A very interesting job was initiated by one our biggest customers. General Dynamics Land Systems in Germany contacted us through their Australian Office about a model of a heavy vehicle system that was being put forward to the Australian Army.
The Improvised Ribbon Bridge System (IRB) was being put forward to provide the Army with a mobile pontoon bridge that could be used to ford rivers with their new ABRAMS Main Battle Tank. The system was designed to be carried on a portable loading/unloading cradle that would be carried on the Army's new MAN SX45 8 wheel drive trucks so the model would include one of these. The pontoon could also be used as a transport barge capable of carrying approximately 70 tons. It would be towed by the Bridge Erection Propulsion Boat (BEPB) built by Birdon Marine in Port Macquarie, which we had built models of previously.
We designed a display to show the IRB loaded onto the cradle in its folded form as well as one launched in its unfolded form. The truck was started using two Revell 1:35 scale MAN truck kits. One was a 6 x 6 and the other was a 4 x 4. These were combined onto a new chassis using the drive train, wheels, suspension and cab. Lots of scratch built parts were made then moulded to build the truck into the Australian version. It was a relatively easy build as we already had the plans for the SX45 truck as this was the same vehicle that carries the GIRAFFE Battlefield RADAR System. It was then painted in the Army Camouflage pattern.
The pontoon sections were built in four sections each from laser cut parts created from the drawings provided to us by GDLS Germany. The two outside sections were attached to the two inner sections in a "W" shape for the folded unit whilst for the unfolded one they were clued side by side. The folded unit fitted neatly onto the cradle and painted in olive drab paint. The unfolded unit was also painted in olive drab, but had several yellow boundary lines and centre lines to be added. Railings also had to be fitted in place along the raised walkway of the unfolded unit.
The base for the models was set up as a diorama of a river bank with river flowing alongside. The unfolded pontoon was placed in the river section and a coating of Clear Glass Coat (used to make rivers on model railway layouts) was poured around it. It took some work to get it to look like the rivers edge, but ended up looking very realistic once completed. A gravel river bank was created and model shrubs and rocks placed along the edge. The truck model fitted with the cradle and folded IRB unit was fitted as if backing up to unload.
The model was delivered to the Land Warfare Conference and was displayed at the General Dynamics stand. It was an unusual project, but turned out very well. Thank you GDLS for giving us another "different" project to get our teeth into.