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Unique German-British amphibious engineer battalion put through its paces in Poland

Soldiers from the unique German-British Amphibious Engineer Battalion 130 have deployed with 27 M3 Amphibious Bridging Vehicles (M3 Rigs), to Poland's Vistula River, where they have been taking part in Exercise Dragon 24.

The battalion, including 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron Royal Engineers, is an unusual unit in that both British Army and Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) soldiers serve side by side. They are the only unit in NATO to have this particular wide wet gap crossing capability.

A river is one of the most difficult obstacles you can cross in ground operations.” General Christopher Cavoli,
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)

Taking centre-stage at the Distinguished Visitor’s Day in the presence of the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Christopher Cavoli explained the importance of the battalion: 

“A river is one of the most difficult obstacles you can cross in ground operations. That is what is being practised here today.

“It is a complex and dangerous operation that is necessary to be able to perform under fire, in order to be able to restore territory and be able to counter-attack adversary forces.

“So, we practise it, but it is something we should pay particular attention to, because very few militaries are capable of executing a highly complex, choreographed, multidomain operation under fire to cross obstacles.”

M3 Rigs are unique; they are four-wheeled vehicles, with all-wheel drive and can be used as single or longer ferries or joined together to form a bridge.

In Poland, the Engineers joined four rigs to form ferries capable of taking three vehicles and in minutes were transferred to the far bank of the River Vistula.

By working together with the Germans, Polish and French taking part in this exercise we bring a lot to the table.” Major Chris Button,
Amphibious Engineer Battalion 130

The Amphibious Engineers demonstrated their capability by transporting a variety of vehicles, including Leopard 2 and Abrams Main Battle Tanks, Bradley and other armoured fighting vehicles from different countries, across a 320m gap.

The Battalion received a further recognition as the Commander 1st (German) Panzer Division, Major General Heiko Hübner, declared the unit at Full Operational Capability (FOC) in the presence of Colonel Simon Hirst, Military Attaché at the British Embassy in Berlin.

This is a result of two years hard and dedicated work, involving operational deployments to the Baltic as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. Since its formation in 2021, the Minden based unit has undergone an intensive development programme to ensure it can deliver a joint capability to NATO.

Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Florian Loges added: 

“The wide wet gap crossing capability is important, especially in Europe, because there are a lot of large rivers and bodies of water that could stop or hamper our movements.

“This is why it is so important for NATO to have their own capability to cross large bodies of water.” 

His Second-in-Command, Major Chris Button added: 

“We have proved how important a multinational task force can be and shown our amphibious capability. By working together with the Germans, Polish and French taking part in this exercise we bring a lot to the table.”

Ex Polish Dragon is one of many exercises taking place as part of the Ex Steadfast Defender series, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War. About ninety thousand soldiers from NATO countries will participate in the exercise; twenty thousand British troops will be deployed in several countries from the Artic to south-east Europe.

The successful demonstration of the M3 Rigs capability serves to highlight NATO’s ability to undertake complex logistic operations and underscores the importance of multinational cooperation in maintaining global security in an ever-changing world.

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