The Russian T-90A tank taken off the battlefield in Ukraine appears to be headed to the Aberdeen Test Center.
APR 14, 2023
Thanks to a shipping label on the barrel of the main gun of a Russian T-90A tank that wound up at a Louisiana truck stop, we now have an idea where it came from and where it may have been headed before the truck hauling it broke down Tuesday night and it ended up sitting at Peto’s Travel Center and Casino.
You can read our original story on the mysterious tank in question here.
The shipping label, photographs of which were shared with us by Louisiana resident John Phelps, shows it was sent from an organization called the “multinational assessment field team” with the port of embarkation listed as Gdynia, Poland. Its port of destination was Beaumont, Texas, about 90 miles west of where the tank wound up. The “ultimate consignee” on the label is Building 358, 6850 Lanyard Rd., Aberdeen Proving Ground. That’s the home of the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center (ATC).
According to its website, ATC’s mission is to:
- Provide test and test support services for authorized customers within and outside of DoD, including Government and non-Government organizations, domestic, and foreign.
- Perform comprehensive test and training, both real and simulated.
- Exploit emerging technologies.
- Develop leading-edge instrumentation and test methodologies.
Today, “ATC is the Defense Department’s lead agency for land-combat, direct-fire, and live-fire vulnerability testing,” according to ATC. “ATC is a multi-purpose test center with diverse capabilities. It has become a world-class testing, training, modeling, simulation, and experimentation facility that gives American Warfighters superior materiel and technology.”
As an example of what ATC does, in 2019, we wrote about how the Army was going to blow up an old 747 there to test the vulnerabilities of commercial aircraft to explosives.
Given all that, it makes sense the T-90A, which open-source intelligence investigators say was captured by Ukraine from Russia last September and appears to be the one seen in this video below, would wind up at ATC.
But how much can be learned from the tank is unclear.
The T-90A, which had damaged front and rear fenders, is fairly modern by Russian standards, having been produced in 2004, according to the Warspotting.net OSINT group. However, as we reported yesterday, the pictures shared with us by Reddit user Mutantlight and Cody Sellers, a manager at Peto’s Travel Center and Casino in Roanoke, Louisiana, show that the tank is clearly not fully kitted out. But it did have some explosive reactive armor (ERA) containers on the turret. It also had the “dazzlers” at least still fitted from the Shtora-1 self-protection system. Its various machine guns have been removed.
It also notably lacks some Western fire control components, which some T-90As have been equipped with in the past.
We had several questions for ATC as well as Army headquarters in the Pentagon, among them what the tank will be used for, how it got into the U.S., where it was headed, details about the tank’s battle history, whether there were security concerns about it being left for days at a truck stop and whether the ERA containers were inert or contained explosives.
Friday afternoon, an ATC spokesperson deferred our questions to Army headquarters and Army officials we reached out to yesterday and today have not yet provided any information.
Also unclear is which company was delivering the tank when its truck broke down, leading to the layover at Peto’s. Officials at AAA Logistics of Dayton, Ohio, the name of the company on the cab of the truck that picked it up last night at about 8:00 PM local time, did not return messages seeking comment. Sellers, the truck stop manager, told us one of the drivers told him the truck was headed for Maryland. This is the state where the Aberdeen Test Center is located in.
Phelps said when he asked the truck driver if it was headed to Aberdeen based on the label, the driver said, “yeah, how did you know that?” and told him it was headed to Maryland.
So while we have some answers about where the tank appears to be headed, many more questions remain unanswered. Whether this vehicle will be used for destructive testing — such as testing weaponry against it — or to familiarize troops with foreign equipment, or some other sort of foreign materiel exploitation (FME) use, we just can’t say at this time.
We will update this story if and when those answers are provided.
“…whether there were security concerns about it being left for days at a truck stop…”
At least theoretically, anyone with a tractor could’ve hooked up the trailer and hauled the tank away.
“So while we have some answers about where the tank appears to be headed, many more questions remain unanswered. Whether this vehicle will be used for destructive testing…”
I think destructive testing could be done if enough T-90 replacements are being sent from Ukraine. Let’s hope so! Otherwise, the army will only study this tank without destroying it.
Isn’t the Ukrainian army doing destructive testing of those on the battlefield? 🙂
Good point, Larry. Maybe they’re even gathering data as to what, how, when, where and so forth.
Speaking in my personal experience as an American, it’s quite common for both corporate and private truck drivers to operate trucks without any obvious signs of who or what they’re shipping for. In this case, that information does seem apparent from the markings and personal logo on the side of the truck’s cab. It looks to me, like a private truck. In the case of private truck drivers, they also own and maintain insurance for the trucks. Another reason this may be a private truck driver, is because a corporate shipper would require more people to know about it in the logistical tracking, and part of how a military’s secrets are kept, is in minimizing the number of people who need to know about them. A painful lesson in that has been the extreme lapse in security that led to the recent release of military intelligence on the internet, through a video game discussion forum. In this case, it looks more likely that a simple mechanical failure happened, but it’s surprising that the tank isn’t covered with a tarpaulin. A military tank is a rare item to appear in shipping, after all, so if something breaks down requiring a better look at the situation, or even just mere curiosity in seeing a surprise like this, it’s expected that people will want to take pictures.
I will want to ask my dad about this, before he got into track maintenance work for the local railroad, he drove a truck for the American Swift Shipping and Trucking Corporation.
Thanks for the info, Mac. The thought about a tarpaulin is a valid one. I admit that I didn’t think about this. Covering such an item would be the least the army could’ve done, or asked to be done. This and the recent scandal about released state secrets concerns me very much about our state of affairs regarding confidentiality.
Pictures I’ve seen of the fighting compartment showed a tank that was not maintained properly, if at all. When I was in the TARNG, my armor unit had M-60s and a couple of M-48s in our tank pool at Ft. Campbell. They were much older than the T-90 and in much better condition.
My old Brigade was transitioned to M-1s after I left and before it was disbanded after Desert Storm.
Thanks for the info, Oh.
I know Ft. Campbell very well. Clarksville, too, and Land Between the Lakes.
“a tank that was not maintained properly, if at all”
Well, it was captured from Russia, so…