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A pontoon bridge (or ponton bridge), also known as a floating bridge, uses floats or shallow-
draft Draft, The Draft, or Draught may refer to: Watercraft dimensions * Draft (hull), the distance from waterline to keel of a vessel * Draft (sail), degree of curvature in a sail * Air draft, distance from waterline to the highest point on a vessel ...
boats A boat is a watercraft of a large range of types and sizes, but generally smaller than a ship, which is distinguished by its larger size, shape, cargo or passenger capacity, or its ability to carry boats. Small boats are typically found on inl ...

boats
to support a continuous deck for pedestrian and vehicle travel. The
buoyancy Buoyancy (), or upthrust, is an upward exerted by a that opposes the of a partially or fully immersed object. In a column of fluid, pressure increases with depth as a result of the weight of the overlying fluid. Thus the pressure at the bo ...

buoyancy
of the supports limits the maximum load that they can carry. Most pontoon bridges are temporary and used in wartime and civil emergencies. There are permanent pontoon bridges in civilian use and carry highway traffic and allowing ships or boats to pass on the river or lake being crossed. Permanent floating bridges are useful for sheltered water crossings if it is not considered economically feasible to suspend a bridge from anchored
pier Seaside pleasure pier in Brighton, England. The first seaside piers were built in England in the early 19th century.">England.html" ;"title="Brighton, England">Brighton, England. The first seaside piers were built in England in the early 19th ...

pier
s. Such bridges can require a section that is elevated or can be raised or removed to allow waterborne traffic to pass. Pontoon bridges have been in use since ancient times and have been used to great advantage in many battles throughout history, such as the
Battle of Garigliano The Battle of Garigliano was fought in 915 between Christian forces and the Saracens. Pope John X personally led the Christian forces into battle. The aim was to destroy the Arab fortress on the Garigliano, Garigliano River, which had threatened c ...
, the
Battle of Oudenarde The Battle of Oudenarde, also known as the Battle of Oudenaarde, was a major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession, pitting a Grand Alliance (League of Augsburg), Grand Alliance force consisting of eighty thousand men under the command o ...
, the crossing of the Rhine during World War II, and during the
Iran–Iraq War The Iran–Iraq War), whereas Western sources use that name to refer to the conflict between the American-led coalition and Iraq in 1991., name=, group= ( fa, جنگ ایران و عراق; ar, الحرب الإيرانية العراقية) ...
's
Operation Dawn 8 The First Battle of al-Faw was a battle of the Iran–Iraq War , commander1 = Ruhollah Khomeini , commander2 = , units1 = see Order of battle during the Iran–Iraq War, order of battle , units2 = s ...
.


Definition

A pontoon bridge is a collection of specialized, shallow draft boats or floats, connected together to cross a river or canal, with a track or deck attached on top. The water
buoyancy Buoyancy (), or upthrust, is an upward exerted by a that opposes the of a partially or fully immersed object. In a column of fluid, pressure increases with depth as a result of the weight of the overlying fluid. Thus the pressure at the bo ...

buoyancy
supports the boats, limiting the maximum load to the total and point buoyancy of the pontoons or boats. The supporting boats or floats can be open or closed, temporary or permanent in installation, and made of rubber, metal, wood, or concrete. The decking may be temporary or permanent, and constructed out of wood, modular metal, or asphalt or concrete over a metal frame.


Etymology

The spelling "ponton" in English dates from at least 1870. The use continued in references found in U.S. patents during the 1890s. It continued to be spelled in that fashion through World War II, when temporary floating bridges were used extensively throughout the
European theatre The European theatre of World War II was the main Theater (warfare), theatre of combat during World War II. It saw heavy fighting across Europe for almost six years, starting with Nazi Germany, Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 and ...
. U.S.
combat engineers erected in Iraq File:VietnamCombatArtCAT08VictoryVReynoldsCombatEngineer.jpg, Combat Engineer depicted in the Vietnam Combat Artists Program A combat engineer (also called field engineer, pioneer or sapper) is a type of soldier who perf ...
commonly pronounced the word "ponton" rather than "pontoon" and U.S. military manuals spelled it using a single 'o'. The U.S. military differentiated between the bridge itself ("ponton") and the floats used to provide buoyancy ("pontoon"). The original word was derived from Old French ''ponton'', from Latin ''ponto'' ("ferryboat"), from ''pons'' ("bridge").


Design

When designing a pontoon bridge, the
civil engineer A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering Civil engineering is a Regulation and licensure in engineering, professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and natu ...
must take into consideration the
Archimedes' principle Archimedes' principle states that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external f ...
: Each pontoon can support a load equal to the mass of the water that it displaces. This
load Load or LOAD may refer to: Aeronautics and transportation *Load factor (aeronautics), the ratio of the lift of an aircraft to its weight *Passenger load factor, the ratio of revenue passenger miles to available seat miles of a particular transpor ...
includes the mass of the bridge and the pontoon itself. If the maximum load of a bridge section is exceeded, one or more pontoons become submerged. Flexible connections have to allow for one section of the bridge to be weighted down more heavily than the other parts. The roadway across the pontoons should be relatively light, so as not to limit the carrying capacity of the pontoons. The connection of the bridge to shore requires the design of approaches that are not too steep, protect the bank from erosion and provide for movements of the bridge during (tidal) changes of the water level. Floating bridges were historically constructed using wood. Pontoons were formed by simply lashing several barrels together, by rafts of timbers, or by using boats. Each bridge section consisted of one or more pontoons, which were maneuvered into position and then anchored underwater or on land. The pontoons were linked together using wooden
stringer Stringer may refer to: Structural elements * Stringer (aircraft), or longeron, a strip of wood or metal to which the skin of an aircraft is fastened * Stringer (slag), an inclusion, possibly leading to a defect, in cast metal * Stringer (stairs), t ...
s called ''balks''. The balks were covered by a series of cross planks called ''chesses'' to form the road surface, and the chesses were secured with side
guard rail Guard rail, guardrails, or protective guarding, in general, are a boundary feature and may be a means to prevent or deter access to dangerous or off-limits areas while allowing light and visibility in a greater way than a . Common shapes are f ...
s. A floating bridge can be built in a series of sections, starting from an anchored point on the shore. Modern pontoon bridges usually use pre-fabricated floating structures. Most pontoon bridges are designed for temporary use, but bridges across water bodies with a constant water level can remain in place much longer.
Hobart Bridge The Hobart Bridge was a floating arch bridge An arch bridge is a bridge with abutment in Yass, New South Wales File:Old Town Road SIRT SB stair jeh.jpg, Cream (colour), Cream-colored concrete abutment gives vertical support to both the ...
, a long pontoon bridge built 1943 in
Hobart Hobart () is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

