Redbull hangár

Redbull hangár

2017. november 11., szombat

Water parade – Visiting the MH 37. II. Rákóczi Ferenc Engineer Regiment

Text and videos: Gabriella Gulyás, photos: Emil Nándor Dudás

This story started with Emil’s wish, that he would like to take photos of military vehicles crossing a river. He remembered, that the Hungarian Army holds an exercise like this in autumn usually. This topic arise my attention too and only the jets represented the military vehicle on the blog recently, I decided to look at it. Negotiating with the army’s press department, it has turned out, that there’s no big military exercise in the near future, but an amphibian and tow motorboat driver training is held at the technical battalion of Szentes on the river Tisza water exercise area if it is fine for us, but maybe it is not a spectacular event. We were optimistic and we definitely indicated our intention to participate. And we were right. We saw a skill demonstration with the soldiers of the regiment, what was better than the water parade on 20th August at Budapest. We do our best to demonstrate this unique experience verbally and visually.

It can happen easily, that you all met this regiment’s soldiers or saw the result of their work without knowing it. They are who hand out bagged water at summer military parades for civilians (it’s the water clearing squadron’s merit), build the slalom gates for the Red Bull Air Race, established the pontoon bridge on river Danube. They float sandbags with these steel pontoon elements to the dams during the flood rescue. They trained those PTSZ drivers, who rescued the car passengers in the legendary big snow a few years ago in March, beside it, they had a major part in building the fence at the south country border. So they are everywhere, but never in the spotlight due the supporting -nature of their work. They do it professionally, accurately and vocationally as we made certain of it at the riverbank.

The Major with the signal flags

Major dr. Ernő Kállai, the new accredited commander of the bridge builder battalion received us at the venue, who were at the water clearing regiment as well before. It has turned out later, that we could thanked the impressive skill demonstration to him, as he wanted to learn all the tasks what the soldiers do to know what he can require from his subalterns. He directed the moving of four connected PMP ribbon bridge elements as a ferry commander. Each of them can carry 20 tons, so this composition can do 80. They can move not only sandbags with it, but vehicles as well, as they demonstrated it with a Kraz. It drive up to the ferry which was fixed to with two other lorries to the shore and as it was let of, the Kraz give some speed, braked heavily and made the ferry move this way.

There's a video about this process:

First Lieutenant Tibor Havasréti, who began the bridge builder job years ago, told us, that the ferry can carry even a crane for lifting out objects and can be used as a workplace for scuba divers. It confirmed my suspicion that they are in a tight relationship with the bomb-disposal experts. The other reason of it is that military scuba diver training is held only at Szentes Base in Hungary. Scba divers were here too to secure the training.

It was surprising to me how fast they tow, spin and turn the ferry elements with the motorboats even against current. Allegedly, its maximum speed is only 10 km/h, but it seemed definitely faster to me.

I think, it can be seen on my video:

It would take only 2 hours to them to build a whole bridge here on this part of river Tisza. They start practicing the connection on ground at the base, where special place was installed for this purpose, called the “pontoon rocking”. The PMP ribbon bridge operator training is three weeks altogether with one week theoretical education. Swimming knowledge is not necessary, but wearing a life vest is compulsory. We also got one when we were onboard, but I didn’t think, that I would need it, as they moved the pontoon so smoothly under us. We don’t need to hold on even during the disconnection procedure.

The good coordination with the motorboats is essential to it. A BMK-130 M tow motorboat can move two pontoon elements, but it is the advanced level, as we learnt from Sergeant Arnold Halász. He’s been driving this type of vehicles for more than ten years and was acting as an instructor at this event. The basic training lasts six weeks, when they learn the manoeuvres, the main tasks and get the watermanship. The BMK-130M is an interesting vehicle, as despite of being a boat, it has two wheels. These are crutch-wheels which ease transporting. Motorboats are connected to a ZIL-131 lorry and van be pulled to everywhere without using a trailer. The wheels are folded back after setting afloat. Its engine functioned as the starter of a transport aircraft, which means, that is it not able to provide high speed, but a strong torque, which is ideal to move a four tons pontoon element. This engine has a specific attribution: when its driver wants to get higher from empty gear, hes/she needs to rev it up and it causes a strong yank.

While we were standing on the pontoon, PTSs slipped the water and were circling around us in a fair distance like hungry crocodiles. Unlike them, not in stealth mode, but with clattering and surrounded with diesel smoke. Unbelievable, but it lasts only 8 weeks to learn them to drive these amphibians, but a B category driving license and watermanship is necessary to start the training. (The later one is compulsory for everyone who is working on the water.) Compared to that it was their second day on water, the students were quite good with the vehicle. They were over the theoretical education and the driving lesson on ground by then. As we learnt, they are entering and leaving the water faster and faster each day. This vehicle is also very stable and safe on water (we didn’t travel too much on the ground with it), I would trust it more than the sightseeing waterbus in Budapest – it’s scary to watch how waves are tossing it. A PTS can carry a ZIL-131 or a Kraz-255 on its back, but also can be used for transporting sandbags, farm animals or 70 soldiers with completes equipment if it is necessary. Its maximum payload capacity is 10 tons on ground and 5 tons in water. Training are held twice a year, 6 students were participated in it from the regiment this time. It’s interesting, that this PTS driving license is valid for 3 years without any training in the meantime.

This is how amazing it was to be on board - watch it with voice!:

The participating vehicles of the training didn’t representing high-tech (every of them were designed in the 60’), but were in a very good condition thanks to the excellent maintenance obviously. Even more: they are compatible with each other, as they are all former Soviet developments. And they all are very loud, it’s not easy to make an interview onboard any of them. I brought my dictaphone needlessly, it was completely useless in such a noise – hurrah for the good old paper notebook! When I tried to out-shout thundering machines, the diesel smoke made me cough. It’s not a complaint, I can deal with this classic field-work journalism and anyway, when you stand an hour on a busy square in the capital, you can get the same noise and CO2 pollution, but that’s not so exciting like this.
When they put the pontoon elements to the water for example:

Prancing Kraz - the pontoon element hit the concrete border of the shore during the pull out process and that caused it

At the end of the day, I realized, that we had found a place again, where we need to return, because we saw a lot, but we know, that there are other interesting activities at this regiment. Maybe I modify Wings and Wheels’ motto to “everything what flies, everything what rolls – and swims”. 😁