Imagine this: you see a train pass you by and rather than just having nondescript boxcars or inter-modal containers, it has *gasp* military vehicles on it. It’s as if the military sometimes has to ship vehicles from one place to another! Well, this has been happening, in fact, it seems that this activity is increasing and the result is about what you might have expected. Youtubers and conspiracy theorists are posting videos like crazy saying it is a sure sign of impending marshal law/genocide/mass imprisonment or something similar.
The simple answer as to why you might see tanks and large trucks on trains: they burn a lot of fuel. Trains tend to be more efficient as a means of transporting military hardware.
Also, treaded vehicles can’t be driven on US roadways, and even if they could, they are too slow to keep up with traffic on highways. They therefore must be transported by flat bed trucks or railroad. Rail is the preferred method when moving more than a small number.
There are a number of reasons why tanks and other equipment might be shipped in mass on rail:
- There is some kind of realignment or transition in the location of forces which results in it being sent between installations.
- It is required for a training exercise or some other temporary function.
- The equipment is new and being deployed to the location where it is to be kept.
- It is traveling to or from a facility where it has been refurbished or had other major maintenance preformed.
- It has recently returned from deployment overseas.
- It is on its way to deployment overseas.
- It is surplus equipment which is being disposed of, which could include any number of ultimate fates, including scrapping, sales to other armed forces, sales to private entities etc.
- It is being placed in long term storage in a location where it will be in “mothballs.” Typically this is at one of a few large installations located in the Western US.
Transition of equipment by train is quite common and routine. It’s also nothing new. During the Second World War and into the height of the Cold War, military equipment trains were a very common site. Though the practice never really went away, it is not surprising that the practice would have recently increased in frequency.
The United States has withdrawn from Iraq and is currently drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan. The result of this is that huge numbers of military vehicles have been brought back to the US. These are likely to be shipped on trains to the facilities where they will be stored. It has been pointed out that many of the vehicles have been seen in green forest camouflage color schemes, leading to the claim that they must not be related to the activities in the middle-east. However, these vehicles may simply be those which have been displaced by the return of other vehicles, which has resulted in a huge realignment of assets.
One of the biggest realignments of vehicles is occurring with the MRAP or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Thousands of vehicles of this type were purchased in huge numbers by the US military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are designed to be highly survivable when attacked by IED’s, landmines, rocket propelled grenades and other such weapons. This was a direct response to the tactics used against the US by insurgents.
The vehicles worked very well and resulted in a reduction in the deaths of soldiers from ambushes on convoys. However, the military now has thousands more MRAP’s than it requires. Although several thousand will be retained, more than 13,000 are in the process of being declared surplus. Some are being given to law enforcement agencies (which does present some concerns of the militarization of police forces) while others are behind sold to allied nations. Still others are off to the scrap heap or the bone-yard.
Transporting all these vehicles to reprocessing facilities and then to their ultimate fate represents yet another huge logistical challenge.
A few other things to consider (if we are to play devils advocate):
- Tanks are not very good for urban warfare. They might work for breaking down some of the initial barriers, but they are too big to go through narrow allies or streets, too heavy for many bridges and overpasses and pavement causes a great deal of wear on the treads (and the treads cause a lot of wear on the pavement). They’re better for warfare in more open and unsettled areas. Also, the sheer armor of tanks would not be necessary for war against the population, where they would likely only face small arms fire.
- Those big heavy vehicles use a huge amount of fuel, so if they are planning on actually driving them around, they would also be transporting an equal number of tanker trucks. In modern military activities, the logistics of fuel delivery turns out to be a huge issue. Raiding the local gas stations won’t keep them moving very long. The fuel tanks might be large enough to ferry the vehicles off the train cars, but sustained combat means huge fuel requirements.
- When military vehicles need to be brought to an area for something urgent, like combat, trains are not generally the best method for transportation. Trains are cheap, but they are slow, vulnerable, subject to delays etc. If they wanted to quickly deploy urban combat vehicles, they would airlift them in. That way, it could be done rapidly, before anyone even knew what was happening. Tanks can be brought in on large cargo planes. It’s fast and effective, but expensive.
- A train full of tanks is not going to do much good in declaring marshal law unless you can get the tanks off the train. That is more involved than you might think. It requires parking the train, separating the cars, with switching engines, rolling the tanks down ramps and removing any equipment used to secure them during transport. For a large train, this is not a trivial task. It requires a rail yard with the proper equipment, which exist on military bases, but not generally in random city locations.
- If they really wanted to hide them, it would not be that hard to put them in large boxes or just cover them with tarps to make it more discrete. Do you really think they would be doing this in broad daylight?
- Many of these videos are months old. A few are years old. This has been going on for a while. Granted, the government is slow, but that slow? How long do you think they are going do be doing this evil transportation before they pounce on you?