T-55 Removal inc.

1st Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#131, January 31, 2002

The Theatre of Operations Support Element (GSA) of the Italian Battle Group (IBG) carried assisted the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) on behalf of SFOR Jan. 17. They transported a VRS T-55 tank from the VRS Brigade station in Zvornik to VRS Brigade station in Pale Koran. The convoy travelled over 300-km in very bad weather conditions. The Spanish Circulation Control Unit (UCC) co-ordinated the movement and escorted the convoy.

Route Sparrow - An IBG ATC-81 tank transporter carried out the mission to move an armored vehicle. The transporter is a large vehicle: 18 meters long and one meter wider than a civilian lorry. Its great size can cause problems on the roads. It is for this reason that the UCC supported its movements.
12 hours on the road
"We had to drive six hours to Zvornik and another six hours back. The weather conditions were extremely bad. There was fog, snow, and ice on the road. Jan. 17 was a long day for all of us," said Italian WO2 Damiano Mirelli who was in charge of the transportation.
" The ATC-81 has six wheel drive but the bad weather was caused problems. On the way back, along some of the downhill stretches, the ATC could have easily skidded because of the weight of the tank. This would have resulted in losing control of the vehicle, and ultimately, would have ended in catastrophe. The truck weighs 30 ton and the T-55 weighs 38 ton. In these conditions every down slope becomes a serious challenge for you," said Italian WO2 Massino Dilorio, one of the ATC 81 drivers.
"The worst part of the journey was going up to the Poglad mountain pass. There are three sharp bends near the top and the ATC had lost part of its turning capability due to the weight of the tank. Plus the road was narrow so we hardly passed, but at the end, we transported the tank to Pale," said Italian WO2 Giuseppe Carbone, the other driver.
The Load
"The ATC has a self-loading and unloading system. The system has two parallel winches in the front and a pulley in the back. Loading a tank is a very dangerous and precise operation. One problem is that the cables are under so much tension that if they break, they could easily cut a person in two. That is the reason why we work alone during loading and unloading operations. Another is the width of the trailer is close to the tank width. We have to center the load on the platform exactly so that we can fasten and secure it. This is the only way or the ATC can not to move," commented Carbone.
"If the load is not perfectly centered and balanced we can lose control of the ATC. This has really been the most difficult transportation mission of my life," said Dilorio.
The Escort
"Traffic control was not so difficult. There was only one real difficult point in the Poglad mountain pass where we thought the ATC could block the road," commented Spanish Staff Sergeant Juan Delgado Garnacho.
"The last problem was when we arrived at VRS's Camp in Pale. They were not expecting us because they never thought that the transportation could be made in such awful weather conditions. We had to wait for more than an hour for them to to unload the tank," said Span-ish Staff Sgt. Juan Luis Luque Criado, from UCC.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
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Photos: PO Steve Wood

After having been centred, the tank must be pulled to the right position to be blocked in place.


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The bad weather conditions made the move more difficult.


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The ATC-81 with the T-55 crossing the town of Zvornik.