14 September 2006


Several of those on my blogroll will look at the title of this post and think I'm gonna address the reservoir for storage of fuel to be used by an aircraft.
Not Ole Prairie Dog.
Having attended Officer's Candidate School with me, I bet he immediately formed a different picture.

This one!

Few readers know that when I finished OCS, I was awarded the Military MOS (Job Speciality Classification) of 1203: Small Unit Tank Commander.
OPD and I were trained to Command five of these 52- ton monsters, but started Flight School immediately upon completion of OCS, so we never got to do that job. Nevertheless, I have had a fascination with these behemoths since my training in them.

Basically, the machine is a HUGE rifle, capable of moving at 40 or so miles per hour. The armor protects the crew from anything smaller than an anti-tank weapon, so this big rifle sort of carries its' own foxhole with it wherever it goes. I'm no expert on the Abrams, (the Army's new main battle tank), but the M60 we trained on was armed with a 105 millimeter gun, a coaxially (slaved to the main gun) mounted 30 calibre machine gun, and a 50 calibre machine gun on the Commanders Cupola. It was a fearsome weapon, but the Abrams would make a snack of the M60...... the Abrams' systems are improved in too many ways to think about listing here.

But I want to tell you a story to give you a feel for tanks in general.
As Officer Candidates, we were at the firing range at Ft. Knox, Ky. to learn how to use the main gun. The targets at this range were bedsheets with Bullseyes painted on them, stapled to 4X4 fenceposts, one mile downrange. 18 tanks were in line abreast on the firing line.

The range Safety Officer was a Second Lieutenant. His briefing informed us how the exercise was to proceed and how we could avoid hurting ourselves while learning what we were supposed to learn. At the end of his briefing he added this warning:
"Gentlemen, whatever you do, DO NOT SHOOT THE TARGETS DOWN!
If you shoot the targets down, those firing behind you will have no targets to practice on."
We were then divided into groups of three Candidates per tank, to perform as Gunner and Loader under the supervision of a senior NCO tank Commander.

When we arrived at the tank, the NCO supervisor told us which Candidate would perform what job first. I was to first act as Gunner........ sighting and firing the gun. The NCO would be in the Commander's cupola performing that job. And then he surprised us all with this announcement:
"Forget what that Lieutenant said about the targets! We are gonna shoot our target down, and then we'll look around the range to see if any targets are still standing and shoot those targets down. If we don't shoot our target down, another tank will!"

The M60 tank had a target range-finding mechanism on it similar to that on old 35mm cameras. Looking through the sight you would see two separate images. By adjusting the sight so that the images were combined into one, you could then read the distance to the target and adjust the trajectory of the gun. Before the range was opened, the NCO instructed me to range in on the left 4X4 post just above ground level and read the range, which he entered into the firing computer. He advised me that when the order was given to commence firing, I was to fire the gun at that left post. That shot completed, he would traverse the turret to our target's right post, I would aim the gun at the same point there, and that post will disappear. Then we would scan the other 17 targets to see if any were left standing.

Over the Public Address system we heard the Range Safety Officer, (the Lieutenant), ask,
"Ready on the Left? The Left is ready, Ready on the Right? The firing line is ready. Commence firing!"

18 Big rifles erupted.
And what power! 104,000 pounds of tank rocked back about a foot in response to the round leaving the muzzle. Inside the turret, the explosion compresses your chest and nearly takes the air from your lungs. The turret fills with smoke and the smell of cordite. The first-time experience is slightly disorienting.

Through the sight I see our left post is down, the sheet now held up by the right post only. In a second, the NCO has traversed the turret to our right post, I have joined the two images and read the range, he has entered it into the computer. The Loader shouts "Up!" indicating the next round is loaded, the NCO Commands "Fire!". As the Gunner, I respond "On the way!" and pull the trigger........ another huge explosion and again the tank rocks back on it's tracks.

We survey the target line.
All 18 targets are gone.
Shooting down the 18 targets took much less time than it took you to read this description.
36 rounds fired at 4 inch posts a mile away, and NOT ONE missed it's mark.

Consider this:
A 105mm shell is about 4 inches in diameter.
If you see an Abrams tank 2 miles away, he could, if he wanted, put that 4 inch shell EXACTLY through the center of your chest cavity.

Our enemies know they can't face such weapons.
That's why they kill women and children with airplanes.



That is one hell of a story. "Tanks" for sharing it!!

And, I left you come comments at my site--Cobra poat.


I guess I should slow down a bit when typing...sheesh!

OlePrairiedog said...

Whoa Nellie, You forgot to mention the two inches of cherry juice floating on the main deck adding to the aroma of cordite. You also forgot to mention that every hatch on the cupola was cabable of smashing fingers, arms, elbows and toes. You forgot to mention that the inside of that moving mass of steel had angles, corners, pipes, and knobs that banged, bonked, busted, bruised and broke fingers, foreheads, knees, elbows, shoulders and backs. I would remind you that it did not come in a size 36" extra-long. It was small, dark, sweaty, dank and dangerous. But Brother was it awesome in it's firepower, shock, and speed. HooAhhh.
I also recall that we were there to as an alternative to slogging in the mud and blood with the unprotected 11 Bravo Grunts.
So when we went to flight school to learn to soar with the eagles, was that another upgrade? I know that the front seat of a Cobra does not come in a 36 extralong either, and danged if there aren't just as many corners, bends, and unmovables as well as movable parts that bang, break, bruise and befuddle the body. Maybe I'm just a clutz, but again AWESOME. Thanks for the reminder Greybeard. I may have nightmares tonight.