A Panzer in Every Pot

By now, everyone should know Joe Arpaio is an inflamed buttpimple. One of his lesser-known blunders was using the federal military surplus program to build an appropriate monument to his vanity.

Nothing says “I am a badass motherfucker” like a 155mm self-propelled howitzer bedecked with christmas lights with a big piece of rebar welded into the end of the barrel.

“What are you going to do with that, throw it at me?” comes to mind.
There is something emblematic, however, in the “war on drugs” being represented through a demilitarized 27 ton paper-weight.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office did the only thing that made any sense: they gave it back to the DoD. [12news]

The sheriff’s office had displayed the enormous war machine from its flatbed tractor-trailer for parades and community events since MCSO acquired it in 1999. It was incorrectly referred to as a “tank.”

The howitzer was not fully militarized or battle-functional while in MCSO’s possession.

By 2017, the tires and wheels of the trailer had deteriorated to a point where the trailer was essentially grounded in a parking lot, MCSO said. That’s when the sheriff’s office decided the howitzer had to go.

“Replacement tires for what had essentially become a museum piece with no practical application to law enforcement would have again cost Maricopa County taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars better spent on public safety,” the sheriff’s office said in a release.

The Department of Defense agreed to take the howitzer back at no cost to the sheriff’s office.

It took four hours to move the 27-ton vehicle from its trailer to the Arizona National Guard’s flatbed truck.

The ‘surplus military gear’ program that Obama stopped is being restarted by Trump, naturally, because anything Obama did must be undone to make America Great Again.

There’s a point hidden in all this: military gear is expensive to maintain; merely having it sitting around is expensive. Especially if you don’t know how to handle it. (Hint to MCSO: you should have taken the wheels off the flatbed and filled them with concrete if you were making a permanent installation) One does not merely find parts for a 1960s howitzer on Ebay in order to repair it. And: why would you want to be able to drive it around, anyway?

Jurisdictions led by blockheads around the country are bleeding cash trying to deal with rusting, obsolete military gear: [mj]

An officer with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department in central Washington is offering me a tank. Three of them, actually.

“We really want to get rid of these,” Undersheriff John Wisemore says. “We’ve been trying to get the military to take them back since 2004.”

The tanks came from a vast Defense Department program that has furnished American police arsenals, at no charge, with $4.3 billion worth of combat equipment leftover from two foreign wars. The tanks are amphibious, capable of firing 107-mm mortars – and not remotely useful to Wisemore’s rural police department. But the county can’t seem to unload them. Back in June, Wisemore got an email from a Defense Department liaison promising to explain how Chelan County can get rid of the tanks. Then, nothing. Until further notice, Wisemore says, “they’re just going to sit there.”

Armored vehicles gas mileage is usually down in the sub- 1 gallon/mile range. They are uncomfortable (cops: take note!) and lack cup holders.

They are also not scary. The only thing that’s scary about any of this stuff is that it demonstrates how stupid many American Police are.

LA School Police has decided to return some gear: [latimes]

The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation’s second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle it received through the program.

Grenade Launchers? Do they expect the 8th grade homeroom class to need a bit of 40mm frag? The students were cutting up in the back of the classroom so we gave them the ‘ol whiff of grapeshot?

Another hidden cost in all this military gear is training. One of the reasons that cops are so dangerous with military gear is because they generally (unless they are veterans) have no practice with it. Or, worse, when they do, sometimes they treat it like its a toy. I can’t find a reference for it on the web, but I remember a Maryland police department that had a bit of a problem explaining how they had shot of $150,000 worth of 9mm ammunition ‘testing’ a sub-machine gun they had seized from a drug dealer.

America needs better cops. Not better-armed cops: better cops.

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Come to think of it a 27-ton dead-weight perched on a bunch of flat tires… It kinda works as a monument to Arpaio.

“That’s when the sheriff’s office decided the howitzer had to go.” – damn, they sure are slow learners.


  1. cartomancer says

    If that’s the quality of decision-making that goes into this “War on Drugs” then clearly the drugs are winning.

  2. Siobhan says

    @1 cartomancer

    If that’s the quality of decision-making that goes into this “War on Drugs” then clearly the drugs are winning.

