South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has formally selected a localised version of the M3 amphibious rig to meet a Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) requirement for an amphibious bridge and ferry system. The contract is worth about $460 million and will see the production of about 110 M3 vehicles for deployment starting in 2023. The M3 Amphibious Rig, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) developed by General Dynamics European Land Systems, is to be locally produced by prime contractor Hanwha Defense. Hyundai Rotem lost the bid with its offer of the OTTER Armored Amphibious Assault Bridge to be developed by Turkey’s FNSS.
The M3 Amphibious Rig is a self-propelled, amphibious bridging vehicle that is used for the projection of tanks and other vehicles across water obstacles. Originally developed by the German firm Eisenwerke Kaiserslautern (EWK, since 2002 acquired by General Dynamics European Land Systems), it succeeded the conceptually similar M2 made by the same company. Development of the M3 began in 1982, with the final prototype being delivered 10 years later in 1992. A first order of 64 serial vehicles was made in 1994, and it entered service with the German and British armies in 1996. South Korea will be the sixth country operating the M3 after Germany, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia.
The M3 is self-deployable by road, operating as a 4×4 wheeled vehicle with a maximum road speed of 80 km/h. Before it is driven into the water for amphibious operation, two large aluminium pontoons are deployed, unfolding them along the length of its hull. The amphibious bridges have been successfully deployed in numerous allied operations and maneuvers, as well as in extreme climates. During NATO’s Anakonda 2016 exercise in Poland, German and British Army engineer units teamed up to assemble the longest 350-meter floating bridge using 30 M3 amphibious vehicles in less than 35 minutes.
In water, the M3 is propelled and steered by 2 fully traversable pump jets at speeds of up to 14 km/h. Multiple rigs may be joined by long connectors called “ramps”, 4 of which are carried on each vehicle, to form a bridge across a water obstacle. 8 M3 Rigs will bridge a 100m water gap this way, and can be traversed by vehicles up to and including the heaviest 60+ ton main battle tank like the Leopard 2A6 and Challenger 2. Alternatively, just 2 Rigs may be joined to create a ferry capable of carrying a similar load across much wider water gaps. 3 Rigs joined together may carry up to the equivalent of 2 such MBTs