Persian Gulf War

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Randall Finch
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew Sheets
Primex Technologies, William Mitrik, Manager, Product Assurance, Large Caliber Ammunition Ordnance and Tactical Systems

Interviewed: June 11, 1997, Nuclear Metals (NMI) Cafeteria
Interviewer: Renee Garrelick

Eyewitness to History

The U.S. Army soldiers were on a nationwide tour to thank companies who had produced materials in the Persian Gulf War that had contributed to their safety. On June 11, 1997, they visited NMI.

William Mitrik - Originally the program from Primex Technologies began about two years ago as a continuous improvement program with our customer Picatinny Arsenal, who procures the M829A2 tactical tank round. We did a series of general awareness and critical defect briefings, and my boss, Steve Torma, Director of Quality Assurance for Primex, and I kicked it around one night saying the initial program was good but we thought we could do better. We said, "Boy, it would really be great if we could get a couple of soldiers, the users of the ammunition, out to our major subcontractors so that they could talk with the people that actually make the components for the ammunition. It could be a two-way educational process because the sergeants teach ammunition, they could learn about the subcontractors' manufacturing process, and the employees could learn about their experiences with the tank ammunition." Everybody says, "I make this stuff. Is it good? Does it really work?" That was the real intent, an educational process.

We initially developed the program in meetings at Fort Knox in January. We talked about what we wanted to convey to the subcontractors. The Fort Knox personnel came up with a cheat sheet of high point items that they wanted to discuss, kind of a text to go from, and the soldiers have done an excellent job in personalizing that and not trying to get up there and just recite something verbatim. We had two meetings at Fort Knox and another video conference, and then we kicked it off in St. Petersburg on May 5 and will be through the six major subcontractors that we're going out to by the end of July. It is a pretty compact schedule but we did that for Fort Knox's convenience.

Sergeant Finch - Sergeant Sheets and I were deployed in January, 1991. We were an armor battalion. We were attached to the First Infantry Division as their heavy force. I shot a couple of rounds of 829A1 with great success of the rounds up against tanks. We were right on the desert floor. We ran the hook. We went into Iraq and were 100 miles from Kuwait City, Kuwait so we closed the door on the Republican Guard from the North.

Sergeant Sheets - We were the lead element for the First Infantry Division. This was our first experience in that part of the world. It was like being on the moon was my first impression. After you get on the desert floor, you look and you see craters and rocks and you look up at the moon and it looks just like it. There's nothing there.

Sergeant Finch - We were nervous and had a lot of anxiety. You go over there and sit for a couple of months and just have to wait until things happen, you get quite nervous. When it did happen, mostly we moved for 100 hours. Once it started, we moved and never stopped until the cease fire. We drove a long way, I don't even know how many miles. The Abrams series is probably the best tank in the world. It provides us the best fire control system and the best protection. The equipment wasn't what we were worried about. It was just what we were going to face was the biggest unknown.

Sergeant Sheets - The silver bullet got its nickname because it is painted silver and I guess there is a good connotation going back to the Lone Ranger, it is the good guy's bullet. It has a DU penetrator in it. It goes down range like a dart. Everything is either consumed or falls off and stays back and the 120 tank ammunition system is the best ammunition system to compliment this tank that the world capability has.

William Mitrik - This is the first war that DU has been introduced into. I think this was the first test of this tank system also.

Sergeant Finch - It was the first test for the Abrams and also the DU brands.

William Mitrik - So there was a little apprehension going into this as to how well it will perform.

Sergeant Finch - The performance was outstanding. The DU round would penetrate almost anything and everything.

Sergeant Sheets - The government likes to refer to the performance as next to none because there is nothing that will come close to it. So this is a good material to have.

Sergeant Finch - Most of my time today is spent teaching. I teach the top 10% of the non-commissioned officers in the military what the limitations and capabilities of the ammunition are, the fire control system and how to train.

Sergeant Sheets - I'm a doctrine writer and I pretty much write what he teaches now. How we're going to fight, the equipment we use, anything to do with the gunnery side of the doctrine is what my office writes.

Sergeant Finch - So he writes the lesson plans and I teach the lesson plans.

William Mitrik - One major point I forgot to point out and why we are doing these briefings is that we want to convey to everybody that we go out to that the soldier is the end customer. He's the user in the field and that's who the ammunition is going to serve. It's not for big corporations, it's not for big government, it's for a real person and that's part of the presentation we give today. Every place we've been the reaction has been fantastic because people get a half hour or 40 minutes to ask any questions that they might have about the ammunition, about the tank, about the tank crew, and every place has been very enthusiastic. We usually do four or five presentations to each subcontractor that we go to because we want it to be everybody from the top guy running the place down to the janitor that is pushing the broom because they all contribute to the ammunition.

