Planning of the M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge began in the 1980s and was accelerated by Operation Desert Storm (1991) when it was noted that the M60-based Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) could not keep up with the M1 Abrams armored units it was supporting. The Wolverine program struggled for funding for years, but finally was authorized. As of late 2003, the Army had received 44 Wolverines under a low-rate initial production program. Wolverine was cancelled and reapproved several times, with approval in 2007. It is produced by General Dynamics Land Systems.
The M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge provides assault bridging support for forward, heavy-maneuver forces. Wolverine is faster, stronger, safer, and easier to maintain than its Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) predecessor. Other names for the Wolverine program during concept and development were the Marine Corpsí Expeditionary Assault Bridge or, for development with the USMC and Army together, the Joint Assault Bridge.
The Wolverine launcher is mounted on an M1A2 Abrams SEP (System Enhancement Program) chassis, the same chassis as the supported force. It will support a Military Load Class 70 vehicle (a fully loaded, 70 ton/63,503 kg M1A2 tank) crossing at 10 mph (16 kph). With the highly automated Wolverine, the two man crew launches the bridge from under armor in five minutes and can retrieve the bridge in less than ten minutes.
The Wolverine will increase maneuver force mobility by allowing units to transit such gaps as tank ditches, road craters, and partially damaged bridge sections. The predecessor AVLB only supports Abrams tank units crossing at reduced gap length and reduced crossing speed. The Wolverine replaces the AVLB in selected engineer companies of mechanized battalions, armored cavalry regiments, and heavy brigades.
Specific improvements of the M104 Wolverine when compated to the AVLB:
Faster: Up to 40 mph/64 kph Wolverine vs AVLB 30 mph/48 kph