Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB), Germany
Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB) is a modern floating bridge system developed by General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), a business unit of General Dynamics. It is designed to provide ground forces with the capability to transport heavy military equipment such as loaded heavy equipment transporter (HET), weapons systems, wheeled / tracked combat vehicles, trucks, suppliers and troops over rivers and wet gap obstacles.
The IRB entered service with the US Army in 2002, and is also operational with the Swedish Army, German Army and the US Marine Corps (USMC).
Improved Ribbon Bridge orders and deliveries
The US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) awarded a $233m multi-year contract to GDELS (formerly Eisenwerke Kaiserslautern) for 541 interior bays and 218 ramp bays of the IRB in September 2007.
GDELS signed a contract worth $28m with the Australian Department of Defence in November 2015 for the production and supply of the Improved Ribbon Bridge, along with bridge bays, logistics package and training. The initial batch will be delivered from fourth quarter of 2016. The contract is part of the Land 155 programme for enhanced gap crossing equipment
The new systems will replace the Australian Army's legacy Floating Support Bridge (FSB). The Australian Army will procure a new multipurpose truck under the Land 121 programme, for the transportation of bridge bays.
The Swedish Army took delivery of the initial batch of the IRB modules in November 2015. It will perform internal trials in winter conditions to evaluate interoperability with in-service transport trucks, FSB and bridge erections boats.
Improved Ribbon Bridge design details
The modular, foldable, aluminium bridge system can be used as a floating bridge and a multi-bay ferry. It consists of ramp bays and interior bays, which can be disassembled and transported on aircraft, helicopter, trucks and railway cars.
Both the interior and ramp bays have an overall length of 6.92m and a total weight of 6,350kg. The bays have a width of 8.63m and a height of 1.30m when unfolded. The ramp bay can reach bank heights of 2m.
The bridge module allows for transportation of loads up to military load capacity (MLC) 80 for tracked armoured vehicles and up to MLC 96 for wheeled vehicles and HET.
The IRB features improved folding and unfolding mechanism and non-skid surface. It is supplemented with improved splash plates to prevent flooding of the roadway. It is interoperable with GDELS' M3 amphibious ferry system and FSB.
A truck-launched bridge erection boat (BEB) can be used to build and position bridging modules prior to vehicle crossing over shallow waters.
Performance of IRB
The IRB can be launched and recovered using all standard ribbon bridge (SRB) / FSB transport trucks, common bridge transporter (CBT) vehicle, as well as using 10t / 15t palletised load system (PLS) trucks through a bridge adaptor pallet.
The bridge can be laid with the help of a hydraulic system, which uses bio-degradable, non-inflammable fluid. A 100m bridge with 13 interior and two ramp bays can be built in approximately 30 minutes.
It can be deployed under a variety of climatic conditions and is operable in water currents up to 3.05mps. It has a usable deck width of 6.75m for two-lane traffic for MLC 20 tracked/MLC 14 wheeled vehicles, and of 4.5m for single-lane traffic for MLC 80 tracked/96 wheeled vehicles.
US-based heavy vehicle manufacturer AM General provided logistics support for the IRB, while the BEB was supplied by FBM Babcock Marine.
In August 2009, Oshkosh Defense received a $26m order from the US Army Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) to supply CBT equipment to support the IRB.
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