Soldiers in the field want to know their weapons systems will work as advertised. At Redstone Arsenal making sure that's true can involve a Russian T-72 tank. "Russia and their assignees have produced over 30,000 of these and they are in service in over 45 countries around the globe, says Mike Criss, The Chief of Range Operations for the Redstone Test Center.
The vast numbers of the 45 ton tanks in use is the reason they are the target of choice when it comes to the Redstone Test Center. The several T-72s on the test ranges are definitely well used. "Did we get a good launch? Did we get a good track on the target? Did the missile fly to the target as intended with the correct flight profile? And when it got to the target, did the warhead sub system function as intended?" Those are the questions looking for answers in a test that would involve one of the tanks says Criss.
The RTC isn't interested in blowing the tanks up, but the tests do cause a lot of wear and tear on the targets, even when a sheet of steel is the actual aiming point. "We're not looking for lethal effects, we're looking for the precision and accuracy effects and functioning on the target," says Criss.
You might wonder why not shoot at something else. Why acquire a Russian tank when you could shoot at something less elaborate? The answer involves realism for both the missile sensors and for the person pulling the trigger. "Did that shooter get the correct sight picture? If you have a piece of plywood out there, it's not realistic. He's not going to see that in other environments," says Criss.
Once again, there are more Russian T-72 tanks used around the world than any other main battle tank. The Redstone Test Center is using a few of them to reach a specific goal. "And that is, the American public expects our warriors to dominate any environment that they enter. We do the testing to give them the tools that enable them to do that," says Criss.