FACTBOX, August 12. /TASS/. The Alabino training ground, near Moscow, will host a tank biathlon contest, one of the key events of the International Army Games IAG-2022 on August 13-17.
The tank biathlon is an annual combat training competition for tank crews at military training grounds in Russia. The Defense Ministry is the organizer. The purpose of the competition is to promote military cooperation and strengthen military comradeship among the participating states’ armed forces.
For the first time, the name of the event - "tank biathlon" - was mentioned at a board meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry on May 30, 2013. Deputy Defense Minister Arkady Bakhin then said the competitions would be held as part of a forthcoming routine exercise and that negotiations were underway on the participation of representatives from Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia. The Russian Defense Ministry later said that the idea of the tank biathlon contest was proposed personally by the defense minister, Sergey Shoigu. Russia’s sports minister on March 31, 2014 issued a special order to put the tank biathlon on the list of applied military sports.
Rules and special features
The main events of the tank biathlon were borrowed from ordinary ski biathlon competitions: the individual race (determines the rating of each crew) and a relay race (determines the best team). During each stage the contestants are to drive their armored vehicles along a special route and negotiate a number of obstacles, such as an obstacle belt for maneuvering, ford site, track passage lane in a mine obstacle, comb, track bridge, two hills, fire line obstacle, an anti-tank trench with a passage lane, side hill and escarp.
Along the route the contestants will have to hit targets that imitate tanks, anti-tank ambushes and helicopters. Depending on the target, the competing crew will use a coaxial machine gun or the tank gun (at a distance of up to 1,800 meters). All targets missed and landmines hit are punished with penalty laps. In case of the combat vehicle’s failure it is allowed to use a spare one.
In 2020, IT developers at the Russian company Gaijin Entertainment, together with the Russian Defense, created a virtual version of the contest in the multiplayer computer game War Thunder.
First tank biathlon context in 2013
Crews from four countries took part in the international stage of the competition on August 14-17. The Russian team won on aggregate, Kazakhstan was second, Belarus, third and Armenia, fourth. The championship was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the tank battle near Prokhorovka.
Latest tank biathlon context in 2021
The international stage was held on August 22- September 5. The list of participants grew to 19: Russia, Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Venezuela, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, China, Laos, Mali, Mongolia, Myanmar, Serbia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and South Ossetia. In the 1st division, Russian crews rose to the top of the podium, with China and Kazakhstan taking second and third place respectively. In the 2nd division, tank crews from Kyrgyzstan emerged the winners. Second place went to Tajikistan, and third, to Myanmar.
Similar competitions in other countries
The first international combat training competitions for tank crews, in principle similar to the tank biathlon, were called the Canadian Army Trophy. They were held annually in 1963-1991 among NATO countries’ contingents stationed in Germany. Tankmen from the US, Great Britain, West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada participated. In 1993, Canada’s armor left Europe and the competition stopped to be held. In 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 tank crews from the US and Canada raced each other for the Sullivan Cup at Fort Benning in the southeast of the United States. Its participants also competed in using the tank gun, the art of driving and repairing the combat vehicles, physical endurance.
In 2016-2018, the US Army’s training center in Grafenwoehr (in Bavaria, Germany), hosted a similar contest, called Strong Europe Tank Challenge, for the title of Europe’s best tank platoon, in which NATO countries’ tank crews took part. The contestants used M1A2 Abrams, Leclerc and several configurations of the German tank Leopard 2.