Sunday, May 22, 2016

Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2016: Germany claims the Trophy

The platoon from the German Army has won the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2016. The Danish platoon managed to win the second place, while the third place was claimed by the Polish platoon.

The winning platoon of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge

An interesting aspect of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2016 is the fact that the top three platoons all used variants of the German Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT). The Polish and Danish platoons operated versions of the Leopard 2A5, which originally entered service in 1995 (more than twenty years ago) with the German Army. The German platoon was equipped with the slightly newer Leopard 2A6, an upgraded version of the Leopard 2A5 with longer gun barrel. This configuration was first used by the German Army in 2001, about 15 years ago.
Suprisingly, the Italian platoon C1 Ariete did manage to get the fourth place, beating the two American platoons operating the M1A2 SEP v2, the newest tank in the competition. The Slovenian team with the M-84 performed worse.

Every nation used a platoon of four tanks to compete. Except for the US Army, all nation was represented only by a single platoon. Only the M-84, a local version of the T-72, was manned by a crew of three; all other tanks had a four men crew.

The Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2016 consisted of a number of tasks which alltogether had a maximum score of 1,000 points.
  • For offensive and defensive trials including firing and maneuvering up to 700 points were awarded (350 points for offensive actions, 350 points for defensive actions).
  • For "mounted orienteering" (MO in the further text) up to 300 points evenly distributed in six sub-tasks (each 50 points) were awarded 
  • MO included a "mystery physical challenge" were teamwork was important
  • There was an obstacle course with thirteen minor challenges
  • Soldiers from each platoon fired 10 rounds with their service weapons from three locations in the combat shooting lane
  • A total of 25 firendly and threatening targets had to be identified while the tanks were on the course at the vehicle idenfication lane
  • During a simulated NBC attack, crews had to recover and tow one of their tanks while wearing NBC protection gear
  • Multinational teams reacted to an IED attack, assessed and evacuated the casualities
  • One task was to walk as many laps as possible along a track located at a hillside while carrying a 20 kilogram (44 lbs) training round

Further detailed results have unfortunately no been published, only a very few informations and rumors have emerged. A short list of the informations and common rumors gathered is presented below:
  • According to the German Army video, the German targets used for the tank shooting tests were smaller than the ones usually used by the other participating nations
  • The German team was the best in terms of physical fitness, managing a record of 64 laps on the track while carrying ammunition
  • They also performed best at recovering one of their tanks after the simulated NBC attack
  • Contrary to the often posted claim that the German unit consisted of reservists, it actually consisted of normal soldiers: the GebPzBtl 8 is semi-active, the first two platoons (1st and 2nd platoon) are made of reservists. The other two platoons (3rd and 4th) are consisting of professional soldiers. The third platoon of GebPzBtl 8 (belonging to the PzBtl 104 during the time the GebPzBtl 8 is not fully active) participated. However German rumors say that the reserve platoons actually performed equal or better during their last official training
  • According to Polish sources the Polish platoon destroyed more than 75% of of all their targets during the offensive shooting (distance to target up to 2 kilometres, two targets were destroyed at more than 1800 metres distance) and scored 285 out of 350 points. Only the German platoon performed better. In the defensive shooting the Poles managed to hit 17 out of 23 targets, scoring 277.5 out of 350 points - supposedly the highest score in this category.
  • The Italian Ariete tanks were filmed performing extremely bad, missing most of their targets. But on the second day shooting at another lane they supposedly were among the best during shooting
  • Supposedly the Italian Ariete performed worst overall in gunnery
  • The US platoons did a poor job at camouflaging their tank, supposedly the crews couldn't figure out how to properly use a camouflage net. According to US sources Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said that of those skills tested, some — like using camouflage netting to mask a 60-ton hunk of metal — haven’t been part of regular tanker training in some time.
  • Rumors from the unofficial US Master Gunner network say that the US platoons scored 4th overall in the shooting tests
  •  During the medevac operation after an IED attack, the Slovenian team aswell as another one (according to the rumors probably the Polish team) run over the dummy simulating the wounded
Overall some blogs, forums and people are reacting in either a state of denial ("how could my country loose, their tanks should be better") or in a state of surprise. I don't think that a lot of the results is unexpected for the following reasons:
  • The German tanks had the highest muzzle velocity in combination with a very accurate round (the training round is meant to simulate the current DM53 and DM63 ammunition, which according to the values used in the marketing brochures is probably the most accurate), so that the good shooting results are not that surprising
  • The Polish and Danish platoons used slightly older/worse types of training, but still have a rather high muzzle velocity and rather flat trajectory.
  • The current US ammunition is the heaviest and slowest of all participating countries, which will result in a higher trajectory and a greater impact of external factors; hence it will have a higher dispersion. The current US training round is meant to simulate this ammunition.
  • The Slovenian M-84 is the oldest tank design with the worst ammunition, fire control system and gun stabilizer. 
  • While the M1A2 SEP v2 is the newest tank in the competition with the newest optronics, overall the optics of the M1A2 SEP suffer from a number of drawbacks: the field of view of the CITV is blocked by the RWS, the commander's cupola and the loader's gun shield; the CITV also lacks a day channel, which can be advantageous for target identication at day

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