The M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge is an armored combat engineering vehicle designed to provide deployable bridge capability for units engaged in military operations.
For over a quarter of a century the US Army has made use of armored bridgelaying vehicles based on the M48 Patton/M60 series of tanks. In recent years, however, the Army discovered that the aging M60 AVLB (Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge) was too slow to keep up with the M1 Abrams during field maneuvers. Additionally, the Abrams was so heavy that it could safely cross the AVLB's bridge only at a very slow speed.
Program development for a new armored bridgelaying vehicle began in 1983, and by 1994 General Dynamics Land Systems and the German MAN Mobile Bridges GmbH (since 2005 Krauss-Maffei Wegmann) had been awarded a contract. The first prototype vehicles were being tested by 1996, and the first production models were delivered to the Army by 2003.
Because the Wolverine is essentially an M1A2 SEP tank with bridgelaying gear instead of a turret it shares virtually all of the parent vehicle's speed, mobility, survivability, and automotive components. This commonality was a key design factor in the Wolverine's development. The Wolverine also features an advanced communications package designed to keep it in contact with local field commanders. However, the vehicle itself is completely unarmed.
The Wolverine is operated by two crewmen who sit within the hull. Both crewmen have access to the bridging controls, while the bridge itself is carried in two sections above the hull. Once a bridging site is chosen the vehicle securely anchors itself in place with a spade. The two sections of the bridge are joined together, and then the entire bridge is extended across the obstacle and dropped into place. During launch the crewmen have the ability to make minor corrections if needed. Once operations are complete the Wolverine drives across the bridge and retrieves it from the other side simply by reversing the process. The bridge can be launched in under 5 minutes or retrieved in less than 10, all without the crewmen ever leaving the safety of their vehicle.
Once launched, the 26 meter LEGUAN bridge can support a 70 ton vehicle moving at 16 km/h. The Wolverine thus allows the heaviest of vehicles to cross craters, ditches, and damaged bridges at combat speed. This mobility is a decisive advantage for armored units