Hobart
, was only replaced after 21 years. The fourth
Galata Bridge The Galata Bridge ( tr, Galata Köprüsü, ) is a bridge that spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul ) , postal_code_type = Postal code , postal_code = 34000 to 34990 , area_code = +90 2 ...
that spans the
Golden Horn 300px, The Golden Horn as seen from Galata Bridge The Golden Horn ( tr, Altın Boynuz or ''Haliç''; grc, Χρυσόκερας, ''Chrysókeras''; la, Sinus Ceratinus) is a major urban waterway and the primary inlet of the Bosphorus F ...

Golden Horn
in
Istanbul ) , postal_code_type = Postal code A postal code (also known locally in various English-speaking countries throughout the world as a postcode, post code, PIN or ZIP Code) is a series of letters or digits or both, sometimes ...

Istanbul
,
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
was built in 1912 and operated for 80 years. Provisional and lightweight pontoon bridge are easily damaged. The bridge can be dislodged or inundated when the load limit of the bridge is exceeded. The bridge can be induced to sway or
oscillate Oscillation is the repetitive variation, typically in time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the pas ...
in a hazardous manner from the swell, from a storm, a flood or a fast moving load. Ice or floating objects (
flotsam In maritime law Admiralty law or maritime law is a body of law that governs nautical issues and private maritime disputes. Admiralty law consists of both domestic law on maritime activities, and private international law governing the relatio ...
) can accumulate on the pontoons, increasing the drag from river current and potentially damaging the bridge. See below for floating pontoon failures and disasters.


Historic uses


Ancient China

In
ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese h ...
, the
Zhou Dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China ...
Chinese text of the ''
Shi Jing The ''Classic of Poetry'', also ''Shijing'' or ''Shih-ching'' (), translated variously as the ''Book of Songs'', ''Book of Odes'' or simply known as the ''Odes'' or ''Poetry'' (), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry Chinese po ...

Shi Jing
'' (''Book of Odes'') records that
King Wen of Zhou King Wen of Zhou (; 1112–1050 BC, the Civilizing King) was Count of ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Z ...

King Wen of Zhou
was the first to create a pontoon bridge in the 11th century BC. However, the historian
Joseph Needham Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham (; 9 December 1900 – 24 March 1995) was a British biochemist, historian and sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially ...
has pointed out that in all likely scenarios, the temporary pontoon bridge was invented during the 9th or 8th century BC in China, as this part was perhaps a later addition to the book (considering how the book had been edited up until the
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
, 202 BC – 220 AD). Although earlier temporary pontoon bridges had been made in China, the first secure and permanent ones (and linked with iron chains) in China came first during the
Qin Dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...

Qin Dynasty
(221–207 BC). The later
Song Dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
(960–1279 AD) Chinese statesman Cao Cheng once wrote of early pontoon bridges in China (spelling of Chinese in Wade-Giles format): During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD), the Chinese created a very large pontoon bridge that spanned the width of the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
. There was also the rebellion of Gongsun Shu in 33 AD, where a large pontoon bridge with fortified posts was constructed across the Yangtze
River A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...
, eventually broken through with
ramming In warfare, ramming is a technique used in air, sea, and land combat. The term originated from battering ram A battering ram is a siege engine A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick cit ...
ships by official Han troops under Commander Cen Peng. During the late Eastern Han into the
Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Cao Wei, Wei, Shu Han, Shu, and Eastern Wu, Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the End of the Han dynasty, end of the Han dynasty#East ...

Three Kingdoms
period, during the
Battle of Chibi The Battle of Red Cliffs, also known as the Battle of Chibi, was a decisive naval battle in the winter of 208–209 C.E. at the end of the Han dynasty The end of the Han dynasty refers to the period of Chinese history The earliest kno ...
in 208 AD, the Prime Minister
Cao Cao Cao Cao (; ; ; – 15 March 220), courtesy name Mengde (), was a Chinese warlord, statesman and poet. He was the penultimate Grand chancellor (China), grand chancellor of the Eastern Han dynasty who rose to great power in the End of the Han ...
once linked the majority of his fleet together with iron chains, which proved to be a fatal mistake once he was thwarted with a fire attack by
Sun Quan Sun Quan (, Chinese: 孫權) (182 – 252), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sph ...

Sun Quan
's fleet. The armies of
Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kuangyin, courtesy name Yuanlang, was the founder and first emperor of the Song dynasty in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a ...
had a large pontoon bridge built across the Yangtze River in 974 in order to secure supply lines during the
Song Dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
's conquest of the
Southern Tang Southern Tang () was a state in Southern China that existed during Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, which proclaimed itself to be the successor of the former Tang Dynasty. The capital was located at Jinling, Nanjing in present-day Jiangsu ...
. On October 22, 1420, Ghiyasu'd-Din Naqqah, the official diarist of the embassy sent by the Timurid ruler of
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...

Persia
, Mirza Shahrukh (r. 1404–1447), to the
Ming Dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming Dynasty
of
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
during the reign of the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (pronounced , ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424) — personal name Zhu Di (WG: Chu Ti) — was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son ...

