Switzerland has received its first tranche of WFEL Dry Support Bridges (DSBs) in a ceremony which included a live build-and-installation of the DSB to an audience of senior army personnel, army engineers, guests from WFEL and the Swiss media. A total of four of the 46m span DSBs were handed over to armasuisse - the Swiss defence procurement agency - prior to final delivery to the Swiss Army.
The DSB consists of two parts: a 10-wheeled launch vehicle and launch beams; and the bridge modules, carried on a mix of 8x8-wheeled vehicles and trailers. The system can be deployed in 90 minutes using only 8 soldiers and has an MLC 120 rating. For this order, WFEL worked to adapt the bridge for the Iveco vehicles already used by the Swiss armed forces.
During the handover ceremony, Martin Sonderegger, Director Land Systems, Deputy Head of Armaments, spoke about the success of the project, addressing all phases from planning through to implementation.
Switzerland selected the DSB as its new tactical bridging system in December 2010, ordering 10 bridges plus 14 launch vehicles from WFEL, under a £57 million (US$91million) contract in December 2011. A second Swiss order, worth £37 million (US$62 million) for 10 launch vehicles and six bridges, followed in December 2013.
The DSBs will replace WFEL’s Medium Girder Bridges (MGBs), which have been in service with the Swiss Army for more than 30 years. The company expects to deliver all the Dry Support Bridges to armasuisse by November 2016.
Ian Wilson, Managing Director of WFEL, commented, “With our relationship with the Swiss armed forces stretching back almost four decades, this is a significant milestone for WFEL. The Dry Support Bridge is a world-leading rapidly-deployable tactical military bridge, both in military and disaster relief operations, something recognised by Armasuisse. We now look forward to continuing to support Switzerland for many years to come.”
The new system of Dry Support Bridges will also benefit Switzerland’s civilian population in cases of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, maintaining open lines of communication and logistics routes. It will also be used by the Swiss Army Engineers as an emergency bridge for other civil matters.
The DSB is also in service with the US and Turkish armies, where it is deployed from Oshkosh vehicles. For the Swiss order, WFEL has integrated the DSB on to the Iveco Trakker chassis, although it is possible to integrate the launching system onto a variety of suitable 10x10 vehicles of the end user’s choice.