FORT BENNING, Ga. - The first Armor School tanks have reached Fort Benning soil.
Five M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Package tanks arrived Aug. 11 at the Ochille Rail Head, where maintainers offloaded the armored vehicles and drove them to Kelley Hill. They'll be used in a validation of the new digital tank range nearing completion. Test firing will take place in mid-September.
"It's historic in that it's the marriage between Infantry and Armor," said Joe Massouda, support operations officer for the Maneuver Center of Excellence. "It's exciting. We believe these are the finest tanks in the world."
He said they're the first of 188 operational tanks being transferred here from Fort Knox, Ky., as part of the Armor School's relocation under Base Realignment and Closure. The rest should be in place by next summer. Ultimately, all will go to Harmony Church for training of entry-level Armor and Cavalry Soldiers.
Wednesday's effort marked another big step in bringing the Maneuver Center together, said SFC Vernon Prohaska, liaison officer for the Armor School's strategic plans cell.
"This is pretty significant," he said. "A lot of eyes are on this right now, especially at Fort Knox."
Massouda said it cost about $6,000 to move the five tanks, based on a $300-per-mile equation, which factors in fuel, consumables and incidental-repair expenses. For the remaining 183 tanks that arrive, commercial heavy equipment transports may be used to move them around post if the distance exceeds five miles to save in operating costs and limit wear and tear on roads and infrastructure, he said.
The M1A2 SEP represents a "major enhancement" over the M1A1, with upgraded capabilities in armament, surveillance, video, digital maps and electronics, Prohaska said.
"It's a hunter-killer tank," he said.
Prohaska said the range tests basically validate what the tanks see and where their weapons systems are aimed. The digital range, located east of the Malone complexes, has been under construction for seven years.
"It has the capacity to interact with the tanks," he said.
Global positioning, systems alignment and communications are among the tasks to be performed during range certification.
TANK ARRIVAL BY THE NUMBERS
1,500 - horsepower in M1A2 Abrams SEP turbine engine
504.2 - gallons of fuel capacity
265 - cruising range (miles)
42 - mph maximum speed
30 - minutes to reach Kelley Hill from Ochille Rail Head
4 - miles between Ochille Rail Head and Kelley Hill
0.6 - miles per gallon