    I imagine something similar for the Terror in the War on Terror.

    Maybe we might have learned a thing or two about declaring wars on concepts by now but I imagine there’ll be a War on Trump Criticisms or something.

  3. says

    Cool facts about armored fighting vehicles – to help them withstand the monstrous impact of incoming fire, they are often cast and annealed in giant parts. That thing is “light armor” compared to a main battle tank, but if you look carefully, you can see the turret appears to be a single casting with a welded-on rear piece. You can’t just disassemble that; you’d have to torch it apart and you’ve got a great big thermal mass AND the chunks you’re knocking off are extremely heavy and are designed not to have holes in them you can put lifting hooks into, etc. a bulldozer is sort of designed to come apart (a bit) armored vehicles are designed to stay in one piece. Resistance to disassembly is their raison d’etre.

    About the best way to get rid of a tank is oxidation, but that requires a lot of patience.

    Everything about this kind of military gear is specialized. See that transporter? You can’t move a tank on a “light weight” transporter like you might use to move a ‘mere’ bulldozer or a back hoe. So once the tires on that beast were even slightly rotted, they couldn’t move it – what if one of those tires burst while it was on a main road? The tank tenders used to repair those sorts of things are really rare and unusual pieces of equipment. One does not use mere tools to repair the bearings of an M-1 tank when you drive it into a ditch and the cannon torques the turret. It’s a huge process involving experts and cranes and spare parts that, for all intents and purposes, are stored in hell. Or they may as well be.

    I love military logistics. Napoleon was so right “amateurs speak of tactics, professionals speak of logisitics” and it’s so expensive that even talking about how expensive it is costs money.

  4. says

    The best way to get rid of it would have been to drive it off the flatbed and park it on top of Arpaio. It’d still need a coat of paint every couple years to keep it from rusting.

    There is a WWII sherman (medium) tank in Philipsburg and the VFW have to paint it constantly. It eventually started to sink into the ground so they had to make a reinforced concrete block to perch it on. Moving it took a Cat D-9, which is a ginormous bulldozer, just to slide it over a bit. And now the block is tilting.

    If you hate someone, and giving them a cat or a 3 year old and a drum kit is not an option, give them an immobile main battle tank. It’s like negative real estate.

  5. says

    I’m waiting for the proudly self-contradictory War on War

    Commanded by a general staff of dadists, who would immediately demand their own unconditional surrender, but then choose instead to fight to the point where they were deathly sick of the whole thing.

    Really, what we’re fighting is the war against admitting we made a mistake. And … that is a serious matter! A l’outrance!

  6. jazzlet says

    I guess there is some reason, like the interests of American ams maufacturers, why the US army doesn’t sell this sttuff off to right-wing allies who can’t afford the new stuff? And I ask that assuming that the reason is not ‘it might get into the hands of people the US doesn’t like’ as that doesn’t seem to stop sales of new arms in situations where that is a risk.

  7. says

    Morton County, nDakota is bristling with this shit now, which of course was totally necessary to deal with the recent Indian uprising.

  8. mordred says

    My grandfather had always hoped the remains of his Panzer 5 had helped some Belgian scrap merchant making some money after the war!

  9. says

    jazzlet@10, the US government does sell and/or give military surplus equipment to other countries. As do most other countries. For example the Canadian government donated a number of Canadian armoured vehicles for peacekeeping use in Africa.

    I’d love to know whose bright idea it was to donate that M109 to Maricopa County. It’s useless for police work.

    Sounds like Chelan County were donated M106 mortar carriers, which are M113 armoured personnel carriers with a roof hatch to fire a 107mm mortar through. You could use them the same way cops would use any other APC, but if the mortars were included someone wasn’t thinking at DOD. Of course I’m sure Joe Arpaio would have liked them, so he could drop some mortar bombs on some potheads.

  10. Sunday Afternoon says

    Marcus wrote (#5):

    Resistance to disassembly is their raison d’etre.

    If there is something I’ve learned, it’s that stating what one thinks as obvious is crucial to making oneself understood. This comment was beautiful.

