At first glance the main difference between standard production cranes and those specially produced for the emergency services or an army might be their colour, but there is more to it than that. Special versions of standard models are usually available, and some manufacturers offer cranes specifically designed for emergency service and military applications. Cormach of Italy is one of several manufacturers building cranes both for emergency services and armed forces. The company has certification from the Italian fire brigade which uses its truck mounted telescopic recovery cranes. The design has to be suitable for mounting on standard trucks, to travel at the same highway speeds as normal trucks, and to operate with minimum outrigger extension. Another Cormach crane, the large 156,000E4 knuckle boom with four extensions mounted on an 8×8 rough terrain Iveco truck, is used by an air force in Europe for aircraft recovery from areas where access is difficult.

TCM and Eurogru Amici are among other Italian manufacturers offering large, truck-mounted, telescopic boom recovery cranes. Both produce models with a rear mounted system for towing heavy vehicles

Extra equipment on special cranes, such as recovery winches, is a common feature and for military use the operator’s controls, for example, might be different, to allow for awkward and bulky protective clothing. Radio remote controls are specified more often in military applications than for general commercial use.

There is also more than just a colour difference in the paint finish. Different preparation, priming and top coating procedures and materials are specified to increase durability and corrosion resistance. Surface coatings for military applications also have to comply with electromagnetic compatibility and radio interference requirements.

And it is not just the hardware that is different. According to one supplier of crane equipment: "The biggest difference between special application customers such as the armed forces, and standard applications is the amount of paperwork involved… and the timescale between the first and last page – the three or four month pauses while you wait for someone to put a tick in a box."

Recovery cranes

Tadano Faun in Germany has launched a new salvage crane, the BKF 35-4. Described as a general purpose towing and recovery vehicle, it incorporates a 35t capacity hydraulic crane, 20t salvage winch and a hydraulic under reach towing device. It was originally designed for military use and badged as the BKF 40×40 but and is now being marketed to civilian users. The 22.5m telescopic main boom has dual recovery pulling equipment over the boom. For recovery work the Treibmatic winch is designed to give a 20t line pull over the entire cable length and has proportional remote control. All this is mounted on a four-axle carrier with all-wheel drive and three-axle steering. The 290kW Daimler-Benz diesel engine drives through a ZF AS-Tronic 12-gear transmission and two-step drop-box. Cross-country manoeuvrability and load capacity are enhanced by large 16.00 R 25 tyres. Maximum towing speed under all loads is 80km/h with a 12t load on the rear axle. A maximum unbraked towing load of 30t can be accommodated by the electrohydraulically controlled hydraulic underlift that can extend to 3.76m in two stages.

Also in Germany, Liebherr has been manufacturing special mobile cranes for fire brigades for more than 25 years. More than 80 units, with lifting capacities between 25t and 70t, are working for European fire brigade services, according to the company.

This type of crane is based on a standard production model from the LTM all-terrain range fitted with special equipment to increase versatility and reliability. They are used for jobs such as assisting fire fighting operations, clearing sites in the aftermath of fires and removing storm debris. Other work includes rescuing people, towing accident damaged vehicles, preventing vehicles from falling off bridges, and lifting overturned cargo and vehicles.

One piece of special equipment, used for towing and recovery, is a remote-controlled capstan winch mounted on the rear of the crane carrier. This has a line pull capacity of between 80kN and 200kN, according to crane size. Also fitted is an 8t capacity salvage device on the crane superstructure for coupling and towing vehicles.

An emergency operating system allows the continuation of crane movements in the event of a failure of the main diesel engine and/or hydraulic pumps. It is a separate diesel hydraulic back up unit, independent of the main system. Additional electrical equipment includes an audible traffic warning device, warning beacons and radio communications.

Orders for the LTM 1070/1-based 70t capacity model have included 17 units to the Upper and Lower state fire brigades in Austria, and professional German fire brigades in Munich, Nuremberg and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Liebherr has also built 18 units based on its 40t capacity model and the company says fire brigades are interested in a 60t version.

This four-axle model, based on the LTM 1060/2, has an all-up weight of 48t and can carry 12t of counterweight depending on equipment specification. Being self-contained on the taxi crane principle is particularly important to enable a rapid response from emergency services. A maximum height under hook of 42m is available from the five-section boom.

Military cranes

Armed services, such as the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) are adopting a policy of choosing COTS (commercial off the shelf) products but significant mechanical design differences are often necessary to satisfy specific demands. A requirement of the MoD’s 4t Leyland truck is that it can be carried on board a Hercules transport aircraft which means that the vehicle’s maximum overall height cannot be more than to the top of the cab. Where these trucks have knuckle boom loader cranes, positioned behind the cab, a special mounting allows the crane to be tilted down lower than the cab roof.

