CAMP CASEY, South Korea — The Army made its push last week to persuade South Korean officials to upgrade bridges and allow it to use heavy trucks to transport tanks.
Talks between officials culminated in a demonstration of a Heavy Equipment Transport (HET) flatbed truck shuttling an M1/A1 Abrams Tank from Camp Casey to Rodriguez Range along 16.5 miles of South Korean highways. The tank belonged to the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment.
The Army currently uses other tanks to tow disabled tanks in South Korea, although it often uses the HET in the United States.
“We’re trying to assure the Korean government that the (HET) is the safest way to move a disabled tank,” said Maj. Samuel Pena, 8th Army’s transportation plans officer.
Even if South Korean officials agree, legal changes and construction will be needed before HET transport could go forward.
In 2001, the South Korean Ministry of Construction and Transportation told the Army it must obtain waivers from localities when it wishes to transport vehicles weighing more than 40 tons over bridges.
Most local governments ignore such waiver requests, Pena said. This means that Abrams tanks, which weigh about 69 tons, must ford waterways and dirt when towing other disabled tanks.
In 2005, the South Korean Ministry of Construction and Transportation completed upgrades to 84 national and six provincial bridges in northern Gyeonggi Province to allow weight capacities of 69.5 tons, per Army request.
The new capacity allows both HETs and tanks to pass, but it won’t support a HET towing a tank, which weighs a combined 114 tons, Pena said.
Negotiations on bridge upgrades that began in 2001 must now begin anew, according to an Army information paper.
On Tuesday night, Korean Service Corps members loaded a 1-72 Charlie Company’s tank on the massive truck and sent it on a pre-approved route. The HET’s maximum speed with a loaded tank is about 25 to 30 mph, according to the Army’s Web site.
Tank commander Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Castoreno said fording and using a tank to transport another is safe, but no one thinks twice when tanks are transported by truck at stateside bases.
“In the States it’s not a big deal because the bridges are bigger,” Castoreno said.