August 29, 2013: Strategy Page
In August 2013 the Russian Army held its first tank gunnery competition. Tank crews competed by performing actual tasks a tank crew would be called on to carry out in combat. The competition is held on a course that is 20 kilometers long and the winders are those who get through it the quickest. Each time a tank goes through it they are called on to halt when a target appears and fire one of their three weapons (main gun, machine-gun or long range missile fired from main gun barrel). Each time a tank misses a target it must hustle through a 500 meter penalty loop. Part of the course is an obstacle course where crews are graded on time and accuracy (not hitting certain obstacles). The crews are ranked according to their scores and those that do the best are rewarded in one way or another.
Such competitions are costly, especially when they involve all similar units in the army, navy or air force. But in the West such competitions were found to be worth the additional cost and effort. They are a big boost to morale as well because of the competitive element and this is especially true for the teams (and the unit they are from) who win overall. Russia has picked up on this and has made these elaborate and expensive training/testing methods part of their military reforms.
It’s unclear if Russia is seeking to revive a Cold War era tank competition held among NATO tank crews. From 1963 to 1991 Canadian forces in Europe sponsored a tank gunnery competition for NATO troops stationed in Europe. The completion ceased because the Cold War ended and Canadian forces withdrew from Europe in 1993. The most frequent competitors were Canada, Belgium, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, West Germany and the United States. The winner got to keep the Canadian Army Trophy until the next competition. The competition evolved over the years and its final format was very similar to the one the Russians are now using.
Russia has invited other nations to compete. This includes nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union as well as China and NATO countries. The U.S. was also invited to compete, but that would be expensive (moving American tanks to Russia for the competition) and in these times of shrinking military budgets, not likely to happen. This is a disappointment to tanks crews worldwide, who have a keen interest in knowing which nation does indeed have the most skilled crews. Then again the Russians might be tempted to cheat (using specially selected and trained “competition crews” instead of having all crews on active service competing to select the best ones for the international competition.)