Sergeant Finch - And we enjoy doing it too. As to the issue of preparedness, we train every day, five days a week in the military. We always train because some of our skills are perishable. We don't get to shoot live ammo all the time, tactical rounds. We very seldom get to use tactical. We do have training rounds that we use, and we use simulators, so we train constantly. We don't go into a situation where somebody is not trained because if you have an untrained person, he could lose his life as well as yours.

Sergeant Sheets - As they say, you're only as strong as your weakest link, so if you've got a weak guy, you've got to get him up to par before you move out with him.

William Mitrik - Primex is a new company that was formed in January of this year. It was spun off by Olin Ordnance. It is basically the former Olin Ordnance Division. We have corporate and division headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida; facilities in St. Marks, Florida; Red Lion, Pennsylvania; Marion, Illinois; Redmond, Washington and San Leandro, California. There are two major divisions, ordnance and tactical systems and aerospace. We are a major supplier of ammunition to the United States government both large cal, medium cal, and small cal. Our aerospace division makes a lot of rocket motors that position satellite systems. They are also involved in the new electronics for the new passenger airplane that has the telephone systems on them and the new personalized at-your-chair video game and movie selection, so we're rather well diversified, but we have our core in ammunition and especially tank ammunition.

Jeff Elliott, NMI - Hopefully we're a continued supplier to Primex and the Army. NMI has made ammunition for Olin, Primex, and other prime contractors for a number of years, actually going on 15 years. We've kind of grown with the program, we've made the early rounds 774s, 833s and 829s. We feel we've grown in expertise and capability. It's always nice to have a customer come down and give us some feedback on how the product performs. That's ultimately what we're interested in is customer satisfaction. When we can get a hold of the customer and have him talk to us directly and give us that feedback, it really kind of closes the loop for us. I know a lot of our employees had questions and were wondering how did the round perform in Desert Storm, particularly when they had such a hand in making the penetrator itself. This is a good session to answer those questions and give the people a chance to one-on-one talk with the soldiers, so this is a really great opportunity for us and we're really glad to have them here.

Sergeant Finch - We took a lot of prisoners. Once they saw the fire power of the Abrams, they were done. They were ready to quit. We took quite a few POWs while we were there, more than we could handle actually. I think it numbered in the thousands. We gave them food and water.

Sergeant Sheets - From the video footage we saw coming back from the war, it was very clear that the Russian tanks that the Iraqi Army had were clearly outclassed and weren't expecting fire power that they saw from the soldiers on the U.S. side. Some of the videos that we did see, after a tank was hit, soldiers off to the side were just throwing their weapons out and wanting to surrender because they just didn't want any part of it.

Jeff Eliott - Primex Technologies contacted us concerning the Soldiers to Subcontractors Program. This is a program where we are trying to bring the soldiers out to the different subcontractors that supply the ammunition and equipment used. With us today is Bill Mitrik from Primex Technologies of St. Petersburg, Florida, Sergeant Finch and Sergeant Sheets from Fort Knox, Kentucky. They're going to give a presentation, a video, some overheads and after that, they'll give a little presentation on their experiences in Desert Storm and activity as tank teachers. The first session this morning went pretty well. A lot of people had questions, feel free to ask anything you want.

William Mitrik - Good afternoon. The concept for the Soldiers to Subcontractors program started about two years ago. My company has been in a continuous improvement program with our customer, Picatinny Arsenal, who procures the tactical rounds, the M829A2 that you supply penetrators for, and we started going out to subcontractors doing both general awareness and critical defect briefings, and my boss and I were kicking it around one night as to what we could do improve the program, what can we do to follow it up, what can we do to make it better as kind of a little continuous improvement discussion.

We thought it would nice to get some soldiers out there, some of the guys that actually used the ammunition, and we started talking to Picatinny about it. They said, "Well, we can probably get a couple of captains out there." "No," we said, "we want real guys that really used the tank ammunition that really know what they're talking about." So both Sergeant Finch and Sergeant Sheets are instructors at Fort Knox, the armored center and are both master gunners, so I can assure you they know what they are doing and they know what they are talking about when it comes to tank ammunition.

