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Easibridge – Lightweight Tactical Bridging Innovation

 

Easibridge – Lightweight Tactical Bridging Innovation

EasiBridge offers the world’s first truly man-portable, long-span rescue/assault bridging system. Exploiting the inherent flexibility of the EasiBridge systems, a further eight engineer/infantry “Super-Kit” capabilities can be used.

Key benefits include;

  • Portability; weighing just 4kg/m the EasiBridge sections can be easily carried by dismounted personnel and handled without mechanical assistance,
  • Span Length; gaps of up to 18m can be installed by a single person, with access from one side only,
  • Low Cost; EasiBridge is significantly lower cost than comparable infantry assault bridges,
  • Versatility; using common components a wide range of demanding requirements can be addressed.

EasiBridge components are 85% lighter and 80% more compact than incumbent Infantry Assault Bridges. EasiBridge is expandable to offer a universal, ground-breaking solution for gap crossing, infantry carriage support, troop protection, logistics handling – even man-portable SVBIED barriers. A multi-function super-kit, ideally suited for the challenges of urban warfare, as well as special-forces, engineer and dismounted infantry operations.

EasiBridge is supported by a Rapid Innovation Grant from the UK Defence and Security Accelerator with first military orders now secured.

It promises to be revolutionary.

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Strategic Trends and Operations in Urban Areas

The 5th Edition of the Global Strategic Trends document describes future urbanisation trends;With 70% of the global population likely to live in cities by 2045, urbanisation will be a particularly important theme in developing countries. Urbanisation is likely to enhance economic and social development, but – without mitigation measures – may also lead to pressure on infrastructure (and the environment) which could contribute to social tensions within the urban population. Urbanisation and the effects of climate change are likely to result in an increase in the magnitude of humanitarian crises, particularly since the majority of urban areas will almost certainly be either on, or near the coast, making these cities vulnerable to flooding.

Building on this, in September 2017, the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) think tank, the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), published Future Force Concept (JCN 1/17).Joint Concept Note (JCN) 1/17 is the authoritative, high level, analytical concept, it aims to shape the design and development of the future force to 2035 and beyond. It is aimed at those involved in policy and strategy formulation; by military capability and acquisition staff; by operational commanders and their staff; by staff and students at the staff colleges. and by all those, including allies and partners, interested in the development of the future force.

On the challenges of operating in urban environments.We will need to exploit the information and data systems being integrated into ever more populated, connected and complex cities. Within the urban environment the tasks of armour and air manoeuvre will remain, but how they are delivered will evolve. Combat and armoured engineers teamed with unmanned systems will be key enablers to manoeuvre and counter-mobility in urban terrain. Quad-copter and small jet engine technology developments able to transport individuals may expand the range of systems available to land forces for vertical manoeuvre in constrained urban space.

The Modern Warfare Institute defines the challenge of operating in urban environments:Enemy forces-whether state-based, terrorist, proxy, or something else-have learned that they can greatly reduce technological and other advantages of state-based military forces by pulling them into densely populated urban areas.

The subject is vast, with an equally diverse range of observations and lessons to learn, but common to all is the need for dismounted personnel to traverse the hugely variable terrain found in urban areas.

It is this terrain variability that poses significant challenges for forces in urban operations as they seek to gain a manoeuvre advantage, avoid obvious ambush locations, exploit observation vantage points and prevent detection. Urban environments consist of multiple layers; on the ground, above ground and below ground, and each of these will have access constraints for dismounted personnel. Gaining access to subterranean environments such as sewers and tunnels, moving between buildings above ground and reaching roof areas for example.

To do so effectively currently requires a range of different systems and in many cases, mechanical plant and vehicular transport.

Entering target buildings through normal ground-level entry routes can be hazardous. Some advantage may be gained by scaling buildings using ropes or ladders but both techniques can be slow and predictable, leaving personnel exposed and vulnerable. Rope access requires continual training to maintain skill levels and safety. An element of surprise can be gained by entering the target building at high-level with access from adjacent ‘safe’ buildings, rooftop-to-rooftop, or window-to-window. This allows ground-level assaults to be focussed on adjacent “safe” buildings, rather than more fortified “target” buildings. The “safe” building can be retained as an emergency entry/evacuation route.

Current access systems between buildings (ladders) are generally limited to around 6m span. Longer footbridge systems exist but are impractical for rapid assaults or evacuations in urban areas. Rapid assaults require something much quicker and lighter.

EasiBridge solves many of these challenges with the world’s first man-portable, long-span rescue/assault bridge that can also be utilised to access subterranean and above ground environments in the vertical plane. In short, the EasiBridge system combines capability with the versatility to minimise the amount of equipment needed to be carried by dismounted personnel.

The EasiBridge System

EasiBridge uses 1.5m long, optimised ladder sections with a bespoke (EasiLock) jointing system to ensure no loss of strength or stiffness at multiple section joints. Combined with a rope-stiffening system, telescopic masts and variable tensioning elements, EasiBridge structures are half the weight and treble the span of incumbent systems.

Simple short spans, up to 6m, can be formed from plain ladder sections with just three sets of EasiLock joint. Longer spans, up to 18m, use a link tensioning system common to innovative military bridges like the Medium Girder Bridge and General Support Bridge.

