During Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2017, BAE Systems displayed a model of its new bridging concept, designed to a Military Load Classification (MLC) 100 standard. The new bridges are currently undergoing tests and certification, and they are due to enter a competition in 2018. The bridges are intended to provide the heaviest Challenger 2 – or any MBT for that matter – with an unrestricted bridging capability.
The British Army currently has the Bridging System for the 90s (BR90). These bridges were built to MLC 70, enough to support a Challenger 2 without additional armour. However, the changes necessary to prepare the main battle tank for deployments in Iraq have severely limited its ability to cross temporary bridges. In its heaviest configuration, 75 tonnes, the Challenger 2 can cross a BR90 era bridge at 8 km/h, one tank at a time, with a guide. Tanks crossing a scissor bridge are vulnerable to opposing artillery, necessitating a rapid and efficient crossing. The reduced speeds and vehicle capacity of the BR90 bridges leave UK armoured formations vulnerable to attack during a crossing and would likely slow any strategic momentum.
BAE Systems’ new concept, a bridge built to MLC 100 standards, will restore the Challenger’s mobility if accepted into service. The tanks could then cross bridges as fast as they wanted to, restoring momentum to armoured forces. The bridges are built to be modular. The panels in the middle of the bridge receive the most stress and can be interchanged with those at the ends of the bridge to distribute the load and extend the service life of the system.
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