Primex Technologies is what we call a systems contractor for tank ammunition. We manufacture nothing but paper. I can assure you down in the fine city of St. Petersburg, Florida, our neighbors wouldn't be too happy if we started assembling bullets down there because they are pretty close, but we have a network of about 20 subcontractors all around the United States that make components for us. We ship it into Iowa Army Ammunition in the midwest and they assemble the bullets for us. If you notice, this is our quality assurance major supplier base location, what we call our allies and excellence of contractors. That means they are certified, the ones in dark are certified subcontractors and ship to stock and Nuclear Metals is one of those, and you recently received your certification from Flinchbaugh since
Primex Flinchbaugh actually buys the penetrators for us.

The 120 tank ammunition program evolved from the old M60 tank that used 105 tank ammunition which we actually produced up until probably two years ago. There were still some 105contracts out there, but now everything we manufacture, the 120mm tankammunition that program has been in production for about 10 or 11 years now. M1A2 tank is the 120 tank, this is a series of ammunition that we manufacture for the 120 tank, M829A2 of course is a tactical round, the one you supply the penetrator for, the DM43A1 is a tungsten penetrator round that is also tactical and is one that we co-developed, well, we Americanized from Ranmetal over in Germany. KEW round is a Primex designed round that we recently sold a lot to Egypt, a tungsten penetrator not quite as potent as the A2. We don't want to sell a depleted uranium round, the government won't sell a depleted uranium round to any foreign country. The M865 is a training round that goes in concert with the A2. The M830 is a tactical round, it's called a heat round, a high energy anti-tank. The M831A1 is the training round that complements the M830.

Training ammunition is very important. It is the bulk of the quantity that we make for the United States government. Without training ammunition the troops can't prepare, they can't be in a state of battle readiness if you will when they need to be. We produce training ammunition for both United States and foreign sales, and we've delivered over 800,000 training rounds to the U.S. government in the 11 years we've been in the 120 tank business now. M831A1, I think somebody when we were out at Armtek referred to it as throwing a brick down range. It's not the desired practice round but it's a good one. It is about 981mm in length, weighs about 24 kilograms, pretty heavy, and the sergeants will talk to you later about loading rounds in a tank, there is not a lot of room in there and with that kind of weight, they're really pushing to get it done in their time frame. When it leaves the tank barrel, it has a muzzle velocity of 1140 meters per second and an effective training range of about 2500 meters. The M865, which is a kinetic energy practice round, is about 831 millimeters in length and weighs about 17.2 kilograms, a little lighter than the heat but still pretty heavy in a confined space, a lot faster, 1700 meters per second and it has an effective training range of about 2500 meters also. The KEW round that we referred to as our terminator round is the only United States government certified tungsten 120 tank round. It was adapted from the famous silver bullet round which was the 829A1 which you also supplied penetrators for. They called it the silver bullet over in Desert Storm, and it is currently being produced and exported to selected Middle East countries. It is exported through the United States government so it's only sold to what the government considers friendly countries. It is about 980mm long, 20.5 kilograms, muzzle velocity of 1585 meters per second. The M829A2, which is probably of most interest to you since it is the round you supply the penetrator for, is the most advanced 120mm KE production ammunition in the world. It has a unique propulsion system which are these cylinders over here in the round, and the sabot which is the black area surrounding the center, is made out of composites. The old rounds had an aluminum sabot so this was new technology just for the A2. It has the highest length to diameter penetrator in the United States inventory and Primex is the sole supplier of kinetic energy tactical ammunition in the United States government. The silver looking rod going down the center is the penetrator that NMI produces for us on this program. It is a little bit longer which makes it even more difficult to handle in the tanks, about 984mm, pretty heavy, 20.7 kilograms, muzzle velocity 1680 meters per second and the effective range is 3000 meters plus.

One big message that we're trying to convey in the Soldiers to Subcontractors briefing is that the soldier is the ultimate customer. As I said to this morning's group, Flinchbaugh is your direct customer, St. Petersburg is Flinchbaugh's customer, Picatinny Arsenal is our customer, but the soldiers are the guys in the field that are the end customers. They are the ultimate users and that's who we provide the tank ammunition for. We need to supply safe, reliable, high quality tank ammunition and we feel that we do. The tankers expect and deserve the world's best tank ammunition and the 120mm tank program that the United States government developed is the best tank ammunition in the world. We do that because their lives may depend on it one day and their lives did depend on it in Desert Storm. Both sergeants will relate some of those experiences to you in a little bit. Our government expects us to supply consistent, high quality ammunition. They deserve it. As Jeff was taking us on a tour this morning and pointing out the improvement and efficiencies that NMI has made that has helped provide the A2 to feed better ammunition than the Al or just plain 829 round did.

