The Army’s Blackhorse ‘Russian’ brigade: Vehicles of the OPFOR

The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center has a lot of vehicles that look more Moscow than Motown.

Since 1994, the 11th ACR’s task at the NTC is to serve as the armored opposing force, the home team at the sprawling 996 sq. mile Mojave Desert base where they regularly engage active and reserve mechanized and armor units in war games. In a tradition going back to the 1980s, the OPFOR uses a series of what are termed “surrogate vehicles,” visually modified Humvees, M113 armored personnel carriers, and others, which provide a different silhouette, closer to former Warsaw Pact BMP-1 vehicles and T-72 tanks, for visiting units to look for and fight against.

Deep down inside, there is a Humvee under there. (Photos: Sgt. David Edge and Pfc. Austin Anyzeski/U.S. Army)

Oddball would fit right in. “Well, yeah, man, you see, like, all the tanks we come up against are bigger and better than ours, so all we can hope to do is, like, scare ’em away, y’know. This gun is an ordinary 76mm but we add this piece of pipe onto it, and the Krauts think, like, maybe it’s a 90mm. We got our own ammunition, it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people!”

These started life as M113s. In the 1980s, the NTC OPFOR used M551 Sheridans, but they were replaced by 2004 with the cheaper and more prolific M113.

More in my column at Guns.com

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