Watch the NATO tank competition where the US lost to Austria and Germany

strong europe tank challenge m1 abrams

Photo by Sgt. Justin Geiger

A tank platoon assigned to 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, completed live-fire offensive operations lane for the Strong Europe Tank Challenge at Grafenwoehr Training Area, May 10, 2017, as part of Strong Europe Tank Challenge.

For the second year in a row, a US armored brigade competed in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge against a range of European partners — and lost.

Austria, which didn’t participate in the challenge last year, took gold, while Germany came in second. The US came in a strong third, but given the purpose of the challenge, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

“This is a competition, but it’s not really about the competition,” said Sgt. Maj. David Glenn, 7th Army Training Command’s operations senior noncommissioned officer in a US Army statement. “It’s really about training, partnership, esprit de corps and interoperability.”

Given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — one of the participating states — the competition takes on a whole new air of seriousness beyond a medal or ranking. With Russian forces in Eastern Europe outnumbering deployed NATO forces in the region, the US has increasingly sought to bolster the smaller European states with ground forces and even F-35s.

In the slides below, see how the NATO and the Ukraine push themselves to stand ready against the looming threat of Russia. 

Here’s the Austrian Leopard 2A4 tank that ended up taking gold.

Crew: 4 soldiers

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 45 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 62.5 tons

Here’s the German tank that competed, the Leopard 2A6

Crew: 4 soldiers

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 42 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 36 feet

Weight: 62 tons

Poland brought the Leopard 2A5

Crew: 4 soldiers

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 45 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 62.5 tons

France brought their domestically built Leclerc tank

Crew: 3 soldiers

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 1 x 12.7 mm, 1 x 7.62 mm

Speed: 45 mph

Range: 340 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 57 tons

Ukraine brought the only soviet-designed tank, the T-64BM, an update of a much older model that lacks some of NATO’s newer technology, but makes up for that by being battle hardened. Ukraine’s T-64BM boasts a bigger main gun to pierce modern tank armor, and is the only tank at the competition that brought along explosive reactive armor plating, as it’s regularly used against Russian separatists.

Crew: 3 soldiers

Armament: 125 mm smoothbore, 1 x 12.7 mm, 1 x 7.62 mm

Speed: 37 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 30 feet

Weight: 45 tons

Then there’s the US’s standby, the M1A2 Abrams. The Abrams was originally designed in the 1970s and has had some roaring successes in battle, but the competition has been catching up for some time now.

Crew: 4 soldiers

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 12.7 mm, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 41/25 mph on road / off road

Range: 240 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 62 tons

Like any good military competition, there was an obstacle course.

But this is the “tank Olympics,” so soldiers had to carry heavy tank rounds and ammo around a course.

Crewmembers had to dismount their tanks to engage several targets during the combat pistol shoot off at Grafenwoerhr Training Area.

And then the tanks faced off in an obstacle course of their own, though they seemed less concerned about the obstacles.

 

Here’s Ukraine’s battle-tested tank sounding off at the range.

 

But it’s not all shooting, they train for realistic battle scenarios — like having to repair a tank tread.

 

Or taking care of the wounded. In this case, dummies.

In a way, everyone won because NATO and the Ukraine improved their interoperability and ability to defeat or deter Russian aggression. But in a much more precise way, Austria won. Then Germany came second, and the US came in third. Better luck next year.


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