Primex doesn't make anything though. Big question is how do we assure this? There are several tools that we use and several philosophies that we try and implement across the subcontractor base to help us manage this program. One of them is the contractor management because we deal with subcontractors, and we try to make sure that our statement of work and our expectations are very clear to all the subcontractors. I know we've come a long way in that regard in the last 10 years. We try to reduce variability because the soldier wants and government expects and they need a round that goes down range every time because if they are in a fighting situation, they need to take out the other guy before he can shoot back. We reduce variability through sound process control methodology. NMI has come a long way in their SPC program and that's one way that we can help control process and SPC is a good tool. We want consistent ammunition, consistent components coming off the line so the firing will be consistent. When we test the ammunition, it is supposed to hit this big 20 meter square screen and that used to be good enough for our customers. Now the screen is divided into four quadrants and they want us to be able to predict in the future what quadrant our ammunition is going to hit before it's fired. That's how much they want us to know about the variability and how much variability they want us to take out of it.

The other thing we do is audit for compliance and I notice you have your CP2 symbol there just like I had on my first charts since we're also CP2. I forgot to congratulate you on becoming CP2 because there are only about probably 18 companies in the United States that are recognized by the Army and made CP2, so it is a big accomplishment for you and I commend you on that. But it is not just the Army or Primex coming in every three years, every one year, doing a big full blown audit, it is a good internal audit program. It's when you're on the shop floor knowing your procedures and your work instructions, audit yourself to make sure you're following them. Watch the guy next to you and make sure that they're doing things right, and when management goes out and gives a tour, they're doing a self-audit in their heads, so all those things help make sure that we get the kind of components we need so we can furnish the good ammunition.

Right now, I'd like to turn it over to Sergeant Sheets. There is a 8-9 minute video that will be shown. First part is really nice, it gets everybody pumped up and then they'll talk about the tank and the tank crew and some of their experiences. Don't be shy when it comes to the question and answer period because they'll really feel that they're let down if there's not at least a good half hour of questions. Thank you.

Sergeant Sheets - Good afternoon, again my name is Sergeant Sheets and I'm with Crew Gunnery Doctrine out at Fort Knox, Kentucky. First of all myself and the rest of us enjoyed coming up here today and taking the tour and we really appreciate what you guys do here. Until today I never knew how much went into producing just this long rod penetrator that we shoot down range at the enemy's tanks. I asked a question of how long does it take to go from your melting to the penetrator and they told me six weeks. I'm like, gee, that's a long time. I would think it would be like popping right out. It doesn't seem to be that way.

We feel we have the best equipment in the world, the M1, Al, M1A2 tanks. There is nothing on the battlefield that can surpass them. To augment that we need the best ammunition in the world. If you've got a great tank but sloppy ammunition, why do you have a great tank? The 829 series round is incredible. They can penetrate anything out there on the battlefield today. So we get a warm, fuzzy feeling when we go out and face the bad guys.

I've got a short video here to show you but before that I'm going to talk a bit about myself. I joined the service in 1982 right out of high school like a lot of people do. I knew from an early age this is what I wanted to do. I really consider myself a professional soldier. Once you get over that 10 year mark, that's kind of the case you're in. It was mentioned before that both of us are master gunners. We're in the top 2% of the armored field. That's kind of like the top gun school for tanks. Sergeant Finch is now an instructor in that course. I've served tours at Fort Hood, Texas as a gunner in a 166 armor. I've rotated to Germany to 266 where I served as a gunner and tank commander and three stints as a platoon sergeant. When we deployed to Desert Storm, I gunned for Colonel Brown, the battalion commander of 266. I have had a lot of experience with the rounds. Recently I've been assigned as a platoon sergeant for Fort Knox and a rotation in Korea where I served as a platoon sergeant and a company master gunner. Right now I'm what's called an instructor/writer for doctrine at Fort Knox, Kentucky. What I want to do now is show you a video. It's kind of a video we show to our NCO graduation from different schools. It's just one of those that kind of pumps up the family members and all that stuff.

[Video (which we do not have)] Enemy tanks were all destroyed by Bradley vehicles and 120mm tank guns, MIAl that ranges out to some engagements at around 2500 meters, MIAl tanks and we had some longer engagements in excess of 3000 meters. Many, many of T72s when hit with the MIAI tank gun, the turret would explode and fly off the vehicle as far as 50-150 feet so it didn't stand up very well and the berm won't even slow down the 120mm tank gun that ranges out to 1500 meters. It goes right through the berm and knocks the tank out.

