General Dynamics European Land Systems-Germany GmbH (GDELS-Germany), formerly known as EWK (Eisenwerke Kaiserslautern GmbH), has been one of the worldwide leading companies in mobile military bridge equipment for almost 60 years.
Almost 60 years of experience in the field of amphibious bridging systems have lead to a proven basic design with variable equipment modules according to the customer’s operational requirements EWK Eisenwerke Kaiserslautern GmbH was the leader in the development and construction of a family of unique amphibious bridging and ferrying vehicles. From the EWK-Gillois in the 1950s, the M2 amphibious vehicle in the ‘60s and ‘70s, to the modern M3 of 1995, all these bridging systems can be utilised as a ferry and a floating bridge for trucks and heavy combat vehicles. A total of 264 EWK-Gillois, 385 M2 and 97 M3 vehicles were built and served in armies around the world. But the apparition of a new generation of AFVsand MBT with standard loading classifications of up to 70T finally required a more advanced and capable vehicle
For France EWK was responsible for the development of the French EFA amphibian together with the French company CEFA .
CEFA now builds the series for the French Army and EWK supplied the company with the critical welded aluminum structures
So we assit at the conception of the EWK’s M3 Amphibian for German and British armies in October 1996, represented a standard-setting milestone in military bridging
The company's leading position has always been determined by floating and dry-gap bridge systems. These systems were not only designed to meet the technical and operational requirements of its users, but were also ahead of their time.
GDELS provides a wide range of mobile military bridge systems for all forces.M3 Amphibious Bridge/Rafting System and IRB Improved Ribbon Bridge represent today's most modern and fastest water crossing systems for heavy forces. REBS Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System and the modular bridge system MTB Medium Trackway Bridge are the systems of choice for medium mechanized and air-transportable troops. Light infantry and airborne units rely on the IAB Infantry Assault Bridge to cross wet and dry gaps.
Developed and improved in close cooperation with the users, bridges of GDELS-Germany have proven their reliability and superior performance in various disaster relief operations, exercises and combat missions. GDELS-Germany also supplies integrated logistics support worldwide.
Bridge systems of GDELS-Germany are currently in use in more than 20 countries worldwide.
In the early 1960s EWK (Eisenwerke Kaiserslautern Goppner GmbH) developed a cross-country trials vehicle known as the P3 Erprobungswagen. This vehicle featured large Michelin low-pressure tyres with a diameter of 1.744 metres and a tread of 0.569 metre and a central tyre pressure system that allowed the driver to adjust the ground pressure to suit the type of ground being crossed. The P3 had a wheelbase of 3.3 metres and a low centre of gravity owing to its overall height of only 2.05 metres, and was fully amphibious being propelled in the water at a speed of 12 km/h by one propeller. Extensive trials showed that the P3 had excellent cross-country and amphibious capabilities and could climb and descend steep river banks with ease.
In the early 1970s EWK, with Daimler-Benz as the major sub-contractor, started development work on the APE (Amphibisches Pionier-Erkundungsfahrzeug), or Amphibious Engineer Reconnaissance Vehicle, to meet the requirements of the Federal German Army. EWK also call the vehicle the AMF (Amphibische Mehrzweck-Fahrzeuge) or Amphibious Reconnaissance Vehicle.
The first prototype of the APE was completed in 1977. The vehicle is basically a slightly larger version of the Transportpanzer 2 (4 x 4) vehicle incorporating many of the concepts already proved in the earlier P3 prototype. The Transportpanzer 1 (6 X 6) vehicle is currently in production for the Federal German Army by Thyssen Henschel and the first of 996 vehicles were handed over late in 1979. About 90 per cent of the automotive components of the APE are identical to those of the Transportpanzer 1 but its suspension is quite different and for this reason it has superior amphibious and cross-country capabilities to the Transportpanzer 1. EWK built four prototypes of the APE for the West German Army and one of these was subsequently bought back by the company for further development work. This was subsequently renamed the Alligator.
The main features of the APE are low-pressure balloon tyres, tyre pressure regulation system, good angles of approach and departure, hydraulic retraction of the axles when the vehicle is swimming, reducing drag to an absolute minimum, ability of the two propellers to swivel through 360 degrees for increased manoeuvrability, capability of the wheels and propellers to be driven simultaneously to assist in climbing out of the water, and excellent forward visibility.
First, EWK "Eisen Werke Kaiserslautern" tried to build that ALF on base of the M2 it became the ALF-1. But the ALF-1 had the problem of capsizing when they shot the water cannon to the side (action and reaction). To counter that, the width was increased, making the vehicle forbidden for roads. But the vehicle must be able to use the roads to get faster to the accidents than on waterway.
Anyway, after a long time of try and error, the ALF-1 was usable, slightly wider than allowed (but got a special permission).
In 1987 the ALF-1 had his wheels removed and the hull closed. Making it "just" a boat.
The ALF 1 had a system to make a cloud of water aerosol around the vehicle so it could swim through areas of burning oil/fuel.
In 1992 the Alf-1 retired in the "Technik_Museum" in Speyer in Germany
When the development of the Bison was finished, EWK started a second attempt on base of the Bison, for a fire fighting vehicle, the ALF-2, and where successful immediately.
The Bison was narrow enough for the roads and by its inflatable floats stable enough to shoot a water beam to every direction while being afloat. Actually, these floats are not needed for floating, they are just for stabilization.
For the ALF-2, the floats were not inflatable but were pontoons that were pivoted from the cargo bed (since there is no cargo) to their operating positions, which also opened the working deck with the water cannons and increased the working deck surface.
ALF-2 also had a system to make a cloud of water aerosol around the vehicle so it could swim through areas of burning oil/fuel.
The ALF-2 prototype was built on EWK's own costs. The strange thing is that since the ALF-1 did not fulfil the expectations, the ALF-2 was never bought by any fire service.
EWK APE -Amphibisches Pionier-Erkundungsfahrzeug(1977) (EWK with Daimler-Benz)
In English that is an Amphibious Engineer Reconnaissance Vehicle. Delivered to the German Army was bought back for more testing by EWK.
Amphibious Bridging and Ferrying Equipment (M2)
Build by EWK there partner in developing was Klockner-Humboldt-Deutz. The competitor model M1 was made by MAN and Krupp (which did not belong to Thyssen back then). But M1 failed and the army decided for M2.The M2 were developed 1954+ and produced until 1982 for many armies of the NATO and other "western" countries (389 vehicles).
The M2 offers full cross country as well as floating capabilities. It is used to cross rivers and other inland waters with a water current velocity of up to 3 m/s. It operates either as a single ferry or, in a combined configuration (several open- or close-coupled single ferries), as a multiple ferry, or as a single element within a bridge structure. The loading capacity of the single ferry provides for a 12000 kg useful load, allowing up to Military Load Class MLC 60 for multiple ferries and bridges.
Development began in 1982 and lasted 10 years, in 1992, the last testing sample was delivered. A first order of 64 serial vehicles came in in 1994.
The M3 is the result of 40 years of experience of EWK in the fields of design, development and production of floating bridges and ferrying equipment.