Tactical military bridge manufacturer WFEL has secured contracts worth £53m with the Australian armed forces in a boost to the UK defence sector.
The agreement, which is made up of two contracts, follows an internationally competed tender. It will see WFEL supply its leading Medium Girder Bridges (MGBs) and Dry Support Bridges (DSBs) to the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
The bridges provide temporary infrastructure and have the potential to be used in combat situations and in the event of natural disasters. They will be manufactured at WFEL’s production facility in Stockport, UK, and delivery will begin by Q3 of 2017.
Ian Wilson, WFEL chief executive, said: “This is another major contract for us and one which extends our 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. 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.
“As the leading tactical military bridge maker globally, we continue to work to provide solutions for established customers like the ADF, as well as building relationships in emerging markets across the world.”
The MGB, which first entered service more than 30 years ago, and has played a major role in both military and disaster relief operations around the world, is used by over 40 armed forces worldwide. Under the ADF contract, WFEL will supply double-storey, link-reinforced MGB bridge sets which can span up to 49 metres.
These bridges will be supplemented by additional equipment which 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 over 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 away from vehicular traffic. The growing adoption of this supplementary equipment shows the greater involvement of the military worldwide in support of natural disasters and illustrates the dual-role capabilities of the range of WFEL bridging systems.
The contracts form part of the Australian Defence Force’s Land 155 Programme, a project to provide land forces with the ability to cross wet and dry gaps during combat operations.
Major Ben Bridge, Project Liaison for Land 155 within the ADF’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, commented: “The contract award to WFEL for the provision of Medium Girder Bridges and Dry Support Bridges will 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. 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.”
Major Bridge concluded: “WFEL have demonstrated a willingness to work collaboratively with the Commonwealth’s Managing Contractor to reduce risk and ensure its deliveries are on schedule and within budget, thereby allowing the capability to be generated consistent with Defence’s advice to Government.”
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.