U.S. tank commanders and crews in Desert Storm couldn't say enough about the performance of 120mm ammunition -- on target first time, every time. [end of video]

Sergeant Sheets - One thing I would like to add there, what we need is the capability to get off a first round, get first hit and kill the target. If we can't get that and that guy's got the opportunity to return fire on us, he may be luckier than us. I doubt if he's more skilled, but there may be something in his favor so let's hope not. What we really need is that one round, one kill capability. We have to hit it, and we have to kill it. I've witnessed the enemy tank during Desert Storm take a hit from just the 829 round with a DU penetrator. The round penetrated through the front of the tank, came out the back of the tank and all we saw was it skip across the desert floor probably 600-700 meters, just like skipping a stone across the water, that's penetrating the Iraqi's best tanks over there. So what you guys are doing, we really appreciate it. If there is ever any way to make it better, you know, we'd like that too, but right now we feel we have the best tank rounds and we really appreciate that. Sergeant Finch is going to show you how the rounds are stowed on the tank and talk about our training a little bit.

Sergeant Finch - Good afternoon, I'm Staff Sergeant Finch from Fort Knox and I teach master gunners. I've been in the military 15 plus years. I like what I do for a living. I teach now the top 10% of non-commissioned officers who want to become master gunners. Master gunners are people who are skilled in ammunition, the capabilities, the characteristics, how they work, why they work, and the fire control system of the tanks. We teach them how to train their crews on tank ranges and simulators and anything else that will help them be combat ready. As Sergeant Sheets and Bill Mitrik said earlier, we do have the best equipment in the world, and we have the best ammunition in the world. The Abrams is the best tank on the field today. I feel we could take it anywhere in the world and destroy anybody who decides to challenge us. The ammunition that we have is the best in the world. The Iraqis learned that pretty quick. As Sergeant Sheets said it will go from one end of the tank to the other and not even slow down. It's pretty amazing. And we have a good tank. We'll talk about that here in just a few minutes.

First, I want to orient you, if you've never been inside a vehicle, to a tank itself. A tank is comprised of four people. It has a person in the hull called the driver. The hull is the lower portion of the vehicle and houses the engine. His sole mission is to drive the vehicle and to maintain the engine and the suspension system. Now we have three guys in the turret up here. There is not this much room in there. It is quite cramped. The gun tube actually extends back to about right here on the tank commander's knee, and there's not a whole lot of room here for the load because we have radios and we carry ammunition on this side also. The gunner's prime mission is to of course engage the target that the tank commander deems is a threat to him. We have a 120mm main gun and we have 7.62mm amount of machine gun at his disposal at the flip of the switch and he has the capability to shoot either one. The tank commander is usually the senior man on the vehicle and he is a staff sergeant, sergeant first class or an officer depending on what vehicle it is. He can also fire the main gun from his position, he has an override and he has a site that he can see, he sees exactly what the gunner sees. He has a 50 caliber machine gun mounted in a commander's weapon station which is completely independent of the turret. It can rotate on its own. It has its own power system. The tank commander is a senior guy and he's also the guy who gives the fire command. He's the guy that deems what is a threat, and what is not. He is the sole person who decides if that vehicle is fired or not. He also controls where the driver goes, the radios, he's quite busy. The loader is the lowest ranking guy and the least paid and the hardest at work. We work him kind of hard. He has ammunition that is stored right here as you can see some rounds in our semi-ready racks. We carry sixteen or seventeen depending on the configuration and we also have rounds around the tank commander. He is required to load the rounds, him and all the tank crews are required by the military standards to load a round every seven seconds. That's a standard they must meet. Most loaders can do it in three to four seconds. Good ones can do it in about two, so they well exceed their standards. The rounds are real heavy. They weigh anywhere from 50 to 64 pounds a piece. If you're a tall guy like me, you have to sit down and do it, so it takes a little coordination. Not everybody can do it.

I'm going to show you sections of videos. The first one you're actually seeing them loading dummy rounds into the ready rack which I just showed you, on the door they are dummy rounds. Then you're going to see three iterations of the actual test that they have to take. What we want you to pay attention to, which we bring to a lot of people who don't work with ammunition like we work with it, is how gentle the soldiers are. We're not, we're not very gentle with rounds. We like to sling things around. If it breaks, we hope we get another one. A lot of the people who make the rounds don't understand how soldiers handle it. So let's watch this part of it.

Next you'll see a defensive engagement tank commander will announce the fire command, the loader will load the rounds and you'll see the tank go up in fire. What we want you to pay attention to is when the round goes in, notice the paint chips that fly off the combustible cartridge. The next portion you will see is two shots at a helicopter's fire with a multipurpose anti-tank round also known as impact. One will be mounted on a pole about 3/4 of a mile, the next one will be a remotely controlled hovering helicopter fired at two miles. The loader will be considerably slower here because they only have ten rounds and they were doing these tests out at Ima Proven Grounds.