Yongle Emperor
(r. 1402–1424), recorded his sight and travel over a large floating pontoon bridge at
Lanzhou Lanzhou (, ; ; Postal romanisation Postal romanization was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by postal authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many cities, the postal romanization was the most comm ...

Lanzhou
(constructed earlier in 1372) as he crossed the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
on this day. He wrote that it was:


Greco-Roman era

The
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
writer
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
in his ''
Histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * Histories (Herodotus), ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus (historian), Timaeus * The Histories (Polybius), ''The Histories'' (Polybius), ...
'', records several pontoon bridges. The Persian Emperor
Darius Darius may refer to: Persian kings ;Kings of the Achaemenid Empire * Darius I (the Great, 550 to 487 BC) * Darius II (423 to 404 BC) * Darius III (Codomannus, 380 to 330 BC) ;Crown Prince * Darius (son of Xerxes I), Crown Prince of Persia, may ha ...

Darius
used a pontoon bridge to cross the
Bosphorus The Bosporus () or Bosphorus (;The spelling ''Bosporus'' is listed first or exclusively in all major British and American dictionaries (e.gOxford Online Dictionaries
and Emperor Caligula built a bridge at
Baiae Baiae ( it, Baia; nap, Baia) was an ancient Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle ...
in 37 AD. For Emperor Darius I The Great of
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...

Persia
(522–485 BC), the Greek Mandrocles of Samos once engineered a pontoon bridge that stretched across the
Bosporus The Bosporus () or Bosphorus (;The spelling ''Bosporus'' is listed first or exclusively in all major British and American dictionaries (e.gOxford Online Dictionaries
, linking Asia to Europe, so that Darius could pursue the fleeing
Scythians The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and water hieroglyphs. A ...
as well as move his army into position in the
Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, are a geographic area in southeastern Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rathe ...

Balkans
to overwhelm
Macedon Macedonia (; grc-gre, Μακεδονία), also called Macedon (), was an Classical antiquity, ancient monarchy, kingdom on the periphery of Archaic Greece, Archaic and Classical Greece, and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. Th ...

Macedon
. Other spectacular pontoon bridges were Xerxes' Pontoon Bridges across the
Hellespont The Dardanelles (; tr, Çanakkale Boğazı, lit=Strait of Çanakkale, el, Δαρδανέλλια, translit=Dardanéllia), also known as Strait of Gallipoli from the Gallipoli peninsula or from Classical Antiquity as the Hellespont (; gr ...
by
Xerxes I Xerxes I ( peo, wiktionary:𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠, 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠 ; grc-gre, Ξέρξης; – August 465 BC), commonly known as Xerxes the Great, was the fourth King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, ruling from 486 to 465 ...

Xerxes I
in 480 BC to transport his huge army into Europe: According to John Hale's ''Lords of the Sea'', to celebrate the onset of the
Sicilian Expedition The Sicilian Expedition was an Classical Athens, Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which took place from 415–413 BC during the Peloponnesian War between the Athenian empire, or the Delian League, on one side and Sparta, Syracuse, Sicily ...

Sicilian Expedition
(415 - 413 B.C.), the Athenian general,
Nicias Nicias (; Νικίας ''Nikias''; c. 470–413 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the ap ...
, paid builders to engineer an extraordinary pontoon bridge composed of gilded and tapestried ships for a festival that drew
Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens The Acropo ...

Athenian
s and
Ionians The Ionians (; el, Ἴωνες, ''Íōnes'', , ''Íōn'') were one of the four major s that the considered themselves to be divided into during the ; the other three being the , , and . The was one of the of the , together with the and ...
across the sea to the sanctuary of
Apollo Apollo, grc, Ἀπόλλωνος, ''Apóllōnos'', label=genitive , ; , grc-dor, Ἀπέλλων, ''Apéllōn'', ; grc, Ἀπείλων, ''Apeílōn'', label=Arcadocypriot Greek, ; grc-aeo, Ἄπλουν, ''Áploun'', la, Apollō, ...

Apollo
on
Delos The island of Delos (; el, Δήλος ; Attic Greek, Attic: , Doric Greek, Doric: ), near Mykonos, near the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. The excava ...

Delos
. On the occasion when Nicias was a sponsor, young Athenians paraded across the boats, singing as they walked, to give the armada a spectacular farewell. The late
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Laz ...
writer
Vegetius Publius (or Flavius) Vegetius Renatus, known as Vegetius (), was a writer of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Later Roman Empire (late 4th century). Nothing is known of his life or station beyond what is contained in his two surviving works: ' ...
, in his work ''
De Re Militari#REDIRECT De re militari ''De re militari'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. T ...
'', wrote: The emperor
Caligula Caligula (; 31 August 12 – 24 January 41 AD), formally known as Gaius (Gaius Gaius, sometimes spelled ''Gajus'', Cajus, Caius, was a common Latin praenomen The praenomen (; plural: praenomina) was a given name, personal name chosen by th ...

Caligula
is said to have ridden a horse across a pontoon bridge stretching two miles between
Baiae Baiae ( it, Baia; nap, Baia) was an ancient Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle ...
and
Puteoli Pozzuoli (; ; ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a basic Administrative division, constituent entity of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides many of the basic civil fu ...
while wearing the armour of
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (''basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title ...

Alexander the Great
to mock a soothsayer who had claimed he had "no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae". Caligula's construction of the bridge cost a massive sum of money and added to discontent with his rule.


Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, pontoons were used alongside regular boats to span rivers during campaigns, or to link communities which lacked resources to build permanent bridges. The
Hun The Huns were a nomadic people A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation which regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, pastoral ...

Hun
army of
Attila Attila (; ), frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns The Huns were a nomadic people A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation which regularly ...

