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Italy and Germany are also international "biathalon" style competition

"Did you hear the one about the Russians inviting the Americans to their tank competition?"

"No?  Yea, they said, 'Tanks, but no tanks.'"

I. Russia Extends Tank-Shaped Olive Branch to U.S.

Armored vehicle jokes aside, Russian President Vladimir Putin really did invite the U.S. to participate in a friendly tank competition, which Russia dubs a "tank biathlon".  The invite was extended to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during "two-on-two" talks with their Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu last Firday.

Shoigu -- Russia's Defense Minister -- repeated the invitation later at a press conference.  And he announced that the Americans have reportedly agreed to participate.  Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports:

'We've invited our American colleagues to participate ... and our invitation was accepted by US Secretary of Defense [Chuck] Hagel,' Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Saturday.

Russia has already held two past tank biathlons in its Chechnya and the Stavropol Caucasus territories.  

T-72 Biathlon
T-72s compete in a previous installment of the "tank biathlon." [Image Source: ITAR-TASS]

It is currently holding a third one this week, running through the 17th, in the Alabino district of Moscow.  Russian news service ITAR-TASS describes these events writing:

Tank biathlon is a competition, where crews have to exercise and develop their best professional skills, such as teamwork, ability to hit the target in the shortest possible time, the skill of driving a tank. At the same time, the general timing depends not only on the speed of driving the route, but also on the obligatory hitting all the five targets and clear, without penalties, crossing various obstacles.

In the tank biathlon, every tank runs almost 20 kilometres at a maximum possible speed, while firing from all weapons the targets, which are rising in different directions and distances. On the course, a tank has to pass repeatedly a ford, fences, a rut bridge, high-speed sections and overtaking passages. At all the times, the crew remains constantly in the firing position.

Fighting vehicle enthusiasts may be disappointed to find out that Russia is only using its older T-72 tanks in the competition.  The T-72 has been largely replaced by the T-90 (orig. named the T-72BU), a more modern successor that was commissioned in 1993.  The T-72 and T-90 both pack the same smoothbore 125 mm cannon for use in attacks on buildings or tank-to-tank warfare.  The T-72 and T-90 are both made by UralVagonZavod "scientific industrial corp." PLC, commonly shortened to "UVZ".

The T-72's successor, the T-90 was not in the competition. [Image Soure: RIA Novosti]

This year's competition was a multinational event, but consisted solely of former Soviet states, with entrants from Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the third and final leg of the competition.

II. Tanks (a Lot)

If the Americans indeed show up in 2014, they won't be alone -- Germany and Italy were also reportedly invited.  

Germany will likely use its Leopard 2 tanks -- perhaps even the latest A7+ variant, designed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Comp. KG (shortened to "KMW"), which features the Leopard 2's trademark 120 mm smoothebore cannon and improved mobility for fighting against ground troops.

Italy would likely field its Ariete tank, which was commissioned in 1995.  The tank features a 120 mm smoothebore cannon.  It is produced by a consortium of Fiat S.p.A.'s (BIT:F) Industrial Vehicles Corp. (IVECO) subsidiary and Finmeccanica S.p.A.'s (BIT:FNC) OTO Melara subsidiary.

The M1A2 SEP Abrams [Image Source: Inetres]

The U.S. meanwhile would field its M1A2 SEP Abrams tank, which is made by General Dynamics Corp. (GD).  The M1A2 features a 120 mm smoothebore cannon and is slightly faster than the T-90 with a top cruising speed of 68 km/h (versus 65 km/h for the T-90).  The SEP (standard enhancements package) variant was first produced in 2004, and is under ongoing active development.

Russia and U.S. relations have been icy ever since Russia agreed to grant a year long asylum to U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden, a move which prompted President Obama to cancel his planned August visit to Russia.

Sources: ITAR-TASS [1], [2], RIA Novosti

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Pass a Ford?
By thorr2 on 8/14/2013 3:04:49 PM , Rating: 5
On the course, a tank has to pass repeatedly a ford

Depending on the terrain and which model of Ford they use, that could give an unfair advantage to the tanks. I think a F150 might be a nice balance for different terrain types. At least in good spirits, they chose an American company to compete with.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By Motoman on 8/14/2013 3:23:13 PM , Rating: 4
Seriously though, what's the point? Pretty much anything that rolls can pass a Ford.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By Amiga500 on 8/14/13, Rating: -1
RE: Pass a Ford?
By mfenn on 8/14/2013 3:43:07 PM , Rating: 5