Investigations into the suitability of standard mobile cranes for military applications were carried out in 1983 by Germany’s Federal Bureau of Military Technology & Procurement. Results showed that essential modifications would be necessary to meet the requirements of the Bundeswehr, the German army, in the light weight and medium weight crane classes. In September 1983 four crane manufacturers were asked to produce, free of charge, one crane for each of the two classes. Liebherr started design work to comply with the special requirements and produced the FKL for the lightweight class, with a lifting capacity of 10t, and the FKM for the medium class, with a 20t maximum capacity. The following specification satisfied the requirements of the German army.

• The cranes can operate in the temperature range -30°C to +44°C. The engine uses SAE-HDC 15 W-40 oil and the sump is pre-heated at temperatures below -20°C from the auxiliary heater for the driver’s cab.

• They can be loaded on normal height (1,250mm) railway wagons and the hydro-pneumatic suspension can be lowered to comply with overall height clearance regulations of the German railway without additional modification. The top section of the cab can be removed with quick release catches and the spare wheel can be handled by a lifting device.

• They can ford water up to 1.2m deep.

• Maximum dead weight is 17.6t to comply with German traffic regulations.

• Maximum speed is 75km/h and gradeability is 60%. The 188kW (256HP) engine, with 817Nm of torque gives a power to weight ratio of 18.5HP/t. There is a 42.6kW oil cooler on the torque converter and a 10kW cooler for the hydraulic oil. Fuel capacity is sufficient for a range of at least 600km.

• The travel drive has an HN 500 ZF torque converter with lock up and a 6WG 180 ZF transfer box giving six forward and three reverse gears. The rear axle is permanently engaged and the front by selection. All wheels have planetary hubs and locking differentials. Steering is on both axles but can be locked out on the rear axle for road travel. Dual circuit brakes are fitted and tyres are 16.00-25XLB.

• The hydraulic outriggers can be controlled from the carrier and from the operator cab. Maximum lifting capacity of the 46.5tm crane is 10.1t at 4.6m radius, through 360° and 20t for the FKM.

• A recovery winch is fitted to the rear outrigger box or to a supplied mounting at the front. It is a remote controlled 8t capstan winch with 60m of rope.

• Vehicles can be towed at up to 40km/h using existing lifting tackle and a forked tow bar.

• The two-seat cab is heated from the engine and from an independent unit which can also pre-heat the four starter batteries, each of 12V 125Ah capacity.

• A ball bearing slewing ring connects the upper and lower. A carrier mounted hydraulic pump supplies the hoist gear, and the luffing, telescoping and slewing motions.

• The planetary rope winch has a 40kN line pull and a line speed of 88m/min. Maximum slewing speed is 2.3min-1, luffing speed is 18 seconds and full telescoping takes about 28 seconds.

• Safety devices fitted include hoist limit, inclination indicator and safety valves to protect against hydraulic pipe and hose failure. Cab displays show permitted and actual load, boom length,angle and radius. If a crane failure occurs a manual override allows the crane to be reset to transport position.

In 1990 Liebherr was awarded an order worth DM271m ($150m) for 459 cranes for the the German army. By the end of 1994 251 units of the FKL and 208 units of the FKM had been delivered.

More recently, Grove has been delivering cranes to the Belgian and US armies. The Belgian Army has just taken delivery of seven new 50t capacity GMK 3050 AT cranes to replace its fleet of Krupp AS 35 mobile cranes.

The three-axle cranes, supplied by Belgian Grove dealer Belgian Lifting and Equipment, were specified with the standard 7t counterweight to maintain 12t axle loadings, and they have standard 14.00 R25 XGC tyres to keep the width within 2.5m. Optional equipment supplied included the hydraulically offsettable bi-fold swingaway jib, driveline retarder and all wheel drive. A Swiss-engineered work platform attachment, the Crane Air Bridge CAB14C, was also fitted to five of the cranes (CT Oct00, p7).

From the US Army earlier this year, Grove was awarded a $5.7m contract to supply a further 26 units of its 20t capacity AT 422T all-terrain crane. US Army contracts for this two-axle crane total 247 units since 1997. Deliveries are due to be completed by January 2001. Optional features include a hydraulic supply and boom-mounted hose reel for a clamshell grab or grapple. A 24V parallel electrical system maintains power for crane function operation in the event of an engine failure.