A tank is not only land war machine, but this multi-ton military gear can drive underwater if necessary.
Journalists were given a chance to witness a tank training at the Sertolovo training field. Crew of the modernized T-72 tank not only had to cross the river, but bring the tank to a designated location. The fact that the visor window is closed during underwater movement makes the task much harder.
Alexey Zhukov, reporter: “In a split second, a 40-ton T-72 tank goes completely underwater. The route is correct though. The finish line here is on the other side of the river, the shortest way to imaginary target is through the bottom of the river. It’s even hard to call this a training – the river is 3 meters deep and 100 meters wide”.
It’s totally dark inside the tank. Only air pipe sticks out above the water. Co-servicemen and high command alike are closely watching it as the machine closes in on the river bank. The most important thing is to stay on course.
Alexey Zhukov, reporter: “The crew uses a special gyrocompass to navigate underwater. It looks something like an altitude meter of an airplane. Before taking a plunge, a tank operator sets the target – marking it as a zero on the map – and proceeds using this gadget. If the machine strays from the course, he must adjust it”
Driving a tank is not easy even on the land. Underwater driving is considered one of the most difficult elements of driving a war machine. Shifting transmission, making sharp turns and eben more so making stops is strictly forbidden underwater – just like in a real battle.
Anton Grigoryev, commander of a training tank battalion: “We’ll set a task, set a crossing area and we will exit the water at a designated place. The tank cannot exit to the left or to the right – it has to be done in a concrete spot”
To go underwater, a tank must cover at least 70 kilometers on the land. Including with shutters on the front window down. Only after a crew has dealt with challenges on the land, it can proceed with a risky task of taking a plunge. But the most difficult part, as it turns out, awaits on the other side. Not all are capable to conquer the steep bank from the first attempt.
Alexey Zhukov, reporter: “The most important thing, seemingly, happens even before the start. The crew must thoroughly seal all openings and put special paste on all junctions. Officially – the paste is special, unofficially – it’s not. But that can in fact save a tank operator’s life”
If paste fails, or a crew fails the task – there are military divers and a tow truck on standby. Tank crews also go through diving training prior to their plunge. But they are not fazed at all by the additional skills.
Roman Kutuzov, sergeant: “There’s nothing scary. The most nervous thing is not to succumb to panic. But everyone handles themselves well. The tank goes underwater and you can see that through the visor window. Then you become slightly nervous. But once its fully underwater, all that goes away. You simply have to listen to the commander on the radio”
They’ve been training like that for a few weeks already. They will also celebrate their professional holiday whilst underwater. This Saturday will mark 151 years since the creation of the Western Military District. There will be celebratory dinners, but trainings are still a priority. A tank driver must always be well-fed, but always ready for battle.