Page 44: of Marine News Magazine (July 2014)

ATB Technical Trends

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When the U.S. Army turned to industry in its quest to design the next generation, prototype bridge erection boat, the ensuing competition attracted no less than three industry competition teams, all of whom eventually submitted prototypes in 2010. Birdon America, Inc., teaming with a (now) wholly owned NAMJet propul- sion group, was one of the players. These models were then handed over to the U.S. Army for extensive testing. Eventu- ally, in March of this year, Birdon won the US Army Bridge Erection Boat (BEB) platform contract. At about the same time, and to better support its international and domestic cli- entele, the company also announced it has moved its manu- facturing and operational headquarters to Denver, Colorado. As it turns out, there were good reasons for both events. History & ExperienceBirdon?s history with the so-called BEB design stemmed from its parent company, Birdon Australia. Previously, Birdon had already built 24 bridge erection boats for the Australian Army and they had their own proprietary de- sign that ended up being very successful for that applica- tion. But, at that time, the Australian version was powered by another brand of propulsion systems, one which was teaming with another competitor for the U.S. Army con-tract. Hence, Birdon went in search for a new propulsion system that they could use to put into the BEB for the bid phase. They landed on NAMJet propulsion systems and its TRAKTOR Jet line of high-thrust marine jets. In the BEB concept, NAMJet performed so well that Birdon went ahead and purchased the company back in 2011. What is a Bridge Erection Boat? When the Army goes into theatre in a con ict, bridges might be out that need to be crossed. These temporary bridges ?  oating bridges ? are created by dropping bridge sections in the water ? and then the bridge erection boat is tied up to the section. These types of boats were highly prominent in the  rst Iraqi con ict. There could actually be as many as 50 of these that would form a bridge. Or, the  oating section can be used as a ferry type con guration, moving single tanks across the body or water. In a nut- shell, Bridge Erection Boats are primarily used to provide propulsion and maneuverable thrust to support temporary  oating bridges often made necessary when existing bridge crossings have been destroyed in military con ict. The ves- sels are transportable by road, rail and air. Rigorous Testing ? and results ? Wins the Contract The competition for this contract was not easy, nor was it quick. All models were put through extensive testing pe- riods at Aberdeen; as much as 600 hours of testing which included a rail car test because the boats are transportable and meant to go into theatre. One of the tests involved tying the boat to a rail car and then slamming two cars into each other to prove that the tie downs would resist that sort of collision. This was just one of dozens of tests. Following that, and in late 2012, the RFP came out to replace the entire bridge  eet for the U.S. Army, calling for as many as 374 bridge erection boats. RFP?s were submit- ted in March 2013 and an extensive questions and answer period for all of the competitors ensued. In November of 2013, it was announced that Birdon America ? the Ameri- can subsidiary of Birdon Australia ? had in fact won the competition and was being awarded the contract. Jim Ducker, General Manager at NAMJet, told Marine- News in June, ?The boats include two Traktor Jet 381?s ? our smallest jet, commercial off-the-shelf units. As you can imagine, the contract comes in phases, but they immedi-PROPULSIONUnique Military Application Employs Readily Available Commercial Propulsion Solution NAMJet?s tractor jets seal the deal on a signi cant military boat building contract. The Army?s one-of-a-kind bridge erection boats  ll an obscure, shallow draft workboat niche, while showcasing capabilities that someday could be commercially viable. By Joseph Keefe July 201444 MNMN July14 Layout 32-49.indd 44MN July14 Layout 32-49.indd 446/18/2014 3:44:20 PM6/18/2014 3:44:20 PM

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