The M104 "Wolverine" was adopted by the United States Army to succeed its aged line of M60 Main Battle Tank-based "Armored Vehicle launched Bridge" (AVLB) bridgelayer systems. The M104 followed the same design road as it was simply developed from the current-generation M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT). As such, the new vehicle shares many of the automotive and track components as its progenitor while its on-road/off-road performance deviates little from its original offering.
Development of the M104 was headed by General Dynamic Land Systems (GDLS) beginning in 1983 and this produced the turretless M1 Abrams hull which was fitted with specialized mounting hardware and an inherent power system to manage a "scissors-type" folding bridge component fitted over the hull. The bridge is from a design supplied by MAN Mobile Bridges GmbH of Germany. The work inevitably produced pilot (prototype) vehicles whose trials were undertaken from 1996 onwards. After successful completion of this phase, the vehicle was received by U.S. Army engineering groups as the "M104 Wolverine" during 2003. Procurement has netted some forty-four of the type in inventory - though this represents a drastic reduction from the 450+ vehicles originally sought by Army authorities (primarily due to budget reductions).
In the field, the M104 provides traversal of seemingly impassable terrain such as deep water sources or ravines. The bridge component is laid down by the carrier vehicle which is crewed by just two. These personnel reside in the protective armored hull, shielded from basic battlefield dangers and inclement weather. The M1 Arbams origins allow the Wolverine to keep pace with other Army mechanized units such as the Bradley IFV family of vehicles. The bridge component is launched and set within five minutes and is then reclaimed on the other side of a crossing by the same launching vehicle for reuse somewhere down the road. The Wolverine can then rejoin its advancing column. It does, however, lack any standard defensive armament which, more or less, requires that the M104 operate within close proximity of friendly forces in a combat environment.
November 2018 - The United States Army has agreed to purchase the newer-generation Joint Assault Bridge (JAB) vehicles from DRS Sustainment Systems at a cost of $17.2 million USD. The work is expected to be completed in 2024.
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