Attila
built a bridge across the
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Nišava
during the siege of Naissus in 442 to bring heavy siege towers within range of the city.
Sassanid The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Iran (word), Ērānshahr''), and also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last Persian Empire, Persian imperial dynasty before the spread of I ...
forces crossed the
Euphrates The Euphrates () is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Tigris–Euphrates river system, Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia (the "Land Between the Rivers"). O ...
on a quickly-built pontoon bridge during the siege of Kallinikos in 542. The
Ostrogothic Kingdom The Ostrogothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of Italy (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communi ...

Ostrogothic Kingdom
constructed a fortified bridge across the
Tiber The Tiber (; la, Tiberis; it, Tevere ) is the third-longest and the longest in Central Italy, rising in the in and flowing through , , and , where it is joined by the River , to the , between and . It estimated at . The river has achi ...

Tiber
during the siege of Rome in 545 to block
Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survi ...
general
Belisarius Flavius Belisarius ( el, Φλάβιος Βελισάριος; c. 500The exact date of his birth is unknown. – 565) was a military commander of the Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, o ...
' relief flotillas to the city. The
Avar Khaganate The Pannonian Avars (; also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai< ...
forced Syriac-Roman engineers to construct two pontoon bridges across the
Sava The Sava (; , ; sr-cyr, Сава, Hungarian: Száva) is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and become ...

Sava
during the siege of Sirmium in 580 to completely surround the city with their troops and siege works. Emperor
Heraclius Heraclius ( el, Ἡράκλειος, ''Hērakleios''; c. 575 – 11 February 641), sometimes called Heraclius I, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinop ...
crossed the Bosporus on horseback on a large pontoon bridge in 638. The army of the
Umayyad Caliphate The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE; , ; ar, ٱلْخِلَافَة ٱلْأُمَوِيَّة, al-Khilāfah al-ʾUmawīyah) was the second of the four major caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state under ...
built a pontoon bridge over the Bosporus in 717 during the
siege of Constantinople (717–718) The second Arab siege of Constantinople in 717–718 was a combined land and sea offensive by the Muslim Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE; , ; ar, ٱلْخِلَافَة ٱلْأُمَوِيَّة, al-Khil ...

siege of Constantinople (717–718)
. The
Carolingian The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historic ...
army of
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
constructed a portable pontoon bridge of anchored boats bound together and used it to cross the Danube during campaigns against the Avar Khaganate in the 790s. Charlemagne's army built two fortified pontoon bridges across the
Elbe The Elbe (, ; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo), historically in English also Elve, is one of the major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake o ...

Elbe
in 789 during a campaign against the Slavic
Veleti The Veleti, also known as Wilzi, Wielzians, and Wiltzes, were a group of medieval Lechitic tribes within the territory of Hither Pomerania 130px, Coat of arms of the region Western Pomerania, in the narrower sense also called Hither Pomera ...
. The German army of
Otto the Great Otto I (23 November 912 – 7 May 973), traditionally known as Otto the Great (german: Otto der Große, it, Ottone il Grande), was German king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of ...

Otto the Great
employed three pontoon bridges, made from pre-fabricated materials, to rapidly cross the
Recknitz The Recknitz (historically known as ''Raxa'') is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at th ...

Recknitz
river at the
Battle on the Raxa The Battle on the Raxa river (german: Schlacht an der Raxa) was fought on 16 October 955 over control of the Billung march The Billung March (german: Billunger Mark) or March of the Billungs () was a frontier region of the far northeastern Duchy o ...
in 955 and win decisively against the Slavic
Obotrites The Obotrites ( la, Obotriti, Abodritorum, Abodritos…) or Obodrites, also spelled Abodrites (german: Abodriten), were a confederation of medieval West Slavic tribes within the territory of modern Mecklenburg Mecklenburg (; nds, label=Lo ...
. Tenth-Century German
Ottonian The Ottonian dynasty (german: Ottonen) was a Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguist ...
capitularies A capitulary (Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, k ...
demanded that royal fiscal estates maintain watertight, river-fordable wagons for purposes of war. The Danish Army of
Cnut the Great Cnut the Great (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Canute, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England Th ...
completed a pontoon bridge across the Helge River during the Battle of Helgeå in 1026. Crusader forces constructed a pontoon bridge across the Orontes River, Orontes to expedite resupply during the siege of Antioch in December 1097. According to the chronicles, the earliest floating bridge across the Dnieper was built in 1115. It was located near Vyshhorod, Kiev. Duchy of Bohemia, Bohemian troops under the command of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor crossed the Adige in 1157 on a pontoon bridge built in advance by the people of Verona on orders of the German Emperor. The French Royal Army of King Philip II of France constructed a pontoon bridge across the Seine to seize Les Andelys from the English at the siege of Château Gaillard in 1203. During the Fifth Crusade, the Crusaders built two pontoon bridges across the Nile at the siege of Damietta (1218–1219), including one supported by 38 boats. On 27 May 1234, Crusader troops crossed the river Ochtum in Germany on a pontoon bridge during the fight against the Stedingen, Stedingers. Mongol Empire, Imperial Mongol troops constructed a pontoon bridge at the Battle of Mohi in 1241 to outflank the Hungarian army. The French army of King Louis IX of France crossed the Charente (river), Charente on multiple pontoon bridges during the Battle of Taillebourg on 21 July 1242. Louis IX had a pontoon bridge built across the Nile to provide unimpeded access to troops and supplies in early March 1250 during the Seventh Crusade. A Republic of Florence, Florentine army erected a pontoon bridge across the Arno during the siege of Pisa in 1406. The English army of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury crossed the Oise (river), Oise across a pontoon bridge of portable leather vessels in 1441. Ottoman Empire, Ottoman engineers built a pontoon bridge across the
Golden Horn 300px, The Golden Horn as seen from Galata Bridge The Golden Horn ( tr, Altın Boynuz or ''Haliç''; grc, Χρυσόκερας, ''Chrysókeras''; la, Sinus Ceratinus) is a major urban waterway and the primary inlet of the Bosphorus F ...