EasiBridge, therefore, caters for any span from 1 to 18m using common components.

Key attributes are;

  • All EasiBridge structures are man-portable; a 12m bridge can be transported by a single person, 18m bridges transported by just 2 personnel
  • 18m bridges can be installed and crossed by a single person in under 20 seconds, with no prior access to the far bank
  • Bridges are “launched” into place using a Patented cantilever launch/inversion technique
  • Installation is completed entirely from the home-bank and in near silence
  • Bridges can be recovered and extracted for re-use as quickly as they are installed.

EasiBridge is a modular system with maximum component lengths of 1.5m, making bridges extremely versatile, and easy to transport by dismounted personnel.

EasiBridge is compatible with confined space installation, bridges can be carried up building staircases, through ‘mouse holes’ and transported over long distances by just a single operative, then used to covertly cross gaps between buildings or other obstacles, access tunnels and roof areas.

Urban environments require personnel to move in the horizontal and vertical planes, EasiBridge provides a common set of components to address both, offering a step-change improvement over existing products and techniques.  EasiBridge packs to 10% of the size of the current Infantry Assault Bridge, offering considerable cost and logistics savings.  EasiBridge is 20 times stiffer and offers 3 times the span range of incumbent ladder systems.  An innovative cantilever launch/inversion technique is critical to this capability.

EasiBridge components are simple to use and maintain.  A typical bridge is formed of 5-to-15 components, each costing less than £1000 to replace.  Bridges take less than 5 minutes to assemble.  And 20 seconds to install.  The training time of just 1 hour has been shown to be sufficient for trial troops.

EasiBridge is capable of operating in a range of extreme environments, including extreme cold. EasiBridge remains operational in CBRN environments.  Extreme heat and fire present the only environmental constraint – bridge components may experience a loss of integrity if directly exposed to fire.

EasiBridge can be adapted to form 10 wider structural functions, via a common “Super-Kit” of parts, offering significant cost and logistics efficiencies compared to multiple ranges of disparate, single-function equipment.

Tactical Assault Bridge

The Tactical Assault Bridge (TAB) is the core EasiBridge configuration.

Tactical Assault bridges are designed to be man-portable, with typical system weights 1.5 kg per foot of span, for a design load of 200 kg.  A 50-foot bridge weighs 75kg and can be carried by as few as 2 personnel using carriers formed from bridge components themselves.  EasiBridge structures are half the weight and treble the span of the incumbent OCS system.

A single Tactical Assault Bridge is designed for low centre-of-gravity trolley loading. The low centre of gravity permits a narrow structure width for maximum portability, even for long-span bridges.

The trolley is used for two purposes; launch and recovery, and personnel movement across the bridge. Walking upright on a ladder over a gap is difficult, especially when encumbered. Adding handrails would mitigate some of the dangers but they add weight and take time to deploy. The trolley lowers the centre of gravity and allows an encumbered person to move quickly and safely across the gap.

What sets the EasiBridge Tactical Assault Bridge (TAB) apart from incumbent systems like the Inch’On GCS or Atlas Tactical Ladder is the long span capability, ease of deployment and low centre of gravity trolley system.

The videos below show launch and crossing techniques for the Atlas REBS ladder system and the Atlas Tactical Ladder.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/89u4Fv93rHg?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

In the context of urban operations, gaps are likely to be wider and personnel encumbered with weapons, radios, ammunition and other stores, making traversing open ladders dangerous and slow.

For vertical access, the same components are used. Un-tensioned, to a height of 10m and with the tensioning systems, 18m. In most cases, personnel would simply use the ladder sections in a conventional manner.

EasiBridge’ rope tensioning system also allows ladders to be installed at flatter angles, enabling winch or rope ascender movement of stores and weapons, or stretchers via the trolley system.

Shown below during trials

EasiBridge Super-Kit accessories offer further vertical access capabilities:

  • Access towers – footbridge decking over ladder towers and platforms.
  • Marine boarding ladders – detachable end hooks offer considerable space savings over incumbent systems – supporting RIB-assaults.
  • Manhole/tunnel access systems using modular ladder components and detachable top hooks.
  • Underbridge access systems, combining marine-boarding hooks, bridging elements and decking platforms.

Although this article is focussed on the military applications of the EasiBridge system, it also has a number of applications in the civilian market. EasiBridge offers further capabilities in fire evacuation, flood-, mud- and mountain- rescue. The addition of a back-pack/infantry carrier system makes the system ideal for remote access, offering significantly improved portability over vehicle-based rescue rafts.

For mountaineering, EasiBridge completely redefines conventional crevasse crossing systems and techniques, bringing ground-breaking improvements in span range, portability and operational safety.

Launch and Recovery

A key EasiBridge innovation is its method of installation – a patented cantilever launch/inversion technique, allowing a single person to install and cross a complete 18m span in under 20 seconds. Bridges are designed for one-man assembly and installation, without engineer support, and with no prior access to the far ‘bank’.

Although the trolley is used for moving personnel, its main function is not to move people, but to move the bridge itself. During installation, the structure and the trolley are both inverted. Turning the bridge and trolley upside down transforms the structure from a bridge into a cantilever boom on rollers, giving the structure incredible range. This time, the trolley is static – it is the bridge that moves.

The resulting structure is light and virtually frictionless.

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