RE: Pass a Ford?
By Amiga500 on 8/14/13, Rating: 0
RE: Pass a Ford?
By kleinma on 8/14/2013 3:37:25 PM , Rating: 3
RE: Pass a Ford?
By ZorkZork on 8/15/2013 3:13:22 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Pass a Ford?
By marvdmartian on 8/15/2013 8:12:09 AM , Rating: 5
Yeah, but couldn't those numbers also be inflated by countless Ford trucks suffering an early death, and countless Ford owners not being smart enough to then go out and buy something else?? ;)

RE: Pass a Ford?
By Alexvrb on 8/16/2013 11:15:19 PM , Rating: 2
Ford builds some good engines, but their recent truck diesel efforts have been severely lacking. "Ack! My Ford 6.0L diesel has a leaking EGR cooler, a plugged stuck-open EGR valve, the head bolts stretched, bad injectors and pump, and the turbo exploded! What a piece of crap! I hope the new 6.4L is better... Oh crap! It's even worse! Same problems plus severe oil dilution. Well time to move on to the 6.7L..."

Seriously, you have to perform non-emissions-kosher modifications on their diesel motors off the bat to improve long-term reliability. Their old 7.3L diesels (NA and turbo variants) were just about bulletproof. Not so much after that. Although the 6.7L did move to a hot-side EGR valve, at least.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By ClownPuncher on 8/14/13, Rating: -1
RE: Pass a Ford?
By overlandpark4me on 8/16/2013 12:57:12 PM , Rating: 2
God, that's funny....kidding, you're pathetic

RE: Pass a Ford?
By chµck on 8/14/2013 3:30:33 PM , Rating: 1
I think the author meant "fjord"

RE: Pass a Ford?
By jmunjr on 8/14/2013 5:25:07 PM , Rating: 5
No he meant a ford.

A shallow place in a river or stream allowing one to walk or drive across.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By kleinma on 8/14/2013 3:32:13 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure if really stupid, or just trolling.

If they had said Ford, with a capital F, then sure, they would be talking about an auto, and not the regular old noun ford, which is a shallow body of water that the tanks would have to navigate through.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/14/2013 4:51:56 PM , Rating: 4
It was a joke, and kinda witty I would have to say. Also obvious.

You guys are just...I don't know. Wound up a bit tight?

RE: Pass a Ford?
By lennylim on 8/14/2013 7:07:49 PM , Rating: 3
OP should tread more carefully. Apparently you don't get tanks for jokes around here.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By NellyFromMA on 8/15/2013 4:03:28 PM , Rating: 2
Sarcasm detection sensor needs replacement.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By amanojaku on 8/14/2013 3:34:18 PM , Rating: 3
Ford noun a place where a river or other body of water is shallow enough to be crossed by wading.

That being said, I'd love to see THESE in the military.

RE: Pass a Ford?
By thorr2 on 8/14/2013 6:19:54 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, that is one awesome car! The tanks would have a hard time keeping up with, let alone passing that one!

LOL, thanks everyone for the lesson on what a "ford" is. You made my day. ;-)

RE: Pass a Ford?
By Jeffk464 on 8/16/2013 8:47:40 PM , Rating: 2
Depending on the terrain and which model of Ford they use, that could give an unfair advantage to the tanks. I think a F150 might be a nice balance for different terrain types. At least in good spirits, they chose an American company to compete with.

If you are going to use ford don't use any old f150, gotta go with the raptor.

By bug77 on 8/14/2013 3:12:57 PM , Rating: 2
I've read somewhere that tanks are becoming less and less economically viable. You can destroy a tank with a $1,000 rocket fired from a RPG today. Airplanes are having a field day against tanks (not to mention drones).
From that point of view, it's a bit awkward seeing a country (any country) making a big fuss about their tanks. They're not going away soon, but it's not the 1940s anymore either.

RE: Typical
By DanNeely on 8/14/2013 3:27:48 PM , Rating: 4
They've been saying the same thing since the first Panzerfausts, PIATs, and Bazooka's entered the battlefield ~70 years ago.

SAM Missile, manufactures have been making similar claims about the death of aircraft for almost as long.

The reason why both groups claims have always been bunk is called combined arms. Your tanks infantry support keeps the enemy RPGers/etc from getting close, sneaking into blind spots, etc while the tanks destroy hardpoints and other armored vehicles. It's only when someone forgets this and tries to send their tanks in unsupported, like the Israelis did in the early part of the Yom Kippur War that missileers are able to massacre tanks.