Golden Horn
during the siege of Constantinople (1453), using over a thousand barrels. The bridge was strong enough to support carts. The Ottoman Army constructed a pontoon bridge during the siege of Rhodes (1480). Republic of Venice, Venetian pioneers built a floating bridge across the Adige at the Battle of Calliano (1487).


Early modern period

Before the Battle of Worcester, the final battle of the English Civil War, on 30 August 1651,Oliver Cromwell delayed the start of the battle to give time for two pontoon bridges to be constructed, one over the River Severn and the other over the River Teme, close to their confluence. This allowed Cromwell to move his troops West of the Severn during the action on 3 September 1651 and was crucial to the victory by his New Model Army. The Spanish Army constructed a pontoon bridge at the Battle of Río Bueno in 1654. However, as the bridge broke apart it all ended in a sound defeat of the Spanish by local Huilliche people, Mapuche-Huilliche forces. French general Jean Lannes's troops built a pontoon bridge to cross the Po river prior to the Battle of Montebello (1800). Napoleon's Grande Armée made extensive use of pontoon bridges at the battles of Battle of Aspern-Essling, Aspern-Essling and Battle of Wagram, Wagram under the supervision of General Henri Gatien Bertrand. General Jean Baptiste Eblé's engineers erected four pontoon bridges in a single night across the Dnieper during the Battle of Smolensk (1812). Working in cold water, Eblé's Dutch engineers constructed a 100-meter-long pontoon bridge during the Battle of Berezina to allow the Grande Armée to escape to safety. During the Peninsular War the British army transported "tin pontoons" that were lightweight and could be quickly turned into a floating bridge. Lt Col Charles Pasley of the Royal School of Military Engineering at Chatham England developed a new form of pontoon which was adopted in 1817 by the British Army. Each pontoon was split into two halves, and the two pointed ends could be connected together in locations with tidal flow. Each half was enclosed, reducing the risk of swamping, and the sections bore multiple lashing points. The "Palsey pontoon" lasted until 1836 when it was replaced by the "Blanshard pontoon" which comprised tin cylinders 3 feet wide and 22 feet long, placed 11 feet apart, making the pontoon very buoyant. The pontoon was tested with the Palsey pontoon on the Medway. An alternative proposed by Charles Pasley comprised two copper canoes, each 2 foot 8 inches wide and 22 foot long and coming in two sections which were fastened side by side to make a double canoe raft. Copper was used in preference to fast-corroding tin. Lashed at 10 foot centres, these were good for cavalry, infantry and light guns; lashed at 5 foot centres, heavy cannon could cross. The canoes could also be lashed together to form rafts. One cart pulled by two horse carried two half canoes and stores. A comparison of pontoons used by each nations army shows that almost all were open boats coming in one, two or even three pieces, mainly wood, some with canvas and rubber protection. Belgium used an iron boat; the United States used cylinders split into three. In 1862 the Union forces commanded by Major general (United States), Major General Ambrose Burnside were stuck on the wrong side of the Rappahannock River at the Battle of Fredericksburg for lack of the arrival of the pontoon train resulting in severe losses. The report of this disaster resulted in Britain forming and training a Pontoon Troop of Engineers. During the American Civil War various forms of pontoon bridges were tried and discarded. Wooden pontoons and India rubber bag pontoons shaped like a torpedo proved impractical until the development of cotton-canvas covered pontoons, which required more maintenance but were lightweight and easier to work with and transport. From 1864 a lightweight design known as Cumberland Pontoons, a folding boat system, were widely used during the Atlanta Campaign to transport soldiers and artillery across rivers in the Southern United States, South. In 1872 at a military review before Queen Victoria, a pontoon bridge was thrown across the River Thames at Windsor, Berkshire, where the river was wide. The bridge, comprising 15 pontoons held by 14 anchors, was completed in 22 minutes and then used to move five battalions of troops across the river. It was removed in 34 minutes the next day. At Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the Pile-Pontoon Railroad Bridge was constructed in 1874 over the Mississippi River to carry a railroad track connecting that city with Marquette, Iowa. Because the river level could vary by as much as 22 feet, the track was laid on an adjustable platform above the pontoons. This unique structure remained in use until the railroad was abandoned in 1961, when it was removed. The British Blanshard Pontoon stayed in British use until the late 1870s, when it was replaced by the "Sir Bindon Blood, Blood Pontoon". The Blood Pontoon returned to the open boat system, which enabled use as boats when not needed as pontoons. Side carrying handles helped transportation. The new pontoon proved strong enough to support loaded elephants and siege guns as well as military traction engines.


Early 20th century

The British Blood Pontoon MkII, which took the original and cut it into two halves, was still in use with the British Army in 1924. The First World War saw developments on "trestles" to form the link between a river bank and the pontoon bridge. Some infantry bridges in WW1 used any material available, including petrol cans as flotation devices. The Kapok Assault Bridge for infantry was developed for the British Army, using kapok tree, kapok filled canvas float and timber foot walks. America created their own version. Folding Boat Equipment was developed in 1928 and went through several versions until it was used in WW2 to complement the Bailey Pontoon. It had a continuous canvas hinge and could fold flat for storage and transportation. When assembled it could carry 15 men and with two boats and some additional toppings it could transport a 3-ton truck. Further upgrades during WW2 resulted in it moving to a Class 9 bridge.


World War II

Pontoon bridges were used extensively during World War II, mainly in the European Theater of Operations. The United States was the principal user, with Britain next.