[Video (which we do not have)] The impact round uses a proximity sensor to detect a target which makes it extremely effective against helicopters. [end of video]

Sergeant Finch - As I said earlier we really appreciate what you do. Today I had to kind of fight to get on this trip. I wanted to see how the penetrators were made. I do teach the ammunition part of the master gunner so it's kind of important to me as a instructor to understand how things are made.

Question period -- Following are responses to questions asked.

Sergeant Finch -
We can usually see from about here up and we shoot through the berm. There is only sand about six feet so the round goes through quite easily. On the video they were showing a Bradley showing a 25mm gun shooting one right after another. The Bradley has 19 of the DU penetrators. The DU penetrator for the Bradley is about that big. That was a practice round you saw on the video, they don't shoot DU too many places.

Depends on the vehicle. The older style, the Iraqi T54, 55 model tanks, no. And it depends on the range you're shooting at the target. You figure the round travels over a mile a second, once a round is fired a tank crew has a lot of aspiration, the flame from the end of the gun tube and also the dust, so its takes a minute or two.

Sergeant Sheets - Sometimes you have 10 or 15 seconds before your secondary explosions start taking effect and all that. With today's technology and the ammunition in the tank, we count on that first time hit because we train to fight multiple targets. We don't just look at one guy and not his buddy because he's not alone either.

Sergeant Finch - In Desert Storm the loader was every three seconds. If you get a real small guy, that's short and pretty wiry, they're the best loaders in the world. You can't stand up inside.

It's a chemical round, a high explosive anti-tank. It hits a target, produces a jet stream and a copper refracting cone inverts and goes inside the turret. It doesn't use speed, it uses chemicals. The desert temperature is between 110 and 140 degrees, and in the winter time it gets cold. We have a climate control system, it's our nuclear biological chemical pressurization system. It has some cool air capabilities but not a whole lot and we don't get to use it because it's kind of hard on the engines and it burns more fuel.

Sergeant Sheets - What you see on the video too are the uniforms the guys wear. Those are flame retardant no max suits. They're very thin fabric but for some reason they really hold the heat too. On top of that like in Desert Storm when we went in, we wore body armor over the top of that and everything else, so it gets real hot, plus you got on your mop suit on to protect you from the chemicals. You're looking at maybe dressed for a 20 degree day in 100 degrees.

Sergeant Finch - We have guys who run around in MLs that are semis but just one bodied and they follow us usually about five miles behind with the complete rounds. They carry I think about 150 or 200 rounds per ML. So they're not usually too far behind us.

Sergeant Sheets - We also have another ML that carries fuel.

Sergeant Finch - The tank holds 44 rounds. An Iraqi general said in a tape we have that he started the war, Desert Storm, with 34 T72s. After the whole air war was done, he had 32 T72s. He spent 20 minutes with MlA1 Abrams and didn't have anything left. In 20 minutes they destroyed 32 vehicles which is a long, long time when you've got bullets flying everywhere. So the Abrams family itself is the best tank in the world. We carry 525 gallons of fuel and we can get about 350 miles a gallon depending on the terrain.

Sergeant Sheets - Depending on the driver too. If you've got one of the biggest RVs in the world and you don't have to pay for the gas yourself and you get some of those hot dogs in the driver's seat and everywhere he goes, he wants to get there now, so he's going to hot dog it.

Sergeant Finch - The vehicle itself weighs 70 tons not counting anything else we pack on it, just the base weight is 70 tons. Combat weight can get up around 73 to 74 tons. It has a 1500 hundred horse power turbine jet engine, a multi-fuel engine and it'll burn anything that will burn. If it's liquid and it will burn, we can burn it -- diesel, jet, gas, kerosene, whatever we can get to burn. It will burn jet fuel if we have to use it. We don't like to use it, that's a little hazardous, but we can use it. It will cruise at 40 miles an hour over any kind of terrain. It doesn't like snow real well but it will go over snow. It's a little slippery on it. It goes 40 miles a hour forward and it will do 30 miles in reverse. It has a two-speed gear transmission to go in reverse, so it will move out when it goes backwards. We like to say you can get us into trouble and get us out just as fast as we got into it. So if we get into something we don't like, we just hit reverse and we're gone. There's not a whole lot on the battlefield that can stop it. We can run over cars, houses, trucks, anything. The only thing we haven't tried is another Ml. I don't know if we can climb over it or not. It would be kind of expensive to try it at $2.5 million a pop.