  11. says

    The DoD sold most of its inventory of post-Vietnam tanks and APCs to Egypt – if you look at footage of Egypt’s army showing up to suppress protesters, that’s what they drive. The M113 was actually not a bad APC and would have been a life-saver in Iraq and Afghanistan but the DoD had to figure that out, then “uparmor” hummvees, then find out they were deathtraps and kluged together MRAP which were sort of like an armored personnel carrier only with worse visibility and a target profile like the side of a barn. Meanwhile, there are good APC like the German nato ones or even Russian… US procurement and weapons sales policies get a lot of people killed by having the wrong gear in the wrong place. Interservice rivalry prevented the army from borrowing USMC strykers when they could have. The whole setup is a mess.

  12. naturalcynic says

    @ Marcus 16:
    I seem to recall scummy Rummy countering with something like “You go to war with what you have and not with what you want”.

  13. sonofrojblake says

    I’ve never understood the point of “interservice rivalry”. I assume it starts at school, when the dumbass jocks on the football team make fun of the dumbass jocks on the basketball team of the same school. And then it gets you killed. smh

  14. says

    I’ve never understood the point of “interservice rivalry”.

    I did a lot of pushups and an extra 5 mile run in basic training for saying the same thing.

    My theory is that it’s part of conditioning recruits to be “against” any generic ‘other’ – you want them to be primed to dislike whoever you tell them are your enemy at any particular moment. In my case it backfired and I concluded drill sergeants were the enemy.

    At a higher level, there is rivalry for budget and importance among the leaders, which – it being a hierarchy – the ranks are naturally expected to reflect. Basically, a manifestation of greed and ambition, which ought to be crushed out of them by higher level leadership, but – the US military is not well-led. That has been a problem for a long time and wastes a lot of lives and money.

    For example, the US Marines recently invaded Afghanistan. Why? Because their higher echelons wanted to justify the money spent on them and to justify the inevitable demands for more gear and meat for the grinder. They have no possible useful mission down there except to farm medals.

  15. says

    Sunday Afternoon@#15:
    Stating what one thinks as obvious is crucial to making oneself understood.

    I worked on that one a fair bit and was pretty happy with it.

  16. komarov says

    If you had told me that howitzer was in fact fully operational and ready for use by the police I might just have believed you. After all, officer safety is paramount and what is safer than firing shells loaded with teargas, pepperspray and rubber bullets at protesters from several miles away? Oh, I’d better stop now or might be giving them ideas…

    Getting rid of unwanted surplus:

    If they cast a wide enough net, I’m sure the various police departments and whoever else would be able to find someone interested in buying their military gear.
    There must be plenty of freedom-loving militias in various countries who’d love to get their hands on tanks, howitzers and more. Being “deactivated” might prove a challenge, but for someone dedicated enough with access to tools its probably only a temporary setback. Besides, a 27t “paperweight” can probably inflict plenty of damage without ever firing a shot. Any legal issues with exporting said gear could probably be adressed by the local judge (“Here’s a court order to sell the departmental tank battallon”) and maybe some assistance from the CIA, who probably have experience in moving equipment around.
    Closer to home there are probably plenty of cults, extremists and / or doomsday-preppers who’d love to get their hands on an armoured vehicle. They’d be the first ones to point out how those are covered by the second amendment.

    As for dismantling / recycling tanks: It can’t be that hard, assuming all the dangerous bits have already been removed by experts. Maybe the people from the local machine shop or workshop could have a go at it. Or they could get their apprentices/trainees to cut their teeth on it. “Here’s a tank, let’s see if you can pull it apart.” If spares are that expensive, they could probably all the still-useable bits they recover, just to give an incentive. Any bits left over after that – e.g. a large chassis – could surely be cut down to a more convenient size and be recycled. In the case of the howitzer above you could still keep it around. The empty frame with it’s inscription but no barrel, tracks or indeed anything else, would also make a fitting monument. The military equivalent of a rusted-out car.

  17. jrkrideau says

    I seem to remember reading about two Soviet soldiers selling a tank to a Czechoslovakian innkeeper for drinking money and by the time the Red Army showed up to reclaim it the innkeeper had sold it for scrap.