MANNHEIM, Germany – The size and weight of Army combat equipment and vehicles can be a challenge in the European theater of operations, especially during transport. The newest M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank – fielded in 2020 – for example, is heavier than its predecessors, weighing in at more than 73 tons.
To meet these challenges and help ensure U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s readiness posture remains high, the 405th Army Field Support Brigade and Deutsche Bahn, a German railway company headquartered in Berlin, conducted a series of tests on a newly redesigned prototype German rail car at Coleman Worksite’s railhead in Mannheim Aug. 10-11.
The 405th AFSB’s Army Field Support Battalion-Mannheim dispatched an M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank and two of its newest Bradley Fighting Vehicles from its Army Prepositioned Stock site to the railhead location at Coleman to assist the German railway company with its testing.
The new rail car's maximum weight capability is 92 tons at a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour, according to Deutsche Bahn. The rail car also has new features that will save time when loading and unloading vehicles and equipment, an important upgrade that may prove vital when responding rapidly and effectively, if called upon.
According to Maj. Michael Davidson, 21st Theater Sustainment Command rail liaison officer, 74 tons of equipment is still the maximum weight allowed, and the primary purpose of the tests was to test the new blocking and bracing features on the rail car along with testing different types of chains for securement during movement.
Robert Peck, the plans and operations chief for Coleman Worksite, AFSBn-Mannheim, said working with Deutsche Bahn and testing the new rail car is important for his battalion, the 405th AFSB, USAREUR-AF and the Army.
“It’s very important,” said Peck. “One, it’s quicker and easier for us to load in a safe manner. It allows for the faster tie down of equipment on the rail car. We used to have to chock all the equipment with blocking and bracing, but this particular feature on the new rail car has an automated chocking and bracing system built into it. With the turn of a crank they can deploy out, and it speeds up the tie-down process.”
The two days of combined testing between the railway personnel, contractors assigned to AFSBn-Mannheim and the 405th AFSB provided everyone an opportunity to see if the tank and other heavy equipment will saddle correctly on the prototype rail car, said Peck. They are also checking the weights and measuring the distances around the outside of the equipment pieces as well as the heights so the equipment and train cars can appropriately travel on the bahn – going through tunnels and over bridges without incident.
“The Deutsche Bahn and the Army work hand-in-hand because they help us move our heavy equipment anywhere in Europe. A lot of our heavier equipment – our tanks, our artillery pieces, things of that nature, all the armor – is transported by Deutsche Bahn,” said Robert Peck, the plans and operations chief for Coleman Worksite. “They’re our main movers here for heavy equipment.”
Peck said the cooperation between the Army and all its transporters – the railways, the barge transporters and the line haul trucks – is extremely important because “it gives us the ability to transport our equipment in a short notice in mass to appropriate locations anywhere in Europe.”
Juerg Lischewski is a cargo train driver with Deutsche Bahn and was part of the team who tested the new rail car at Coleman. He said he was excited to be a part of the prototype rail car tests.
“We are doing two weight tests – one heavy weight and one lighter weight -- and we’re doing some backward and forward movements using an obstacle to see how it holds – to see how the chains and the wagon react to the load,” said Lischewski, who has been driving trains for about 10 years.
“It’s officially my first time working with the U.S. Army but so far everyone has been very friendly, and I like it,” said Lischewski. “I served two years in the German Navy. That’s the complete opposite side so it’s very interesting to me – all the heavy tanks and maybe some Humvees. I love to see them.”
The 405th AFSB’s AFSBn-Mannheim is responsible for the storage, security, maintenance and issue of nearly two Armored Brigade Combat Team’s worth of heavy armored vehicles and associated equipment as part of the Army Prepositioned Stock program. Coleman Worksite’s close proximity to the Autobahn as well as access to rail and barge loading facilities makes it an important element to U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s readiness posture. Last week, U.S. Army Europe and Africa announced that it will retain six sites previously scheduled to be returned to the German and Belgian governments due to growing requirements in the European theater. Coleman was on the list.
The 405th AFSB is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging U.S. Army Materiel Command’s materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website at www.afsbeurope.army.mil and the official Facebook site at www.facebook.com/405thAFSB.