The blog War is Boring has posted an article on US army armored vehicles visually modified to be used as opposing forces stand-ins during training.
In 1979, the Army responded by opening the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, around 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The sprawling desert environment gave troops the space to use tanks, howitzers and other heavy weapons in big, conventional exercises.
To give these events added weight, the Center got a number of captured Soviet vehicles, including at least one tracked MT-LB armored personnel carrier and a BTR-60 wheeled troop carrier. But there simply weren’t enough of these real examples to form large faux enemy units.
Enter the Army’s “visually modified” tanks and armored vehicles, commonly referred to as VISMODs.
The ground combat branch built the first of these using old M-551 Sheridans. Designed with paratroopers and scouts in mind, these small tanks were light but heavily armed with an unusual and troublesome 152-millimeter combination gun- and missile-launcher.
With the exception of a single battalion off Sheridans in the 82nd Airborne Division, the Army rushed to replace the vehicles with new Bradley fighting vehicles or Humvees in the early 1980s.
But out in California, the tiny tanks got new life — with the help of numerous cosmetic add-ons — playing the role of Soviet T-80 tanks and BMP-1 personnel carriers. Technicians turned other vehicles into mocked up 2S3 self-propelled howitzers and ZSU-23-4 mobile anti-aircraft guns. In addition, a number of modified UH-1 Hueys played the role of iconic Soviet Mi-24 gunship helicopters.