People unfamiliar with military vehicles might be surprised, in some cases, at how small some of them are. When possible, designers try to make them as small as possible, because smaller means “harder to see” on the battlefield. Of course, sometimes “smaller” is a fool’s errand, there’s only so small you can make a tank– those are almost always pretty big monsters. But some of the World War Two tanks were like little Mazdas compared to today’s tanks.
The BMP is an example of compact engineering. BMP stands for ” Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty“, or in Russian. The name translates as “Infantry Fighting Vehicle” and it was the first example of its type, a troop carrier that also had a respectable gun on top. Once it dropped off the troops inside, it essentially became a light tank. It was invented around 1967.
In the West, its counterpart was the M-113, which I’ve already used in comics here before. The M-113 wasn’t as much of a dedicated fighting vehicle as the BMP. Eventually, the development of the BMP led the United States to develop the Bradley fighting vehicle.
Anyhow, in Taji, we found a huge tank park full of old, wrecked vehicles. Most of them were Soviet-era vehicles, and for a lot of us it was the first time we’d seen these vehicles up close, much less put our hands on them. The Taji Tank Park wasn’t an old battlefield; it was a collection of tanks and other vehicles collected together from past Iraqi battles and probably intended for use as targets for the Iraqi Air Force. One of the BMPs we found was in excellent condition, and seemed to be in a state of partial repair: a lot of the Russian writing had been pasted over by English labels. I have no idea who was doing the restoration or why, it wasn’t a “new” vehicle that would interest the spy agencies.
Anyhow, here are some pictures from the Taji Tank Park so you can get an idea of what was there:
The BMP one of this comic’s scenes was based on:
Obviously I took inspiration from the pictures I had.
Some other shots of the Tank Park, this one of a Chinese version of the T-55 tank, another Soviet design. Almost all the vehicles had been thoroughly spray-painted with graffiti; I have no idea who “Xavier” is or why he chose that tank to tag, of if he’s connected to “April”. It was pretty much impossible to find a vehicle to pose by that did not have some sort of message scrawled on it.
I’ll try to include a Taji Tank Park Gallery soon; I have a number of fascinating pictures from there.
Comment added 24 JULY:
When our armor situation was still pretty bad, I tried to convince them that we should cut scraps from the old Soviet vehicles and use them. Some were up for it, but the mechanics didn’t have the cutting torches that would be required.
Would have been a nice irony, using their own old stuff to up-armor our vehicles…