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Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018

Two US Abrams tanks of 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment during the Offensive Operation stand on Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018 [© Carl Schulze]

The annual Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) is a kind of revival of the famous Cold War era Canadian Army Trophy (CAT) tank live fire competitions, of which the last was conducted in 1991, writes Carl Schulze.

 

Co-hosted by the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command of US Army Europe and the Bundeswehr, the first Strong Europe Tank Challenge was conducted in 2016 and won by the German team from Gebirgs panzer bataillon 8, equipped with Leopard 2A6M+ Main Battle Tanks. In 2017 the competition was won by the team of Austria provided by Panzer bataillon 14 and equipped with Leopard 2A4 Main Battle Tanks.

 

Germany was the winner of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018 – Panzer bataillon 393 fielded Leopard 2A6 MBTs. [© Carl Schulze]

Between the 3rd and 8th June this year, the third edition of the competition took place at the Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany.

 

This year’s Challenge saw the participation of platoon-size teams from eight nations, including five NATO and three Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries; namely Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, the UK and the USA.

 

  • The Austrian team was provided by Panzer bataillon 14, the only tank battalion of the Bundesheer, which took part in the competition with the Leopard 2A4 main battle tank.
  • The French team was provided by a platoon from the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs, equipped with Leclerc MBTs.
  • The German team was provided by Panzer bataillon 393, equipped with Leopard 2A6 MBTs.
  • The team from Poland was provided by a tank battalion from 34 Brygada Kawalerii Pancernej, equipped with Leopard 2A5.
  • The team from Sweden was provided by the Skaraborg Regimentet, equipped with Stridsvagn 122 (another variant of the Leopard 2).
  • The team from Ukraine was provided by the 14-та окрема механізована бригада (14th Independent Mechanised Brigade) equipped with T-84 MBTs.
  • The UK team was provided by The Queen’s Royal Hussars, equipped with the Challenger 2 main battle tank.
  • The US team was provided by the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, equipped with M1A2 SEP (V2) Abrams MBTs.

The Swedish team was provided by the Skaraborg Regimentet equipped with Stridsvagn 122 [© Christoph Koppers/US Army]

According to US Army Europe documentation the Strong Europe Tank Challenge is designed to project a dynamic presence, foster military partnership and promote interoperability, and also provide an environment for sharing tactics, techniques and procedures. Rather than trying to evaluate which nation fields the most capable MBT, the competition is designed to measure the training level of the teams and how well they can use their training when performing with their MBTs.

 

As part of the competition the participating teams had to score at twelve different stands and perform the Shoot-Out:

  • Stand 1: Offensive Operation; platoon size attack live fire tank shoot – maximum of 500 points possible.
  • Stand 2: Defensive Operation; platoon size live fire tank shoot – maximum of 500 points possible.
  • Stand 3: Tank Recovery under Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) conditions; crews had to recover a damaged tank under NBC conditions, wearing personal protection equipment – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 4: Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) and Battle Damage Assessment and Repair (BDAR); crews had to provide first aid to a wounded soldier and repair damage to the running gear, which meant they had to split the vehicle track and assemble it again – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 5: Precision Driving; the MBTs had to be driven around a pre-marked course and navigated around obstacles – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 6: Call of Fire; the teams had to call for indirect fire support and direct it – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 7: Vehicle Identification; the crews had to identify vehicles of NATO and non-NATO nations – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 8: Range Determination; crews had to estimate the distance to targets without using a laser range finder – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 9: Pistol Shooting; maximum of 100 points possible with points given for accuracy and time.
  • Stand 10: Reporting; crews had to identify and report targets in an urban environment – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 11: Obstacle Course; maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Stand 12: Tankers Olympics; special physical fitness and skill test during which the crews had to transport tank-related items such as road wheels, towing cables and ammunition from one point to another – maximum of 100 points possible.
  • Shoot Out ; Evaluation of the effectiveness of the tank platoon to neutralise given targets within a limited presentation time – maximum of 400 points possible.

Here the Ukrainian team can be seen performing at Stand 4: Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) and Battle Damage Assessment and Repair (BDAR) – note the T-84 MBT [© Carl Schulze]

Depending on the type of stand points were given, for example, for the number of hits scored, the amount of ammunition saved, the time in which the given mission was achieved and so on.

 

At the Offensive Operation stand the teams could, for example score a total of 500 points. For every vehicle target hit with the MBT’s main gun 10 points were given (240 total possible), every group of dismounted infantry hit by machine gun fire scored 5 points (60 total possible), for every tank gun round returned another 5 points could be scored (80 total possible), while a total of 120 additional points could be scored for tactics.

 

A Challenger 2 MBT of The Queen’s Royal Hussars engages a target with its 120mm tank gun during the SETC 2018 [© Gertrud Zach/US Army]

The shoot itself was divided into nine phases, namely: Phase 0 – Preparation and Mission Briefing; Phase 1 – Forward Passage of Line; Phase 2 – begin of attack/engagement with enemy combat outpost; Phase 3 – approach on enemy minefield/fighting withdrawal; Phase 4 – re-launch of the attack/taking of Objective Green/engagement with enemy main force; Phase 5 – repulsing an enemy counter-attack; Phase 6 – enemy indirect fire on own positions/withdrawal out of indirect fire; Phase 7 – retaking of Object Green; and Phase 8 – hasty defence of Object Green against another enemy attack.

French Leclerc MBTs of the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs perform at Stand 2: Defensive Operation [© Christoph Koppers/US Army]

In total the battle run was scheduled to take 180 minutes, including the after action review and presentation of scores. During this period the teams were to engage ten MBT vehicle targets (1.9m x 1.8m) showing in open terrain , eight MBT targets (1.9m x 1m) depicting emplaced vehicles, six armoured infantry fighting vehicle targets (1.25m x 1.35m) and twelve groups of dismounted troops, with targets only being presented for 15 seconds. To execute the shoot the teams were issued a total of 40 main gun rounds and 600 rounds for the coaxial machine guns.

A member of The Queen’s Royal Hussars performs at Stand 9: Pistol Shooting [© Gertrud Zach/US Army]

Final Results: The winner of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018 was Germany. Second place went to the team from Sweden and the Austrian team became third, with fourth place going to the team from the United Kingdom.

Austrian team with Leopard 2A4 MBTs seen at Stand 3: Tank Recovery under Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear conditions [© Lacey Justinger/US Army]

Polish tankers going over the obstacle course at Stand 11 [© Gertrud Zach/US Army]

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