United States

In the United States, combat engineers were responsible for bridge deployment and construction. These were formed principally into Engineer Combat Battalions, which had a wide range of duties beyond bridging, and specialized units, including Engineer Light Ponton Company, Light Ponton Bridge Companies, Pontoon bridge#Heavy Ponton Bridge Battalion, Heavy Ponton Bridge Battalions, and Pontoon bridge#Engineer Treadway Bridge Company, Engineer Treadway Bridge Companies; any of these could be organically attached to infantry units or directly at the Army division, divisional, Army corps, corps, or army level. American Engineers built three types of floating bridges: M1938 infantry footbridges, M1938 ponton bridges, and M1940 treadway bridges, with numerous subvariants of each. These were designed to carry troops and vehicles of varying weight, using either an inflatable pneumatic ponton or a solid aluminum-alloy ponton bridge. Both types of bridges were supported by pontons (known today as "pontoons") fitted with a deck built of balk, which were square, hollow aluminum beams. ;American Light Ponton Bridge Company An Engineer Light Ponton Company consisted of three platoons: two bridge platoons, each equipped with one unit of M3 pneumatic bridge, and a lightly equipped platoon which had one unit of footbridge and equipment for ferrying.Engineer Field Manual FM 5-5
/ref> The bridge platoons were equipped with the M3 pneumatic bridge, which was constructed of heavy inflatable pneumatic floats and could handle up to ; this was suitable for all normal infantry division loads without reinforcement, greater with. ;American Heavy Ponton Bridge Battalion A Heavy Ponton Bridge Battalion was provided with equipage required to provide stream crossing for heavy military vehicles that could not be supported by a light ponton bridge. The Battalion had two lettered companies of two bridge platoons each. Each platoon was equipped with one unit of heavy ponton equipage. The battalion was an organic unit of army and higher echelons. The M1940 could carry up to . The M1 Treadway Bridge could support up to . The roadway, made of steel, could carry up to , while the center section made of thick plywood could carry up to . The wider, heavier tanks used the outside steel treadway while the narrower, lighter jeeps and trucks drove across the bridge with one wheel in the steel treadway and the other on the plywood. ;American Engineer Treadway Bridge Company An Engineer Treadway Bridge Company consisted of company headquarters and two bridge platoons. It was an organic unit of the armored force, and normally was attached to an Armored Engineer Battalion. Each bridge platoon transported one unit of steel treadway bridge equipage for construction of ferries and bridges in river-crossing operations of the armored division. Stream-crossing equipment included utility powerboats, pneumatic floats, and two units of steel treadway bridge equipment, each of which allowed the engineers to build a floating bridge about in length. ;Materials and equipment ;; Pneumatic ponton The United States Army Corps of Engineers designed a self-contained bridge transportation and erection system. The Brockway Motor Company, Brockway model B666 6x6 truck chassis (also built under license by Corbitt and White Motor Company, White) was used to transport both the bridge's steel and rubber components. A single Brockway truck could carry material for of bridge, including two pontons, two steel saddles that were attached to the pontons, and four treadway sections. Each treadway was long with high guardrails on either side of the wide track. The truck was mounted with a hydraulic crane that was used to unload the wide steel treadways. A custom designed twin boom arm was attached to rear of the truck bed and helped unroll and place the heavy inflatable rubber pontoons upon which the bridge was laid. The wheelbase chassis included a front winch and extra-large air-brake tanks that also served to inflate the rubber pontoons before they were placed in the water. A pneumatic float was made of rubberized fabric separated by bulkheads into 12 airtight compartments and inflated with air. The pneumatic float consisted of an outer perimeter tube, a floor, and a removable center tube. The capacity float was wide, long, deep. ;; Solid ponton Solid aluminum-alloy pontons were used in place of pneumatic floats to support heavier bridges and loads. They were also pressed into service for lighter loads as needed. ;; Treadway A treadway bridge was a multi-section, prefabricated floating steel bridge supported by pontoons carrying two metal tracks (or "tread ways") forming a roadway. Depending on its weight class, the treadway bridge was supported either by heavy inflatable pneumatic pontons or by aluminum-alloy half-pontons. The aluminum half-pontons were long overall, wide at the gunwales, and deep except at the bow where the gunwale was raised. The gunwales were center-to-center. At Freeboard (nautical), freeboard, the half-ponton has a displacement of . The sides and bow of the half-ponton sloped inward, permitting two or more to be nested for transporting or storing. A treadway bridge could be built of floating spans or fixed spans. An M2 treadway bridge was designed to carry artillery, heavy duty trucks, and medium tanks up to . This could be of any length, and was what was used over major river obstacles such as the Rhine and Moselle. Doctrine stated that it would take 5 1/2 hours to place a 362-foot section of M2 treadway during daylight and 7 1/2 hours at night. Pergrin says that in practise 50 ft/hour of treadway construction was expected, which is a little slower than the speed specified by doctrine. By 1943, combat engineers faced the need for bridges to bear weights of 35 tons or more. To increase weight bearing capacity, they used bigger floats to add buoyancy. This overcame the capacity limitation, but the larger floats were both more difficult to transport to the crossing site and requiring more and larger trucks in the divisional and corps trains.


Britain

Donald Bailey (civil engineer), Donald Bailey invented the Bailey bridge, which was made up of modular, pre-fabricated steel trusses capable of carrying up to over spans up to . While typically constructed point-to-point over pier (architecture), piers, they could be supported by pontoons as well. The Bailey bridge was used for the first time in 1942. The first version put into service was a Bailey Pontoon and Raft with a single-single Bailey bay supported on two pontoons. A key feature of the Bailey Pontoon was the use of a single span from the bank to the bridge level which eliminated the need for bridge trestles. For lighter vehicle bridges the Folding Boat Equipment could be used and the Kapok Assault Bridge was available for infantry. An open sea type of pontoon, another British war time invention, known by their code names, the Mulberry harbours floated across the English Channel to provide harbours for the June 1944 invasion of Normandy, Allied invasion of Normandy. The dock piers were code named "Whale". These piers were the floating roadways that connected the "Spud" pier heads to the land. These pier heads or landing wharves, at which ships were unloaded each consisted of a pontoon with four legs that rested on the sea bed to anchor the pontoon, yet allowed it to float up and down freely with the tide. "Beetles" were pontoons that supported the "Whale" piers. They were moored in position using wires attached to "Kite" anchors which were also designed by Allan Beckett. These anchors had a high holding power as was demonstrated in D+13 Normandy storm where the British Mulberry survived most of the storm damage whereas the American Mulberry, which only had 20% of its Kite Anchors deployed, was destroyed.


