There are few places in the world where a regular Joe or Jane can climb into the cockpit of an Iraqi Mi-24 “Hind” assault helicopter or crawl into the belly of a Russian BMP-2 fighting vehicle. The Threat Training Facility on Nellis Air Force Base is one of them. Its very existence was classified until glasnost pushed down the Berlin Wall in the early 1990s, and the facility and its trove of military vehicles and firearms gradually opened to a wider audience.
The facility is still primarily used as part of the Air Force Weapons School curriculum, but the public is welcome to visit with anyone who has access to Nellis. This can be a contractor, retiree, government employee, or active-duty military member. If you can wrangle the invite to the base, the Threat Training Facility offers a unique chance to see the rival equipment still being studied by our armed forces.
“We get UNLV ROTC students and Marines from Camp Pendleton who come to get their hands on the systems so they can get an idea of what is shooting at them,” says Lt. Col. William J. Fry, commander of the 547th Intelligence Squadron. The hangar holds a MiG-29 “Fulcrum,” a MiG-27 “Flogger” and a wall of small arms that include a range of Kalashnikovs. Outside, visitors can poke around Russian tanks, anti-aircraft pieces and surface-to-air missile systems like the SA-6 “Gainful,” the type used to down Capt. Scott O’Grady over Bosnia in 1995.