Sergeant Sheets - I don't want to do the accident report on that one.

Sergeant Finch - We can run over the top of the enemy's tanks and they would never know it. We can reach out and touch them, we wouldn't have to chase them down. We have a fire control system that has the capability to shoot from 200 meters to 4000 meters, so we can shoot almost 5 miles and we can actually hit at 5 miles. We don't have to chase them far.

Sergeant Sheets - In training we're very restricted on the ranges and how far we can shoot. You have impact areas and there is surface danger area diagrams. The training sabot round, the back of it has a cone on it that acts as a drag shoot so it doesn't go much farther than that. Right now there is probably only two places where you can actually shoot the rounds because they really go.

Sergeant Finch - They can travel up over 20 miles at maximum elevation. It'll actually go farther than that but you have to elevate it to do that. It'll go there.

You can shoot main gun and coax that's stabilized, a stable platform. It's has a Cadillac suspension on it. It's like getting out of your... Remember the first car you ever owned whatever it was. It was held together with tape and lacing wire to get it to hold together, then you went and bought yourself a Cadillac or a Mercedes Benz. That's what it is like. You get in and it's smooth. The faster we go, the better off we are. At 10 miles an hour it's like riding a bulldozer, you shake and everything rattles inside. You get up over 15 and start hitting 20, things start smoothing out and once you get to 40, it's just like riding in a car. It's like you're going to get out here and go home today. Well, I don't know about you all's traffic, but in Kentucky we can get out and go 60 miles an hour. Around here I don't think you guys can do that. The tank probably could. We needed one yesterday. We come up through the tunnel yesterday about 5:30, so it was an experience for us. But the faster we go, the better we like it. They'll not able to engage us at 40 miles an hour and we can shoot all day. We prefer it faster because it is a much smoother platform.

]From the older M60 series we've come probably full circle. If you throw a track, it's your fault. It's not the tank's fault. You've got someplace you weren't supposed to be and you're trying to turn plus you're not supposed to be there. At 40 miles an hour it likes moving that fast.

Sergeant Sheets - When you go slow and you make turns and everything you're going to pick up a lot of debris and everything on your track that rides up underneath the sprocket and will push the track off. The faster you go, it ejects all that out and never makes it to the sprocket. That's your biggest problem.

Sergeant Finch - And our track is a lot more durable. My platform ran over a DPI bomblet which the Air Force dropped during Desert Storm and it exploded and didn't even hurt the track. It didn't even take a piece of the rubber track pad off, so the track is pretty durable.

Question - The town of Concord had a forum where they were against DU, against the Persian Gulf War and they brought a nurse and stood her there and she was more than willing to speak and she said, "Look at me, I'm suffering from the Persian Gulf War syndrome, I was exposed to DU. What is wrong with that particular scenario? What verbiage would you give back?

Sergeant Finch - I don't know where in the world a nurse who is normally anywhere between 50 kilometers and further, maybe 5OOks behind the front lines got exposed to DU tank rounds. To date there are no women in the tank crew. The only thing I could think of where she could is if she went out on the battlefield and picked one up and put it in her rucksack and she had a souvenir.

We had the Als. The A2s were still under production.

The gunner has a pair of control handles and they work independently of each other. This right here is called the DPS current primary site. He sees everything through there. We have a daylight channel and we have a thermal channel. Our thermal channel is a thermal imaging system that picks up any type of heat. It doesn't matter if it is a butterfly, a rabbit, a human, a tank, a car, hot rocks. You can set your vehicle out in the sun and not start it all day and at three or four o'clock in the morning we'll still know you're there. You don't even have to touch your car. What he does is he looks through a site here and of course, it's a bunch of mirrors he sees, he lays a little mark on the center of the master target, he gets a range of turn, fire control system figures how much elevation he needs for a gun, he's moving this fast from left to right, it's a computerized system. The computer tells him everything. The computer offsets the radical, he does a few things and goes back to the center and pulls the trigger. That happens all just that fast. You can push the laz button and pull the trigger almost simultaneously.

The driver has three periscopes, he has only a limited field of view. He also has a night site that he can see at night. That's a little television.

Sergeant Sheets - We tend to say, you don't drive it, you point it.

Sergeant Finch - I don't think there's too many trees that we can't knock down. If we went to California into the redwood forest, it wouldn't be there long. It may take once or twice but we can knock it over. The tank will actually cross a twelve foot obstacle, it can be twelve foot across and however deep you want it. I've seen them in training when we first got the MIAls and in Germany they have basements and they just grow over, houses they tear down and they don't do anything with them, I've actually seen one tank fall into a basement and back out. He fell completely in the basement, all you saw were his tail lights, he put it into reverse and out he came. There's not a lot that will stop it.