Gallery

File:Heavy and pneumatic pontons loaded for transport to Remagen.jpg, Smaller, lighter pneumatic pontons piggy-backed upon large aluminum heavy pontons for combined transport File:3rd Armored Division vehicles cross the Seine River.jpg, Pneumatic pontons support a treadway bridge File:Inflatable pontons headed for the Danube in Germany, April 1945.jpg, Pneumatic pontons being carried by heavy 6×6 transports File:Rhine River pontoon bridge wwii.png, Heavy ponton bridge supported by large aluminum pontons File:Engineers bridging the wide but placid Po.jpg, Treadway bridge atop pneumatic pontons File:Infantry support bridge over Saar River erected by 289th Engineers at Volklingen.jpg, Infantry support bridge supported by light aluminum pontoons File:Bridge-construction-korea.jpg, Treadway being installed using truck mounted crane File:Footbridge on the Roer.jpg, Infantry footbridge supported by pontons File:Infantry support bridge built by 549th Light Ponton Company.jpg, Treadway style infantry support bridge built on light aluminum pontons File:M2 Treadway Bridge on the Rhine at Boppard near Koblenz, Germany, March 1945.jpg, M2 Treadway bridge supported by pneumatic floats File:The British Army in Normandy 1944 B9743.jpg, British troops crossing the Seine at Vernon, France on 28 August 1944 File:Pontonbruecke.jpg , Heavy ponton bridge File:Bailey Bridge over the River Maas.jpg, Bailey bridge supported by pontoons File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L20392, Kiew, Pioniere errichten Pontonbrücke.jpg, German Pioneer (military), pioneers construct a pontoon bridge across the Dnieper during the Battle of Kiev (1941), battle of Kiev, September 1941 File:Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F016198-0033, Rumänien, Brückenbau über den Pruth.jpg, German engineers building a pontoon bridge across the Prut River during the advance towards Battle of Uman, Uman, July 1941


Modern military uses

Pontoon bridges were extensively used by both armies and civilians throughout the latter half of the 20th century. From the Post-War period into the early 1980s the U.S. Army and its NATO and other allies employed three main types of pontoon bridge/raft. The M4 bridge featured a lightweight aluminum balk deck supported by rigid aluminum hull pontoons. The M4T6 bridge used the same aluminum balk deck of the M4, but supported instead by inflatable rubber pontoons. The Class 60 bridge consisted of a more robust steel girder and grid deck supported by inflatable rubber pontoons. All three pontoon bridge types were cumbersome to transport and deploy, and slow to assemble, encouraging the development of an easier to transport, deploy and assemble floating bridge.


Amphibious float bridges

Several alternatives featured a self-propelled amphibious integrated transporter, floating pontoon, bridge deck section that could be delivered and assembled in the water under its own power, linking as many units as required to bridge a gap or form a raft ferry. An early example was the Engin de Franchissement de l’Avant EFA (mobile bridge) amphibious forward crossing apparatus conceived by French General Jean Gillois in 1955. The system consisted of a wheeled amphibious truck equipped with inflatable outboard flotation sponsons and a rotating vehicle bridge deck section. The system was developed by the West German firm Eisenwerke-Kaiserslauter (EWK) and entered production by the French-German consortium Pontesa. The EFA system was first deployed by the French Army in 1965, and subsequently by the West German Bundeswehr, British Army, and on a very limited basis by the U.S. Army, where it was referred to as Amphibious River Crossing Equipment (ARCE). Production ended in 1973. The EFA was used in combat by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which employed former U.S. Army equipment to cross the Suez Canal in their counterattack into Egypt during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. EWK further developed the EFA system into the M2 "Alligator" Amphibious Bridging Vehicle equipped with fold-out aluminum flotation pontoons, which was produced from 1967 to 1970 and sold to the West German, British and Singapore militaries. The M2 was followed by the revised M3 Amphibious Rig, M3 version, entering service in 1996 with Germany, Britain, Taiwan and Singapore. The M3 was used in combat by British Forces during the Iraq War. More recently, Turkey has developed a similar system in the FNSS Samur wheeled amphibious assault bridge, while the Russian PMM-2 and Chinese GZM003 armoured amphibious assault bridge ride on tracks. A similar amphibious system, the Mobile Floating Assault Bridge-Ferry (MFAB-F) was developed in the U.S. by Chrysler between 1959 and 1962. As with the French EFA, the MFAB-F consisted of an amphibious truck with a rotating bridge deck section, but there were no outboard flotation sponsons. The MFAB-F was first deployed by the U.S. Army in 1964 and later by Belgium. An improved version was produced by FMC from 1970 to 1976. The MFAB-F remained in service into the early 1980s before being replaced by a simpler continuous pontoon or "ribbon bridge" system.


Ribbon float bridges

In the early Cold War period the Soviet Red Army began development of a new kind of continuous pontoon bridge made up of short folding sections or bays that could be transported and deployed rapidly, automatically unfold in the water, and quickly be assembled into a floating bridge of variable length. Known as the PMP Floating Bridge, PMP Folding Float Bridge, it was first deployed in 1962 and subsequently adopted by Warsaw Pact countries and other states employing Soviet military equipment. The PMP proved its viability in combat when it was used by Egyptian forces to cross the Suez Canal in 1973. Operation Badr (1973), Operation Badr, which opened the Yom Kippur War between Egypt and Israel, involved the erection of at least 10 pontoon bridges to cross the Canal. Beginning in 1969 the U.S. Army Mobility Equipment Research and Development Command (MERADCOM) reverse-engineered the Russian PMP design to develop the improved float bridge (IFB), later known as the standard ribbon bridge (SRB). The IFB/SRB was type classified in 1972 and first deployed in service in 1976. It was very similar to the PMP but was constructed of lightweight aluminum instead of heavier steel. In 1977 the West German Bundeswehr decided to adopt the SRB with some modifications and improvements, entering service in 1979 as the Faltschwimmbrücke, or Foldable Floating Bridge (FSB). Work on designing an improved version of the U.S. SRB incorporating features of the German FSB began in the 1990s, with first deployment by the U.S. Army in the early 2000s as the improved ribbon bridge (IRB). In addition to the U.S. and Germany, the IFB/SRB/FSB/IRB has been adopted by the Armed Forces of Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Korea and Sweden, among others.


