Ausarmourfest 2017 at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum, Cairns (Part 4)

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With a fairly comprehensive examination of the static displays completed it is time to take a walk outside to see some of the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum's vehicles in action. We were at the museum when it opened on Saturday and were among the first patrons to view the tanks, SPGs, APCs and armoured cars prepared for operations at Ausarmourfest.

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I have to say when I saw the Tiger I replica I was pretty darn excited. Beside the Tiger is a postwar Czech OT 810 half-track finished as a Sdkfz 251. Over near the fence from left to right is a WW2 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer, a Soviet 2S1 Gvozdika SPG, a US 8*inch (203*mm) M110 SPG, a Soviet T-72 MBT and a Leopard 1A5 MBT.

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On the other side of the field from right to left is the M113 FSV (an Australian variant mounting a Saladin armoured car turret armed with a 76mm smoothbore gun), a British Sabre reconnaissance tank, a Soviet BMP-1 APC, the British FV721 Fox CRV (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance), the USM8 Greyhound armoured car and the M3 Stuart light tank.

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Ash and I had discussed our ride options at length and had decided weeks before that our first ride would be in the Hetzer tank destroyer. We have both played World of Tanks from time to time and were pretty good in our Marders and Hetzers so we could not pass up the chance to take her out for a spin. It was classified as a Tier 1 vehicle so the ticket to ride was $95 - and worth every cent.

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Fighting compartments in most armoured vehicles are fairly cramped, but getting four men into a Hetzer was a very tight squeeze. I took this photo of the driver from the gunner's position .....

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..... and here you can see the gunner's Sfl.Z.F.1a periscope sight. It was fantastic to be able to look through the sight, the reticule has 5x magnification with 10 degrees of vision, giving you a sense of how little the gunner could actually see - and that was before you started shooting!

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Looking right from the gunner's seat is the 7.5cm Pak 39 L/48 gun. With such a large breech in such a small vehicle it was no wonder the gun had very limited traverse.

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Another view of the driver's position showing the steering levers.

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The view from the gunner's hatch - that M113 FSV is toast !

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As our Hetzer experience came to an end we passed the M3 Stuart and a Saladin armoured car - and decided to give the M3 a run next.

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The M3 Stuart is not a big vehicle, but to ride this one the two passengers could sit on the open turret hatches.

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The Stuart was classed as a Tier 2 vehicle, ticket price $45.

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Love the .30 cal replica on the cupola mount.

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This time Ash took the gunner's hatch and I jumped in the commander's seat.

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During the quick trip around the track in the M3 we got a close up look at the Leopard 1A5 and both Ash and I agreed she would be next.

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When I was an infanteer the Leopard 1 was the Australian Army's standard MBT. I worked with Leopards on exercise but I had never actually ridden in one, so I was pretty keen to have a go.

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Being a modern AFV the Leopard is far more spacious than the WW2 vehicles we had tried out so far. As you can see by my smile (which did not fade the whole weekend!) I was enjoying this great piece of kit. You can see behind me the modest crowd - being basically a big country town Cairns does not get the crowds of the major cities. I reckon a couple of thousand people attended the event - if it was held in Brisbane you would have had 20,000+.

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Ash was pretty chuffed as well riding around on 42 tonnes of steel.

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View from the commander's hatch featuring the deadly 105mm L7 gun.

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Still smiling even though we are heading back to the podium to debus.

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Two vehicles I did not get to ride at Ausarmourfest - the BMP-1 and a Universal Carrier.

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BMP-1 close up. If someone had told me 30 years ago I would be this close to a BMP-1 and not be under fire I would have though they were nuts.

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The T-72 and 2S1 SPG were two Soviet era Russian vehicles we missed out on this time around. Ash and I were seriously considering the T-72, then we saw the crew pouring bucket after bucket of water into the radiator. The engine had overheated and cracked the head.

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The M110 was pretty popular with families as it can sit four passengers at a time.

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Close up of the Sabre....

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.... the Greyhound and the Fox. The light tanks and armoured cars were pretty popular as they were cheaper to ride (Tier 3 $35 or Tier 4 $25).

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Another vehicle we did not try out this time around was the Sdkfz 2 Kettenrad. At just $25 a spin it is pretty good value, but unfortunately she had mechanical issues on Saturday before we could book a ride. The Czech OT810 however was one I was not going to miss.

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The OT810 is in great mechanical condition, tearing around the tack all day without missing a beat.

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Ready to embus troops. Like the Sdkfz 251 the OT810 can transport ten fully equipped infantry.

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The driver's compartment. Standard steering wheel and manual stick transmission.

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View through the gun-shield, all that's missing is the MG42. The OT810 was great fun, I will definitely be riding that one again on my next visit.

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As part of the show the re-enactors put on some mock battles, here we see the crew of the replica Tiger I readying their vehicle.

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Panzer marsch!

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In this scenario an American M8 Greyhound has an unexpected encounter with a Tiger I.

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The Germans take some casualties .....

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..... but the end was never really in doubt.

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Last photo of the weekend and as you can see I did not stop smiling the whole time we were there. As Ash and I were leaving we saw the list of new vehicles the AAAM is currently restoring in their workshops including a Pzkpfw IVD, a Pzkpfw IVG and a Panther A! In early 2018 a further 3,200 sq. metre extension will be added on the western side of the museum, almost doubling the size of the main museum hall

I have already booked accommodation for next year .....

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  1. CappyTom's Avatar
    Wow! looks like a blast was had by all. Thanks so much for sharing the pics.