This has been the source of some ongoing consternation, centered in part on the fact that Washington’s streets aren’t built to handle the weight of these armored vehicles. Some of the vehicles weigh about 70 tons, several times the weight of moving a house according to an expert who spoke with the Wall Street Journal. (Houses weigh somewhere between 40 and 80 tons while being moved, if you’re curious, which I was.) There’s also concern about parking a few 70-ton vehicles on the Mall, given that the District was built on a swamp. Having a tank half-sunk in the turf of the Mall would make an interesting metaphorical monument to some past military engagements, but it’s generally better to plan these things more deliberately.
However you feel about this display, there’s one group that is already very agitated about it for a perhaps unexpected reason: A lot of people are referring to non-tanks as tanks.
There are six vehicles that were shipped up from Georgia for the Fourth. You can see all six in the Reuters clip below. But can you identify the four vehicles that are not tanks?
We took a still from that video which offers one of the better views of the lineup. There are two Bradley M2 fighting vehicles, an M88A2 support vehicle, a military truck (which probably won’t be part of the display) and, finally, the two tanks: M1A2 Abrams.
It’s completely fair, as you watch the video, to not immediate grasp which vehicle is which. So, in the dual interest of both assuaging those antsy tank pedants and being able to impress dates as you walk around the city for the next few days, let’s walk through the differences.
The M1A2 Abrams tanks
The tanks are about 26 feet long (excluding the barrel of the gun) and 12 feet wide. They weigh around 70 tons, depending on how they’re outfitted. The tanks in Washington appear to be camouflaged with the military’s woodland pattern, so if you’re trying to spot the tanks in the woods, maintain a keen eye.
There are a number of variants to the M1 tank. The Pentagon informed The Washington Post that those in Washington for this week’s activities are M1A2s.
So what are we looking for to identify the tanks? Two things should jump out at you.
A) Look for the metal protrusions on the turret of the tank, which the Bradleys don’t have. (This is the bustle rack, used as external storage.)
B) The barrel of the gun on the tanks is much longer than on the Bradleys.
Let’s put your new knowledge to work. Consider this tweet, which is intentionally making a joke about Trump’s pledge that the Fourth would include Sherman tanks, a vehicle that was retired from service when Trump was 11 years old.
Those aren’t tanks at all. They’re ...
Bradley M2 fighting vehicles
A Bradley is a personnel carrier, about four feet shorter than the tanks. There’s a little door in the back where soldiers can enter. Since the interior is mostly empty, it’s much lighter, weighing in at about 27 tons. “Lighter” being relative; it weighs as much as two elephants.
How do we differentiate from the tank?
A) A giveaway is the pop-up headlights that can be seen on the front of the vehicle.
B) Also — again — the barrel of the gun is shorter.
Now we get to the easy one.
M88A2 support vehicle
The M88A2 is a tow truck. It’s more than that, of course, but that’s why it made the trip up the East Coast. If something goes wrong with the M1A2s, it’s the vehicle that can help. (It’s a bit longer than the tanks and about the same weight.) The M88A2 also goes by the name HERCULES, which is cool — but which is also an acronym for Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift and Evacuation System, which is less cool.
Differentiating it is easy: It’s the one with the tow-truck-like arm and winch.
The Army’s extensive documentation of the vehicles’ hardware, which reads like a sales brochure, helpfully includes descriptions of the foreign countries to which the same vehicles have been sold. The M1A2, for example, has been sold to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have also bought Bradleys, as has Lebanon. Lebanon and Kuwait have also bought M88s, along with Australia, Egypt, Iraq and Thailand.
In other words, according to the Army, the only place you can see all of these vehicles together is right here in the U.S. of A. And, this week, you can see them in D.C. Go flaunt your knowledge while you can.
We at first thought the Bradleys were model M3 and not the earlier M2 because the former lacks ports on the sides and back that could be used for soldiers inside to fire out. However, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Christian Mitchell informs The Post that they are indeed M2s.