The U.S. Army Engineer Regiment held a First Unit Equipped ceremony Friday officially recognizing the receipt of the first 14 M30 Bridge Erection Boats by the 50th Multi Role Bridge Company, 5th Engineer Battalion.

The new BEB, manufactured by Birdon American Incorporated, is replacing the MKII, which has been in use by the Army for nearly 30 years.

Brig. Gen. Robert Whittle, U.S. Army Engineer School commandant, said the transition is long overdue.

"These boats have been used by thousands of Soldiers over those 30 years, constructing float bridges, supporting raft and diving operations, maritime projects, inland water patrols, including combat patrols, along the Tigis River in Iraq during multiple deployments around the globe," Whittle said. "It's served the Army well, but it's time to upgrade to the new M30 Bridge Erection Boat. The M30 is a huge upgrade from the MKII. It's a remarkable piece of equipment."

The U.S. Army's Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support out of Warren, Michigan, has been overseeing the project since the $252 million contract was awarded to Birdon in 2013. Representatives said many upgrades have been incorporated into the design of the M30 to make the boat easier to maintain, launch and operate.

The M30 features twin, multi-fuel engines with hydrojets, allowing the boat to reach speeds of up to 26 knots.

"The old boat had a hard time operating on different types of fuels," said Frank Fleming, PEO CS&CSS assistant product manager. "This new boat can operate on JP-8, F-24 and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuels. It also holds almost twice as much fuel."

In addition to being nearly two-feet wider, four-feet shorter the boat only requires a two-person crew.

Integrated Product Manager Maurice Peyton said the boat was designed with ease-of-use in mind. He said the new twin-lever throttle control assembly helps ensure this, along with embedded diagnostics.

"The MKII was cable operated. If the cables snapped, you were stuck in the water," Peyton said. "With the M30, operators can easily make repairs while on the water and continue with the mission."

Fleming and Peyton agree that part of the appeal of the M30s is the ability to transport them using the Common Bridge Transporter and the M15 Bridge Adapter Pallet, both of which are common to multi-role bridge companies.

Product Manager Steve Rienstra said the fielding of the M30 is a huge event and had a personal message for the future crews.

"We are convinced that once you get your hands on this boat and get to (use) it for a while, that you're really going to enjoy it, and it's going to be an operational enhancement for you going forward," Rienstra said.

The 35th Engineer Battalion is also receiving 11 M30s, and the 102nd Training Division will receive nine this week.

In total, engineer units across the regiment will receive 393 M3 Bridge Erection Boats over the next five fiscal years, which are expected to be in service for the next 20 years.