimensions are limited by the rules of the road and the norms of transportation by rail and aircraft, the additional mass entails a loss of buoyancy, while additional axles also violate the hydrodynamics, reducing the efficiency of the water propeller. The 4x4 configuration with large wheels also guarantees better grip when the MZ gets out of the water. According to GDELS, the wheels of the MZ, in combination with the highest ground clearance, allow working in very difficult terrain and overcoming high obstacles. The 4x4 configuration also contributes to lower platform lifecycle costs.
When approaching a bridge in a water obstacle, the MZ machine unfolds the side floats, while the width increases from 3.35 meters in the traveling configuration to 6.57 meters. The machine enters the water (60% maximum incline), then rotates 90 ° to reach the working position. The platform with controls when working on the water is located at the rear of the machine. The crane-beam in the front of the MZ machine allows you to set the ramps, the used width of the carriageway of which is 4.76 meters, in the desired position; they connect either one MH section to another, or the MH section to the shore (the so-called shore links). The two-piece ferry can be assembled in about 3 minutes by six soldiers, while the assembly of a 100-meter long bridge takes eight sections of the MH and about 10 minutes, and requires 24 soldiers, three for each section. With the optional single section control kit, only 16 soldiers are required, respectively two per section. During the Anaconda 2016 exercise in Poland, British and German engineers built an MZ bridge with a record length of 350 meters across the Vistula River.
As for upgrades, the MZ car cabin can be easily armored, all in order to maintain the speed of work and maximum carrying capacity. GDELS is working hard on automation, customers want autonomous functions from crane operation to ferry and bridge construction. The company invests a lot in this direction, developing additional kits for the modernization of existing systems.
In the early 90s, the French army received its first ferry and bridge fleet, EFA (Engin de Franchissement de lAvant - forward crossing system). It is similar in concept to the MZ, but larger and heavier - 45 tons; it is equipped with a 730 hp diesel engine. and two reversible water cannons with a capacity of 210 kW each. In addition to the size, an important difference is that one EFA machine can independently generate MLC70 class steam in about 10 minutes. Before entering the water, the machine inflates the floats with the help of a compressor, after which it enters it, deploys the ramps, half of which are equipped with floats. The machines are loaded along the longitudinal axis of the EFA platform; the MLC150 class ferry is derived from two connected EFA platforms. It only takes two soldiers per vehicle, and it takes only 8 soldiers and less than 15 minutes to assemble a 100-meter bridge made up of four EFA sections. France operates 39 such systems, while the United Arab Emirates purchased the EFA bridge in an upgraded XI version, which is equipped with a 750 hp MTU engine for faster maneuvering in the water. The EFA is a fairly specific system, it can operate as a stand-alone steam system capable of transporting a Leclerc tank.
The Turkish company FNSS has developed its AAAB (Armored Amphibious Assault Bridge) to meet the needs of the country's ground forces. On the basis of an 8x8 chassis with all steerable wheels, a 530 hp diesel engine is installed, the amphibious vehicle weighs 36.5 tons and has a crew of three. To ensure good off-road cross-country ability and maximum stability when driving on roads, the suspension of the machine can be adjusted, the maximum travel is 650 mm, and the minimum is 100 mm; ground clearance varies from 600 to 360 mm; a centralized tire pressure regulation system was installed, which improves off-road cross-country ability. The maximum road speed is 50 km / h, while two water cannons, one in front and one behind, allow a speed of 2.8 m / s on the water. On the shore, the sidewalls unfold and the machine enters the water, while the maximum slope can be 50%. At the rear of the platform there is a control panel, a crane beam in the front part allows the installation of ramps (carried on one AAAB platform), two on each side, these ramps connect one platform to the other. The current version of AAAV, operated by the troops, can form a two-section ferry capable of transporting tracked vehicles weighing up to 70 tons, a three-section ferry capable of accepting wheeled vehicles weighing up to 100 tons, while in the case of a bridge assembly, the maximum carrying capacity remains the same. To cope with the new MBTs of NATO countries, FNSS is modernizing its AAAV platform, which is now called Otter - Rapid Deployable Amphibious Wet Gap Crossing. It is designed for the maximum track load that NATO vehicles can provide - this is the British Challenger 2 tank with its MLC85 class. The two platforms of the upgraded ferry version will be able to carry this kind of cargo, while the three Otter sections will normally be able to handle the MLC120 wheel load. MBT and its tractor. One Otter section can form a MLC21 tracked steam, while 12 systems can form a 150 meter long MLC85 tracked bridge or an MLC120 wheeled track. FNSS is offering its Otter system to South Korea, with Korea's Hyundai Rotem selected as a partner and prime contractor.
As for self-propelled systems, in the 80s the French company CNIM developed the PFM (Pont Flottant Motorise) pontoon bridge. The axle modules are transported on a cargo trailer from which they are launched, then each module is driven by two 75 hp Yamaha outboard engines. Ramps have been added to the ends of the modules, both in the ferry configuration and in the bridge configuration.
Several years ago, CNIM began to think about upgrading its system, which would take into account the new requirements and lessons learned from its operations. The French army demanded improved air transport, design improvements and reduced labor intensity, which ultimately led to the appearance of the PFM F2 configuration. Deployability has been improved by the development of a new short ramp, fixed at the ends of the floating module (the standard ramp is fixed inside the module), which makes it possible to form an MLC40 class steam using only two 10-meter modules and two ramps. As a result, the logistics burden has been halved, as only two trucks and two trailers are needed. To deliver the ferry by air, four A400M Atlas aircraft or one An-124 Ruslan are enough. In order to keep the ramp angle within the specified limits, the difference in the heights of the banks must be less than one meter. The modernization process includes complete disassembly of the modules, replacement of some of the mechanical components, after which the service life is extended for another 20 years, while the outboard motors are replaced with 90 hp Yamaha engines. The reduction in the number of personnel was achieved by adding a wireless control system that allows the operator to control both engines, independently orient each of them and regulate the fuel supply; it also made it easier to work at night, as there was no longer any need for coordination between the two operators. By connecting two modules together, one operator can operate all four outboard motors. Renault TRM 10000 trucks are being replaced with new Scania P410 6x6 tractors, about half of which have an armored cab. The French army has conducted evaluations and CNIM is currently receiving modules for modernization; this work started very recently and should be completed by mid-2020. The company is offering the same upgrade to original PFM customers in Italy, Malaysia and Switzerland.