It weighs 70 tons so it's not real water friendly. But it can go into water up to the skirts. If it has a fording kit, they say it can go to the turret to the top right here. I won't take it that deep but they say it will go that deep. This is the air intake system, the turbine of course needs air to keep running.

The MI series vehicle at the distances we like to keep our adversaries at 2000 meters or better the Ml will stand up and fight all day long. We keep a buffer system and we only show him the frontal 60 degree arc. If we show him anything else than that, then we got a lot of problems. But as long as we show him the front, he doesn't have anything that can completely penetrate an Abrams. The frontal 60 degree has to stay toward the enemy.

I know of two tanks that were hit in Desert Storm. One friend was hit by a tungsten carbine round out of a T72 and chipped the paint on the front slope. It didn't even hit into the armor. One was hit with a chemical energy round, a heat round, all it did was singe the paint and that was it.

We're well protected and we appreciate it that.

Some of the countries, the Leo2 from Germany and the Brits have the Chieftain and the Challenger, they're comparable to the Abrams. They don't have the DU penetrators we have, they don't have some of the things we have.

Sergeant Sheets - Their doctrine is different too. Like the British with the Challenger, they believe that if they pull three tanks up and shoot at one target, one of those three tanks is going to get it and they're happy. Where we want is to pull up and shoot one round and kill him, that makes us happy. That's the difference in the doctrine.

Question - How does it stand up to something like a full missile?

Sergeant Finch - I don't think I can answer that one. That's one of the gray areas where I can get into a whole lot of trouble. Hopefully we won't be shooting at each other. Bradley's don't stand up too well to tank ammunition so I don't know if we stand up too well to the Bradley.

RPG on the front, a lot of times you don't even know you're hit. You may find it later. One of the studies I've read, a guy took a RPG right here and these are also ballistic shields that are quite heavy. It penetrated here and a little penetration into the hull and he didn't even know he got hit until his driver got out and was doing maintenance. He says, "Hey, I got a hole down here." RPGs are really ineffective unless it's from the back. If they ever get behind us, you can take a M16 or a 7.62 and put a hole in the engine.

In a Russian tank the way we destroy them is we can penetrate them but also their ammunition is stowed all around the crew. He's sitting on some, standing by some, they are all along the wall down here by the driver. We compartmentalize ours. We put the rounds back here in this compartment. We have a hall storage compartment where we keep six rounds for emergency use only. This door opens and closes each time. Say we get a round from the side and the ammunition explodes, as long as that door shuts and the crew compartment is actually buttoned up, the crew will not be harmed at all. The complete total back of the turret may be gone from here back, may be melted away, if he can turn his turret over where nothing drops into this area of the tank, he can actually leave. He's still functioning but the only thing he can't do is engage with the main gun. As long as these doors stay close and they do work. We had a tank destroyed and the doors were intact. The tank was completed destroyed and the doors were still intact, so the doors do work. All these rounds back here and the door holds, that door is pretty important to us, it keeps the ammunition away from us and also keeps it cool and dry.

Sergeant Sheets - Also on the film it looked like the door opens real slow. That's a hydraulically driven door. and they were working off the auxiliary pump. When the actual tank engine is running that door is opening and closing a lot faster. The aux pump doesn't provide as much pressure as the engine.

Sergeant Finch - And the door is a vacuum seal, so it stays shut.

We teach the soldiers as long as you don't climb on the vehicle after its been destroyed by depleted uranium, the sabot rounds will not harm you. We have studies and I teach it. I slept on it for six months. We teach that the depleted uranium won't hurt you until you are exposed to a vehicle that has been destroyed by depleted uranium or had DU on it.

Sergeant Sheets - Our tanks in Germany used to stay fully uploaded. So we were riding around for years with this stuff behind us and I still have the right number of fingers and everything. I'm not even concerned about that. The biggest precaution we take is pretty much when we upload or download our tanks of the ammunition, we wear gloves. That's just to protect your hands from splinters and everything else.

Sergeant Finch - There are not a lot of places to sleep on the tank. You can sleep on the top. There a few different places you can sleep. It hasn't changed in 50 years, probably never will.

Sergeant Sheets - A tank is a tank. You can computerize it, you can paint it to look nice, but it's still a tank.

William Mitrik - I'd like to thank everybody and I'd like to thank NMI for the opportunity to come up and make a presentation to you. Thank you for your time and we certainly appreciate your good questions.

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Text mounted 11 March 2015.-- rcwh.