By Peter Papadakos and Tony Hughes
Hawthorne Ordnance Museum
For the past six years, the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum has displayed a M47 Patton Tank in front of its main building; and it proved to be an outstanding feature and reason for folks passing through town to stop and admire a relic from the 1950’s. People who stopped to look at the M47 came from all parts of this nation as well as all over the world. However, the M47 Patton tank was on loan by a Donor based in Reno and during this past Armed Forces day parade, that Donor made it clear that he wanted the M47 back so the tank could be restored to running condition. By June 7, the M47 was loaded onto a heavy-duty trailer and hauled back to Reno leaving an empty space for the both the Museum and the Community of Hawthorne.
Shortly after the departure of the M47, Peter Papadakos, Curator of the Museum, and Wanda Millsap, Executive Officer, reached out to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) located at NAS Fallon. They inquired as to the availability of any tracked vehicles too obsolete for NAWDC to currently use. As it turned out, the Navy bombs being used were so effective at blasting the older tanks to bits, they inquired if the Ordnance Museum would consent to having a 54-Ton Self-propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) located at the museum. The Board of the Ordnance Museum voted unanimously to go ahead with the placement and October 12, 2021 the delivery date was set.
On October 12, the NAWDC personnel brought the new display through Gabbs, out from the bombing ranges of Fallon, and into Hawthorne. The vehicle was a M247 Sergeant York Self-propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun originally developed in 1977 for Division Air Defense (DIVAD). While a great concept, using a M48 Patton Tank Chassis with modernized turret, the reality of changing and improving Soviet Missile technology, the M247 SGT York was not able to adapt to a changing battlefield and with 50 vehicles built, then Sec. of Defense cancelled the program in August 1985. The 50 vehicles ended up going to test ranges as targets for missile tests.
The 54.4 ton SGT York remains an incredible display as it remains the property of the US NAVY, it has not been demilitarized at all. Equipped with twin 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns, the gun’s targeting system had an improved rate of fire and could fire on the move against air targets and armored vehicles and had the capacity to carry 580 rounds.
The SGT York retains the specialized Westinghouse Search and track radar and has a modified fire control radar system as used on the F-16 fighter aircraft. The vehicle also was fitted with a laser rangefinder and digital fire control system. The radar masts will be raised as the Museum personnel continue to restore the M247 prior to it receiving new paint.
SGT York had a crew of three: the commander, gunner and driver. It was powered by a Continental diesel engine developing 750 horsepower and had a maximum speed of 28.9 mph.
The museum staff has started working on some frame work with paint work deferred to the spring. Then we hope to prep SGT York for a new coat of paint and new military markings.
Come by the museum at 925 E Street and see the new M247 SGT York SPAAG (only one at a West Coast Museum) as well as its display card located on the fence next to it. The M247 now joins a long list of extremely rare ordnance items that can only be seen at the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum. The museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Museum Staff expresses its thanks to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center for making the display of the M247 SGT York SPAAG a reality.