The size and weight of Army combat equipment and vehicles can be a challenge in the European theater of operations, especially during transport. The newest M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank – fielded in 2020 – for example, is heavier than its predecessors, weighing in at more than 73 tons. To meet these challenges and help ensure U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s readiness posture remains high, the 405th Army Field Support Brigade and Deutsche Bahn, a German railway company headquartered in Berlin, conducted a series of tests on a newly redesigned prototype German rail car at Coleman Worksite’s railhead in Mannheim Aug. 10-11. The 405th AFSB’s Army Field Support Battalion-Mannheim dispatched an M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank and two of its newest Bradley Fighting Vehicles from its Army Prepositioned Stock site to the railhead location at Coleman to assist the German railway company with its testing.
“It’s very important. One, it’s quicker and easier for us to load in a safe manner. It allows for the faster tie down of equipment on the rail car. We used to have to chock all the equipment with blocking and bracing, but this particular feature on the new rail car has an automated chocking and bracing system built into it. With the turn of a crank they can deploy out, and it speeds up the tie-down process, The Deutsche Bahn and the Army work hand-in-hand because they help us move our heavy equipment anywhere in Europe. A lot of our heavier equipment – our tanks, our artillery pieces, things of that nature, all the armor – is transported by Deutsche Bahn. They’re our main movers here for heavy equipment,” said Robert Peck, the plans and operations chief for Coleman Worksite, AFSBn-Mannheim.
The upgraded rail car has the capability to carry 92 tons of weight at a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour. The rail car also has new features that will save time when loading and unloading vehicles and equipment, an important upgrade that may prove vital when responding rapidly and effectively, if called upon. The two days of combined testing between the railway personnel, contractors assigned to AFSBn-Mannheim and the 405th AFSB provided everyone an opportunity to see if the tank and other heavy equipment will saddle correctly on the prototype rail car. They are also checking the weights and measuring the distances around the outside of the equipment pieces as well as the heights so the equipment and train cars can appropriately travel on the bahn – going through tunnels and over bridges without incident.
The 405th AFSB’s AFSBn-Mannheim is responsible for the storage, security, maintenance and issue of nearly two Armored Brigade Combat Team’s worth of heavy armored vehicles and associated equipment as part of the Army Prepositioned Stock program. Coleman Worksite’s close proximity to the Autobahn as well as access to rail and barge loading facilities makes it an important element to U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s readiness posture. The 405th 405th Army Field Support Brigade is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa.