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New Zealand takes delivery of General Dynamics mobile bridges

Feb. 13, 2014 at 2:01 AM   |   Comments

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- New Zealand's army has taken delivery of four mobile bridge systems from General Dynamics European Land Systems and four prime mover construction trucks from Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles in Germany.

The mechanically launched, single-unit bridge systems are for rapidly crossing gaps such as streams, rivers and anti-vehicle ditches up to 42 feet wide.

A Defense Ministry statement said the rapid gap-crossing systems are part of a wider upgrading of equipment for the army's engineering unit that includes combat earth-moving equipment and water treatment systems.

Procurement of the rapid gap-crossing systems were a joint purchase with Britain's Defense Ministry, the statement said. The two armies bought the same equipment from General Dynamics and Rheinmetall.

New Zealand also worked with Britain when it announced it had purchased 200 trucks from Rheinmetall MAN in a deal worth $111.3 million.

Coleman announced the contract in mid-May, saying New Zealand is acquiring the same military vehicles as the United Kingdom.

"We bought them at a great price by purchasing off the same production line as the [British], achieving an economy of scale."

The trucks are 4x4s, 6x6s and 8x8s in a number of variants, including trucks fitted with winches and cranes, dump trucks, trucks fitted with specialized pallet and container handling equipment, and tractor/semi-trailer combinations.

The Defense Ministry said some specific components -- such as semi-trailers and dumper bodies -- will be manufactured in New Zealand.

Rheinmetall will deliver the vehicles by the end of this year as replacements for Unimog and heavier Mercedes trucks.

The government has put the military under intense pressure to reduce spending and get better value for money.

The 2010 Defense White Paper set the strategic vision for the military to 2035, but the shortfall was about $537 million in operational funding by 2021 and a $4 billion shortfall in capital funding by the mid 2020s.

Coleman said in November New Zealand's military had made "significant" back-office savings to alleviate the shortfall.

The savings were due to a savings and redistribution program that has reinvested savings into front-line capabilities, including equipment.

These include new trucks for the army, upgraded maritime helicopters for the navy and a significant pay raise of $45 million for military personnel in 2012. About 90 percent of military personnel had a pay increase, with the average 5.8 percent.

But Coleman also said more savings must be found and details of these will be outlined in government budget, expected May 15.

Further refinements of military needs will be outlined in the next Defense White Paper, scheduled for 2015.

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