Having just finished up the Elbrus Ring military mountaineering competition, the focus of Russia’s international military olympics is now on the tank biathlon. It stresses live fire over rough terrain giving marks for speed and accurate, rapid fire. “Participating tanks drive a three-lap route of 6–10 km. During the first lap, crews fire (the main gun) at targets positioned 1,800, 1,700 and 1,500 m distant. In the second lap, different targets imitating an anti-tank squad and an infantry unit are fired upon. These targets are at a distance of 600–700 m, and must be engaged with 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. In the third lap the tank crews target an anti-tank gun and ATGM unit by use of the turret-mounted heavy machine gun at a distance of 1,200 m. One or more misses leads to an extra penalty lap of 500 m. On the final lap tanks have to go through various terrain obstacles; an obstacle missed or improperly traversed adds 10 seconds to the final timing.”
It is held at the Alabino Proving Grounds just southwest of Moscow. 23 countries are reported to be sending tanks and crew to compete this year (five years ago when this event started only four competed). The US Army and NATO have been invited in the past but have not accepted.
Iran is sending an entry again this year. Two years ago Iran took last, 12th place out of 12 contestants. Last year they did better placing seventh.
Russia has taken the gold medal every year. That is fitting for the home team, they undoubtedly get to practice on that particular course for months beforehand. Plus they have the latest and greatest gear, for which the biathlon provides a perfect marketing opportunity. Overseas sales are a big part of these games.
The Strong Europe Tank Challenge hosted by the German Heer and USAREUR just held at Grafenwoehr is somewhat similar. But at two years junior it seems to have been started in reaction to the one in Russia. And it is smaller, only eight countries participating vice the 23 at Alabino. This year there were six NATO countries plus Sweden and the Ukraine in the competition. Germany won twice, Austria once – Leopards seem to dominate the competition. And long in the past the Canadian Army used to host a NATO-wide tank competition but that hasn’t been done for two or three decades to my knowledge.