RE: Typical
By Amiga500 on 8/14/2013 3:30:48 PM , Rating: 2
A more recent example would be the Israelis in Lebanon in 2006.

RE: Typical
By bug77 on 8/15/2013 6:07:57 AM , Rating: 2
In their infancy, AT weapons were also expensive. But they seem to be getting cheaper faster than tanks. Regardless, we both agree tanks will not go away soon. My point is by now tanks are more of a standard issue weapon, not an awe-inspiring, battle turning one. When confronted with an inferior enemy (e.g. the Iraqi army), they'll have it for breakfast. But in more equal situations you're not guaranteed a win just because you have the better tank.

RE: Typical
By gamerk2 on 8/14/2013 3:28:35 PM , Rating: 2
Remember tanks were NEVER designed to operate alone; they were basically used as mobile squad support, similar to Calvary. Tanks not backed by infantry have always been soft targets. Tanks break through, infantry moves in and clears/holds the position.

RE: Typical
By boeush on 8/14/2013 8:30:19 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't count tanks out just yet.

Active camouflage:

Missile/smartbomb countermeasures:

RE: Typical
By BRB29 on 8/15/2013 9:00:37 AM , Rating: 1
An RPG normally wouldn't be able to take out a tank unless it hits specific weak spots. Tanks have 50cal gunners and infantry protecting them. An M16 can shoot accurately much further than an RPG.

Tanks are weak against air attacks but many tanks can pack anti air missiles to stop low speed aircrafts. Infantry can easily take out low flying drones.

Of course, there are only a handful of countries with modern jets and enough of them to be a threat to tanks. We're not fighting with any of them. Look at how much it cost for a modern fighter jet. Then add maintenance cost, pilot training, command centers, tactical air command centers, etc... We have yet to fight a country that have an adequate Air Force since WW2.

Modern tank armor can take actually deflect AT rounds. An RPG taking out a modern tank is a dream. Most US tanks taken out were done by mines, RPGs can only hit weak spots if they are able to get close. Usually the most they can do is disable, not destroy.

There are AT weapons that can take out a modern tank in 1-2 shots. Fortunately, they are not cheap, widely available and needs training to effectively use. Basically, RPGs are mostly ineffective as long as there are infantry with the tanks.

Tanks are very essential today mainly because the enemies cannot afford anything to effectively destroy them.

RE: Typical
By Ammohunt on 8/16/2013 1:29:57 PM , Rating: 3
You should Qualify an American tank. RPG's are no threat to M1 tanks; you might disable one with a lucky hit but to get a kill is next to near impossible. The tanks that were lost in the first gulf war were due primarily to friendly fire from the Depleted Uranium penitrators used. And even with that rarely were their causalities. On the other hand M1's were scoring turret separations on nearly every Iraqi Russian tank...that was 20 years ago...

abrams governor
By Khenglish on 8/14/2013 7:12:17 PM , Rating: 2
It would be interesting if the US switched off the abrams speed governor limiting it to around 40MPH. With it off the tank can go over 60MPH on roads. I don't think the T-90 can get anywhere near that.

The courses are likely to be very rough though with it not even being possible to hit 40MPH, but if there are some flat stretches...

RE: abrams governor
By OoklaTheMok on 8/14/2013 11:11:37 PM , Rating: 2
I would rather keep the Russians in the dark regarding the capabilities of any speed advantages.

RE: abrams governor
By amanojaku on 8/15/2013 12:00:52 AM , Rating: 4
That information's on Wikipedia, so I'm sure they've known about it for a long time.

RE: abrams governor
By Jeffk464 on 8/16/2013 8:54:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah right, there is nothing new or secret about the M1 anymore. Its a solid tank, but its been around for a while now.

RE: abrams governor
By DanNeely on 8/15/2013 8:52:48 AM , Rating: 2
Of course if you have a bunch of tanks driving on it that fast there won't be a road when they're done.

And with the governor removed it's really easy to trash part of the drivetrain if you're not careful. To save on costs they reused a 3000HP helicopter engine; but the transmission, tracks, etc were only designed for the 1500HP the governor caps them to.

RE: abrams governor
By Expunge on 8/16/2013 1:47:43 AM , Rating: 2
The top speed of a full combat load M1A1 Abrams ungoverned was 88mph. I used to drive those beautiful 63 ton beasts back when I was in the Army.

RE: abrams governor
By sorry dog on 8/18/2013 8:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
I always thought a tank made more sense than a Delorean...

