T-72 Tank Spotted At U.S. Gas Station

On May 13, Dave Trojan, a retired Navy aviation electronic technician from Michigan, was preparing for another day of searching for WWII aircraft crash sites near Wendover Airfield in Utah when he came across a weapon of war from more modern times.

Trojan spotted what appears to be the second modern Russian-designed tank seen on U.S. highways in a little more than a month. You can read more about the Russian T-90 tank from Ukraine observed in Louisiana last month in our story here.

In this latest case, it appears that Trojan saw a Czech T-72 tank, covered in a tarp on a tractor-trailer, that might be among 90 being refurbished by a Czech company for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

This tank was spotted at a Pilot Travel Center at West Wendover, Nevada, on May 13 by Navy veteran Dave Trojan. (Courtesy Dave Trojan)
(Courtesy Dave Trojan)
(Courtesy Dave Trojan)

“I spent the whole weekend in Wendover, searching the desert every day, when I went to a Pilot gas station in West Wendover, Nevada, to get ready for the next day’s exploration,” Trojan told The War Zone Wednesday afternoon. “I looked over at a truck that pulled in to get some gas and I recognized right away he was hauling a Russian tank. The tank looked complete with frontal reactive armor.”

With the driver distracted, Trojan said he walked around the tank, taking pictures. That’s when he noticed a shipping label on the tank’s right front fender.

The label showed that the tank was picked up at the National Automotive Test Center (NATC) in Silver Spring, Nevada, heading east, to the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) at an address located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) in Maryland. The T-90 tank observed in Louisiana was headed to the Aberdeen Test Center at APG.

A shipping label on the tank shows that it came from the National Automotive Test Center in Nevada and is bound for the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. (Courtesy Dave Trojan)

NATC is “a privately owned, independent test, evaluation, design, and engineering facility offering development and certification testing to customers worldwide,” according to the company website. “We have provided services for more than 1,000 vehicle systems and components for automotive, commercial, construction, military, and public utility applications, and we have logged more than 50 million test miles and advanced the state of the art in test procedures, data acquisition, and analysis.”

NATC facilities “support our full range of testing, engineering, and fabrication services,” including “over 3,000 miles of test courses, winter test facilities, environmental test chambers, structural test fixtures, fabrication, machine, and maintenance shops, photo and video labs, storage facilities, and customer support/conference facilities.”

The NATC All Terrain Vehicle Test Course in Nevada. (ATC photo)

We reached out to NATC to find out what they were doing with the tank, where it came from and what will happen to it next. We will update this story with any information provided.

After he took the photos, Trojan shared them with the Tankers Facebook group, which was created in 2012 “as a way for the global armor community to share experiences, media, and fellowship,” said Paul Clock, the group’s moderator. “We’ve since evolved into a defense analysis community which analyzes a variety of global platforms across Instagram/Tik Tok (Tankersofficial) and YouTube: Tankers.”

Clock said after he posted the photos, there was a lot of reaction and speculation about exactly what kind of tank was being hauled.

“There are some new photos of it that show this being a special T-72 prototype built by a Czech Company called Excalibur Army,” Clock said. “Excalibur has supplied upgraded T-72B Tanks to Ukraine.”

The T-72 tank was recently spotted on the road near Camp Dodge. It appears to be a special T-72M1 prototype with DYNA reactive armor built by Czech company Excalibur Army. (Via Twitter)

The company recently won a contract to upgrade 90 Т-72 tanks for Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian Military Center.

We reached out to the company, the Pentagon and the NGIC for more details and will update this story if and when additional information is provided by either.

We don’t know yet exactly what will happen to the tank after it arrives at Aberdeen Proving Ground, but according to NGIC, its mission is “to produce and provide intelligence on foreign ground forces to enable decision advantage through competition, crisis, and conflict.”

NGIC “is the Defense Department’s primary producer of ground forces intelligence. NGIC produces scientific and technical intelligence and military capabilities analysis on foreign ground forces required by warfighting commanders, the force modernization and research and development communities, Department of Defense, and national policymakers.”

NGIC’s mission is to “produce and provide intelligence on foreign ground forces to enable decision advantage through competition, crisis, and conflict.” (NGIC image)

As the nation’s “designated ground force intelligence authority, NGIC delivers ground force intelligence across all domains to help prevent and decisively win wars. Our deep knowledge of the military capabilities of key strategic competitors and rogue states, as well as the partners and proxies that they leverage, is key to understanding how our adversaries prosecute and project great power competition around the world.”

Given all that, it is likely that this tank, if it was indeed refurbished for Ukraine, will be additionally tested and its armaments and components observed and researched. We just don’t know for sure at this point though.

One thing we do know is that the tank is apparently still on the road.

Wednesday morning, a Twitter user named Ronkainen posted photos of the tank, still covered and on the tractor-trailer, near Exit 129 on U.S. Highway 80 in Iowa. He too suggested that the tank was built by Excalibur Army. We have reached out to the company and will update this story with any information provided.

To Dave Trojan, who first spotted it, the tank is a 95,000-pound reminder of a distant conflict.

“I follow the Ukrainian war and seeing a Soviet tank in Utah brings the war home,” he told us. “I think about watching the war on the news, far, far away, and this brings it into my backyard. Stuff is going on in the U.S. directly related to the war.”

As the war in Ukraine rages on, and more equipment is captured and developed, it probably won’t be too long before more such tanks are seen on U.S. highways.

Joe Trevithick contributed to this report.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com