Military Bridging Systems
Military crossing and bridging systems are used to provide a way for infantry and vehicles to cross large gaps such as ditches, as well as bodies of water that are too deep or fast-flowing to ford. They may also be deployed as an alternative to existing bridges in the operational area that are unable to support the weight of heavy armor and other large vehicles. Bridging equipment may be airdropped by airplane or helicopter, or mounted on a vehicle.
Military bridges can be classified into several different types according to their role:
- Close support bridges (CSBs) are used in combat zones where direct enemy fire is expected. Bridging systems that deploy these bridges must do so rapidly, and are typically armored.
- General support bridges (GSBs) are used for less urgent operations where threats are not so imminent, and so systems deploying these are able to take more time. GSBs may encompass more complex bridge designs such as multispan structures.
- Line of communication bridges (LOC) are used along supply and logistic routes to provide more persistent bringing and crossing capabilities. These military bridges may be designed to withstand more intensive levels of traffic for longer timespans.
Rapid & Amphibious Bridging Equipment
Vehicle-mounted military bridging systems may be specially-designed platforms, or retrofitted to a vehicle such as a tank or 4×4 platform. Bridging systems based on a tank chassis have the advantage of a solid hull that will be more resilient against threats such as IEDs (improvised explosive devices), landmines and enemy fire. Some bridging vehicles may be amphibious, allowing them to be driven into a body of water and provide convenient crossing over the mounted bridge for troops and other vehicles.
In addition to deploying a fixed bridge structure, vehicles may also be used to drop fascines, which are bundles of pipes made from lightweight but strong materials that can withstand being driven over by heavy armor vehicles. These fascines are used to fill ditches and other obstructions in order to provide a usable crossing.