Just another intelligence operation.
By Jedi2155 on 8/15/2013 4:20:55 AM , Rating: 3
The fact that Russia is using their ancient T-72's and not their latest T90s seems like they want to gather intelligence on the current capabilities of their potentially adversaries capabilities....

Knows when its a trap...

RE: Just another intelligence operation.
By marvdmartian on 8/15/2013 8:16:31 AM , Rating: 2
They got plenty of intelligence, the last time T-72 tanks went up against M1 Abrahms tanks, and the Russians sat back and watched the show.

We refer to it as the first Gulf War.....1991, when the T-72's owned and operated by the Iraqi Revolutionary Guard went up against the US Army's tanks....and shooting fish in a barrel!

By Jedi2155 on 8/15/2013 11:06:41 PM , Rating: 2
I've ready plenty of war reports on the M1 Abrams...but.....there are still some classified items I bet. Regardless, too bad they won't put their best in the field.

By lagomorpha on 8/20/2013 8:43:24 AM , Rating: 2
The T-72s operated by Iraq in the Gulf War were monkey models. The big equipment Russia sells to nations like that are made to look like the real thing but aren't made nearly up to the standards Russia uses for their domestic military.

By Jeffk464 on 8/16/2013 8:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
They could just ask china the blueprints.

By DanNeely on 8/14/2013 3:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing the reason the Russians are using T72's instead of T80 or T90's is that the newer models computers, etc are good enough to give the gunner and Easy Button and remove much of the skill involved. Western contemporaries to the T72 would include the M60, Leopard 1, and AMX-30.

By Amiga500 on 8/14/2013 3:33:00 PM , Rating: 2
It'd also make it more fun - as it wouldn't then be an arms dealer pissing contest, but a genuine competition between the crews.

(i.e. nothing would be held back.)

By lagomorpha on 8/20/2013 8:46:20 AM , Rating: 2
My guess is the Russians are using T72s because they're 40,000 pounds lighter and therefor more agile than the US and European competition. T80s are much much heavier than T72s which are pretty much the most nimble MBTs around.

Russia wants a propaganda victory over the West here.

No thanks.
By Akerans on 8/14/2013 5:08:02 PM , Rating: 2
Would have been my response. I can think of better ways to spend tax dollars. And, with the administration becoming more fuel conscious, why are wasting it racing tanks around?

RE: No thanks.
By BZDTemp on 8/15/2013 5:40:39 AM , Rating: 2
You're forgetting that competitions are good training tools.

RE: No thanks.
By Jeffk464 on 8/16/2013 8:56:53 PM , Rating: 2
its also good for relations

Tank Olympics
By stevansky on 8/18/2013 12:19:09 PM , Rating: 2
Just goes to show you how ignorant our secy's of state and defense truly are. We shouldn't be taking anything over there for the Russian's and their allies to get their hands on. You can bet that every means at their disposal will be used to glean all the intelligence they can about the performance, electronics, ammo, and armor of our tanks. Not to mention how our crews have been trained to react to different scenarios. I bet the Russian's are sitting in the sauna now slapping each other on the back and laughing between vodka shots.

RE: Tank Olympics
By bathotropic on 8/18/2013 11:41:41 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be sure we won't send the latest ammo and latest computer systems and latest comm gear, but then I don't know who runs anything anymore.

Putin... LOL
By retrospooty on 8/14/2013 2:56:28 PM , Rating: 1
This is a perfect chance to dust off this old chestnut.

RE: Putin... LOL
By Ramtech on 8/14/2013 3:41:37 PM , Rating: 2
Well in US we are using drones... :-(

By stm1185 on 8/14/2013 5:10:44 PM , Rating: 2
First Olympic Event I will set my schedule for! I hope we get to send multiple teams. Army, Marines...

I wonder if Putin is an anime fan?
By toffty on 8/14/2013 6:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
Because he must have seen Girls und Panzer to get this idea!

Two words...
By ctodd on 8/15/2013 9:23:44 AM , Rating: 2
Arms Race!

World of Tanks viewers
By TimberJon on 8/15/2013 5:53:19 PM , Rating: 2
I can think of perhaps a view million viewers that might tune in to watch some real hardware showing its stuff. World of Tanks players that is. Not saying I play it or anything ....

Fishing for information
By trisct on 8/19/2013 1:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
Russia just wants to get performance information on the latest version of (possible enemy) foreign tanks. If any country is dumb enough to compete with their best effort, they are handing the Russians a ton of intelligence that would otherwise be nearly impossible to get. Any smart military commander would laugh at this invitation.

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