Birdon is currently under contract to deliver 374 Bridge Erection Boats for the US Army at a cost of about US$252M over 4 years. This contract win was the culmination of four years of design, tender submission and prototype trials, based on Birdon’s Bridge Erection Propulsion Boat design for the Australian Army.
The vessels are road, air and sea transportable and are used to construct and manage floating ribbon (pontoon) bridges for mobile armoured units. When coupled to a bridge section they can also be used to ferry military vehicles across open water.
A key component of the design is the NAMJet propulsion unit (water jet) which provides significantly more thrust at lower speeds than other water jets on the market today.
BEBs are a vital mobility asset for any army requiring water crossing capability. They are used to manoeuvre floating modules to create bridges or act as ferries across strategic waterways while also providing thrust anchorage against strong currents during bridge construction and operation.
The importance of this type of bridge system was reinforced during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 when the US Army took only five hours to build a 600 metre ribbon bridge across the Tigris River. This was the longest floating bridge constructed in a combat zone since WWII.
The US Army BEBs have NAMJet Traktor water jets which produce 30% more thrust and a significantly higher top speed of 24 knots. NAMJet (North American Water Jet) is owned by Birdon.
Birdon is currently delivering an initial run of 25 vessels –known as the Low Rate Initial Production phase (LRIP) –for a fixed sum of just over US$9 million. This LRIP phase is being used to finalise key design factors and bed down production processes before final delivery targets are set and full production begins. The first 25 BEBs –the LRIP vessels –are being built by Birdon America at its Denver facility. LRIP is due for completion at the end of 2017 and will be followed by the construction of up to 374 production BEBs over the next four years with a potential contract value of $US252 million.
Norfolk Island Passenger Transfer Vessels
Birdon was recently awarded a $3.9M contract to design and construct three new vessels to service Norfolk Island. The design for the vessels has been completed and construction is currently taking place at Birdon’s Port Macquarie shipyard. The project is due for completion in 2019.
Bridge Erection Propulsion Boats
Birdon was contracted by the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) to design and build 24 Bridge Erection Propulsion Boats (BEPBs) for the Australian Army. The vessels were to replace the existing fleet of Bridge Erection Boats (BEB). The $16 million contract included integrated logistic support, technical documentation and initial in-service training.
The project was undertaken in three key stages:
Initial design phase and the development of a prototype vessel
Engineering and fabrication of twenty-four (24) vessels
Three-year warranty and maintenance support for the vessels located in Darwin, Townsville, Sydney and Brisbane.
Birdon was also successful in its bid to provide Life of Type Extensions services for the BEPBs and is re-powering and refitting each boat with Birdon-owned NAMJet water jets for improved slow speed control and overall performance.
Regional Patrol Craft
Birdon was selected by the Australian Defence Force to design and construct a fleet of 16 Regional Patrol Craft, including trailers.
The vessels are integral to the Regional Force Surveillance Unit (RFSU) and Border Protection Force operations.
With these vessels, the army has the capability to operate in blue, brown, riverine, and brackish waters supporting smaller watercraft up to 12 nautical miles offshore.
The vessels are also suitable for the harsh Australian coastline having been designed and built to insert, extract and support foot patrols and provide parent craft aid to other vessels in remote areas.
The vessels have been built in accordance with the Lloyd’s Register classification at Birdon’s accredited, all weather, aluminium fabrication facility in Port Macquarie.
The Regional Patrol Craft (RPC) are 8.2 metres in length with a beam of 2.8 metres. The vessels are powered by a 355 hp Cummins engine driving a Hamilton Water Jet, which can propel a fully laden RPC to speeds of 25 knots. Each vessel has the capacity to carry a full patrol plus crew.