Yugoslav wars

During the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, the Maslenica Bridge (D8), Maslenica Bridge was destroyed and a short pontoon bridge was built by Croatian civilian and military authorities in July 1993 over a narrow sea outlet in the town of Maslenica, after Operation Maslenica, the territory was retaken from Serbian Krajina. Between 1993 and 1995 the pontoon served as one of the two operational land links toward Dalmatia and Croat- and Bosnian Muslim-held areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina that did not go through Serb-held territory. In 1995 the 502nd and 38th Engineer Companies of the U.S. Army's 130th Engineer Brigade, and the 586th Engineer Company from Ft. Benning GA, operating as part of IFOR assembled a standard ribbon bridge under adverse weather conditions across the
Sava The Sava (; , ; sr-cyr, Сава, Hungarian: Száva) is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and become ...

Sava
River near Županja (between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia), with a total length of . It was dismantled in 1996.


Iran–Iraq war

Numerous pontoon bridges were constructed by the Iranians and Iraqis to cross the various rivers and marshes alongside the Iraqi border. Notable instances include one constructed over the Karkeh river to ambush Iraqi Armor during Operation Nasr, and another where they crossed certain marshes during Operation Dawn 8. They were extremely prominent due to their use in allowing for tanks and transports to cross rivers.


Invasion of Iraq

The United States Army's 299th Multi-role Bridge Company, United States Army Reserve, USAR deployed a standard ribbon bridge across the Euphrates River at Objective Peach near Al Musayib on the night of 3 April 2003. The 185-meter bridge was built to support retrograde operations because of the heavy-armor traffic crossing a partially destroyed adjacent highway span. "By dawn on 4 April 2003, the 299th Engineer Company had emplaced a 185-meter long Assault Float Bridge—the first time in history that a bridge of its type was built in combat." This took place during the 2003 invasion of Iraq by American and British forces. That same night, the 299th also constructed a single-story Medium Girder Bridge to patch the damage done to the highway span. The 299th was part of the 3rd Infantry Division (United States), U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division as they crossed the border into Iraq on 20 March 2003.


Permanent pontoon bridges in civilian use

This design for bridges is also used for permanent bridges designed for highway traffic, pedestrian traffic and bicycles, with sections for boats to ply the waterway being crossed. Seattle has several permanent pontoon bridges. Seattle in the US and Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada are two places with permanent pontoon bridges, see William R. Bennett Bridge in British Columbia and these in Seattle: Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge. There are five pontoon bridges across the Suez Canal#Canal crossings, Suez Canal.


Failures and disasters

The Saint Isaac's Bridge across the Neva River in Saint Petersburg suffered two disasters, one natural, a gale in 1733, and then a fire in 1916. Floating bridges can be vulnerable to inclement weather, especially strong winds. The U.S. state of Washington (state), Washington is home to some of the longest permanent floating bridges in the world, and two of these failed in part due to strong winds. In 1979, the longest floating bridge crossing salt water, the Hood Canal Bridge, was subjected to winds of , gusting up to . Waves of battered the sides of the bridge, and within a few hours the western of the structure had sunk. It has since been rebuilt. In 1990, the 1940 Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge was closed for renovations. Specifically, the sidewalks were being removed to widen the traffic lanes to the standards mandated by the Interstate Highway System. Engineers realized that jackhammers could not be employed to remove the sidewalks without risking compromising the structural integrity of the entire bridge. As such, a unique process called hydrodemolition was employed, in which powerful jets of water are used to blast away concrete, bit by bit. The water used in this process was temporarily stored in the hollow chambers in the pontoons of the bridge in order to prevent it from contaminating the lake. During a week of rain and strong winds, the watertight doors were not closed and the pontoons filled with water from the storm, in addition to the water from the hydrodemolition. The inundated bridge broke apart and sank. The bridge was rebuilt in 1993. A minor disaster occurs if anchors or connections between the pontoon bridge segments fail. This may happen because of overloading, extreme weather or flood. The bridge disintegrates and parts of it start to float away. Many cases are known. When the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge sank, it severed the anchor cables of the bridge parallel to it. A powerful tugboat pulled on that bridge against the wind during a subsequent storm, and prevented further damage.


See also

* Floating dock (jetty), Floating dock * List of pontoon bridges * Mabey Logistic Support Bridge bailey type bridge that can be made into a multi-span bridge on Float (nautical), pontoons * Military bridges * Medium Girder Bridge for another bridge type with mobile military application. * Mulberry Harbour – as used at D-Day * Okanagan Lake Bridge ** William R. Bennett Bridge * 549th Engineer Light Ponton Company * Vlotbrug, a design of Retractable bridge, retractable pontoon bridge specific to the Netherlands


Notes


References

* * * Timothy Brook (historian), Brook, Timothy. (1998). ''The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China''. Berkeley: University of California Press. * Graff, David Andrew and Robin Higham (2002). ''A Military History of China''. Boulder: Westview Press. * Needham, Joseph (1986). ''Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics''. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd. *


External links


'' "Combat Engineers Take a River In Their Stride" '', December 1943, Popular Mechanics
detailed World War Two article with rare photos of setting up of a pontoon bridge * {{DEFAULTSORT:Pontoon Bridge Chinese inventions Pontoon bridges, Bridges by structural type