We, Russians, have always been famous for our particular ways of doing things, whether it is something global or just the brilliant idea to substitute a disappeared under mysterious circumstances car wheel with a trunk. Sometimes we even get bored watching all these ordinary sport competitions, with the rules so familiar and the plot just as usual. And once it dawned on one of the severest Russians, Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu, to create a purely Russian sport competition. And mixing up winter and tanks and everything nice we got the International Tank Biathlon contest! Have you ever seen anything of the kind?
Tank Biathlon is a mechanized military sport which utilizes the complex training of tank crews including their rough terrain passing skills combined with the ability to provide accurate and rapid fire while performing maneuvers, that’s what Wikipedia says, and it’s absolutely true.
Somehow the games, or at least the concept, existed even before the official introduction in 2013, when Tank Biathlon was not a widely international contest yet, with only Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia participating.
And after the first competition the games start to pick up speed, and in 2014 there are 12 countries (Russia, Armenia, China, Kazakhstan, Belarus, India, Kirgizia, Serbia, Mongolia, Venezuela, Angola, and Kuwait), in 2015 joins one more participant, Nicaragua, in 2016 there are 17 participating states and the newcomers are Iran, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, and Belarus (that missed the 2015 contest), and finally in 2017 the great international team consisted of 19 countries, with Laos and Uganda willing to participate as well.
This year the number of participants reaches 21 together with Myanmar and Syria. The main vehicle is the T-72B3 that is granted to each team. Still, China and Belarus tend to use their own machines, the TYPE 96B and the greatly modified T-72 respectively. The competition consists of three stages: individual races (with all teams participating), semifinal relay races, and final relay races.
Individual races determine the ranking of each team. In this stage 3 crews from each team are participating and each crew uses its own vehicle. The crews start separately with 1-2 minutes of gap, thus there are 4 tanks at once. Each crew is to run three laps of 3-5 km with three firing sessions: gun firing three rounds at the target ‘Tank’, AA MG firing at the ‘Helicopter’, and coaxial MG firing at the ’AT grenade launcher’. Still, the mission isn’t completed yet.
The machines have also pass successfully several obstacles, which are obstacles and maneuvering section, ford, track passage line in minefield, hill, fire line obstacle, antitank trench with a passage lane, track bridge, comb, escarpment, and side-hill. The results of each crew are counted by summoning total distance time and penalties. Twelve top teams in the Individuals race are allowed to participate in the Semifinals of the Relay race stage.
Relay races determine the best team. Each crew is to run 4 laps of 3-5 km overcoming the same obstacles and engaging targets on three firing lines. However, the rules are a bit different, and now the crews start at the same time, i.e. there are 4 tanks on the race at once. Four teams with best results in the semifinals are allowed to participate in the final stage. The winners are rewarded with a special cup right after the final relay race.
The Tank Biathlon is held in on the shooting range of Alabino, Naro-fominskiy region of Moscow Oblast and lasts from the end of July up to the middle of August. For this year the calendar is already fixed and the competitions will take place from the 28th of July to 11th of August. There are several ways of reaching the place, including free transfer for those who come not by car. The competition is no the only thing to enjoy in Alabino: in the territory of the shooting range there are numerous exhibitions, several points of field canteen of different countries, children playgrounds, training machines, food trucks and so on.
The Tank Biathlon is a part of the International Army Games, that are hold annually and determine the best of the best among various types of troops: military police, parachute corps, aircrafts, field canteen, and so on. The tank competition is traditionally held in Moscow, as well as the field canteen contest. The tickets are available of the official website of the Tank Biathlon, and if you are afraid of getting lost, the volunteers are always there, ready to translate, give directions, that is to help you in any case.