Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tanker's Final Exam, Part 4, Moving Tank

We are now at Part 4 of Table VIII of 1976 tank gunnery at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The previous post described Engagements 3, 4 and 5 which occur at the same firing point. Now I will describe Engagement 6, the moving tank.

We practiced for this shot more than any other.  In fact, I am sure we practiced more than any crew in the battalion.  Several times in the weeks leading up to gunnery, I took my crew out in early evening after everyone else left the motorpool and practiced sighting on moving targets.

Today, I am sure I would be busted to Private for the way we practiced.  We rolled out of the motorpool up on a ridge that looked down on Interstate 25—the North-South highway that passes the east side of Fort Carson. 

From that ridge, the highway was about two miles away, much farther that the distance to the range target.  But since the cars were going 60-70 mph, their speed relative to us was good for practice tracking a moving target. 

To get a good shot at a moving target, my gunner, Merc Morris, had to practice steadily tracking the target.  This took real skill and control.  While my gunner tracked the target, I would look through the range finder.  After a while he could keep the crosshair perfectly steady center of mass on a Chevy Impala or a Ford Pinto. 

Back to Table VIII.  As we moved along the trail on the tank gunnery range, I saw plywood panel target moving right to left.  I called, “Driver Stop!”  Then “Gunner, SABOT, Moving Tank.”  Pierce (Eugene Pierce, my Loader) yelled “Up!” confirming the gun was loaded. He was so fast, I barely finished the Fire Command before he had loaded the main gun.  The range was about 1000 meters so it was point and shoot with the solid-shot SABOT round.  I handed the binoculars to Pierce so he could track the shot from the top of the turret while I watched the round go down range through the range finder.  I was looking for the flash of the tracer disappearing through a hole in the target. 

If I had any doubt Merc would get a first-round hit, I would have been watching through the binoculars from the commander’s hatch, but I knew Merc would get a first-round hit.  When Merc yelled “On the Way” I pushed my helmet against the range finder and opened my eyes as wide as I could.  I didn’t see anything.  Too much dust.  Pierce yelled “Hit!” dropped into the turret, slammed another SABOT round into the breach of the main gun and yelled “Up!”  Merc fired again.  I said, “Driver Move Out” quite sure there were two new holes in the moving-tank target. 

Next engagement was the M85 .50 cal. machine gun at 1200 meters. 
This series started with seeing the movie "Fury" and wanting to be back in a tank turret.  Then the first main-gun shot of Table VIII.

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