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17 Nov, 2019 15:11

No playing around: US Army’s new card decks feature Russian, Chinese & Iranian weapons ‘to learn more about adversaries’

No playing around: US Army’s new card decks feature Russian, Chinese & Iranian weapons ‘to learn more about adversaries’

The Russian-made S-400 air defense system – the one that triggers US threats of sanctions for nations if they decide to buy it – can actually help an American soldier to win a battle... in a card game.

The S-400 [or SA-21 Growler in NATO nomenclature] is a joker in a new line of card decks for the US army, an all-mighty card of many faces capable of incinerating an enemy.

The second joker in the Russia-themed deck is the Iskander tactical missile system [SS-26 Stone in NATO nomenclature] with its 9M729 missile that was used by Washington as a pretext for quitting the INF Treaty, despite Russia’s assurances that it did not violate the agreement.


Playing cards has historically been popular among US troops, especially in missions with limited access to devices or an internet connection. So in order to give soldiers some playing range and keep them away from boredom, the themes of the decks also include Iran and China, in addition to Russia.

The three countries have been identified as potential threats by the Pentagon. And that leads to the second mission of the cards – to help US soldiers identify adversaries’ weapons and vehicles.

The cards are so in demand that more than 70,000 decks have been distributed among US soldiers since the first ones were printed this summer, the US Army said in a statement this week. An initial release of 9,800 packs of cards featuring Chinese vehicles and weapons were picked up like hotcakes with supplies running out in three weeks. Fred Batchelor, a director in the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s intelligence branch and military veteran, says that was the point when the cards gained fame: “That’s when I think it just went viral.”

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Batchelor points out no security clearance is required to play solitaire or poker with those cards: “The thing that’s great about these cards is anybody can have them. You don’t have to have a security clearance, you don’t have to be assigned to a special unit. Everybody has access to these cards and I think that’s what really sold them.”

It is not the first time the US army has used a strategy of educational games for its soldiers. In 2003, coalition forces in Iraq printed decks to show the 55 “most wanted” Iraqi officials. Saddam Hussein was featured on the ace of spades.

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