Recently, soldiers assigned to a bridge company of an engineer regiment under the PLA Xinjiang Military Command built a temporary bridge with three newly commissioned vehicle-mounted Rapidly Emplaced Bridge Systems HZ21 against extreme winds during a bridge-building training exercise, which effectively improved the troops’ combat support capability. In many respects, the HZ21 is similar in concept and operation to the General Dynamics European Land Systems – Germany (GDELS-G) Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System (REBS) deployed by the US Army, which is transported and launched from a Common Bridge Transporter (CBT).
The HZ21 military bridging system is deployed by China and referred to by CHIC as a ‘fast bridge’. It is transported and launched over the rear of a forward control 8×8 cross-country truck. Prior to launching the two-part bridge, a stabiliser is lowered on either side at the rear of the platform. The lower part of the bridge is then extended over the gap, followed by the upper part – the complete bridge is then lowered into position. The HZ21 is made from aluminum, a light dry-gap bridge which provides tactical gap crossing capability for light and medium size mechanized combat units.
Its robust aluminum structure also offers tactical deployability as the light and modular design can be transported by air or by any 10/15 ton Truck or medium armored platform. When fully extended, the 10.5-tonne (11.6 ton) two-part bridge is 21 m (69 ft) long and has a roadway width of 3.3 m; it can bridge a wet or dry gap of up to 19 m. The HZ21 can handle tracked vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of up to 60 tonnes, or wheeled platforms with a maximum axle load of up to 17 tonnes. According to CHIC, it can be deployed in fewer than 10 minutes and retracted in a similar time.
China’s NORINCO and its partners are producing and offering for export a range of bridging systems – including the new HZ21 – that must handle the newer, heavier armoured platforms replacing older Chinese systems. NORINCO markets a range of mobile bridging systems on tracked and wheeled platforms, but the prime contractor for some of these bridging systems is the China Harzone Industry Corporation (CHIC), which is a subsidiary of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC). CHIC confirmed that it has two major production facilities and one research and development facility, with sales of commercial and military bridging systems to more than 40 countries.