Tank biathlon: Spectacular war machine challenge kicks off on first day of Intl Army Games (VIDEO)
Teams from over 20 countries, including Russia, China, India, Syria and Iran are expected to take part in the tank biathlon championship, held for the sixth time ever. The tank contest follows the rules of a classic biathlon, with each vehicle aiming to cover around 15 kilometers in the shortest time possible while shooting at various targets, which include models of tanks, helicopters and the crews of rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Russian army officials initially came up with the idea to adapt the popular winter sport into a military competition in 2013. While a tank biathlon may sound like a joke, it has quickly caught on and has served as a good test of both military equipment and crew skills.
All of the military teams participating in the Biathlon this year will use Russian-made T-72B3 main battle tanks, provided by the Russian military. China is the only exception, as its military brought their own Type 96A tanks. The Belarus team, meanwhile, will race in their own T-72 mod.
During the competition, the tank teams are assigned various colors. During the first round Saturday, the Chinese team playing in red challenged crews from Kazakhstan using blue tanks, Uganda with the green ones and Kuwaiti crews in the yellow war machines. The Chinese won the first race.
This year, four new national teams will be taking part in the tank biathlon: Vietnam, Myanmar, Syria and South Africa. The competition is now also part of a bigger military championship – the International Army Games, which are being held for the fourth time.
Since the first official games in 2015, which saw 17 competing nations, the number of competitors and disciplines has almost doubled. For two weeks, almost 200 teams from 33 countries representing almost all corners of the world would compete in 28 contests, which, apart from the tank biathlon, also include such challenges as Aviadarts, in which hypersonic planes compete to hit ground targets; Ring of Elbrus, which forces teams of soldiers in full uniform to ascend to the 5,642-meter summit of Russia’s tallest mountain, and the Suvorov Onslaught, a contest for the APCs named after the famous Russian 18th century commander Aleksandr Suvorov.
The games started with an opening ceremony attended by the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, the defense ministers of Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan, as well as representatives of the General Staffs of six more nations, including Venezuela and Iran. Six countries, Algeria, Vietnam, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sudan and the Philippines are taking part in the games for the first time. As well as these participants, 17 more nations sent observers to the contest.
“Every year, the number of [competition] participants grows, its geographical borders expand and its program gets more complicated. One thing that remains unchanged, though, is the spirit of courage, nobility, fellowship and mutual assistance that prevails on the improvised battlefields,” Shoigu said, as he opened the Army Games.
The opening ceremony also involved a concert, which the performers and military orchestras from the nations hosting the competition took part in. It also included an impressive ‘tank ballet’ performance, which saw the heavy war machines moving with unparalleled precision as they performed various maneuvers synchronically to pieces of classical music. The international competition, which was initially hosted by Russia, is now held in seven countries, including China and Iran, and will last until August 11.