In test of armour skills, China takes early lead over Indian team
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Aug 17
As Indian and Chinese soldiers face off with live weapons on their border at Doklam, tank crews from both countries are locked in a test of skill in Russia – racing and firing their armoured vehicles to decide the master of the battlefield.
The backdrop to this contest is the International Army Games 2017, in which teams from about 20 armies match their skills in armoured vehicle combat, air defence and artillery shoots, infantry patrolling and sniper contests. The most prestigious of these contests is the Tank Biathlon, in which each team fields three tanks that race across a 20-kilometre obstacle course, firing their main cannons and machine guns at targets that come up en route, and being judged on both speed and accuracy.
The Biathlon, which began on July 29, and which is at a preliminary stage, has Russia leading, China in second place and India in fifth place. Only one of India’s three crews has competed so far.
At the end of the first round, the best eight teams will be chosen for the semi-final, where they will be put through the course again. The four best will participate in the final round.
With three crews each from about 20 countries competing in the first round, that phase of the Biathlon takes about a week.
In previous Tank Biathlons, since Russia began the Army Games in 2014, Russia has always come first, with China in second place. India has usually placed 6th, trailing Kazakhstan, Belorussia and Serbia.
This year, Indian Army officials told Business Standard, expectations are higher. For the first time, the Indian team has shipped its own T-90S tanks to Russia, rather than relying on equipment provided by Russia, as was done in the past.
That will allow our tank crews to compete on 1,000 Brake Horse Power (BHP) T-90s, instead of the underpowered, Russia-provided T-72B3 tank, with an 840 BHP engine.
The Russian team, meanwhile, competed advantageously on T-72B3Ms, which had powerful 1,000 BHP engines.
The Chinese, who take this competition seriously as a forum for building international prestige, bring in trainloads of equipment and maintenance personnel. For the Tank Biathlon, the Chinese use a variant of their Type 96 tank, with an engine that experts believe is uprated to 1,200 BHP.
Defence ministry sources say China pitched strongly with Moscow to be allowed to host the Tank Biathlon this year, believing the host’s advantage would let it grab first place. Moscow, however, only granted China permission to host the infantry combat vehicle competition.
The Indian Army, which operates BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles, is not participating in the contest in China. However, Indian Army sniper teams are taking part for the first time in the sniper competition.
The army transported its participating T-90 tanks by sea to Saint Petersburg, from where they were transported overland to the Albino Ranges, an hour from Moscow, where the Tank Biathlon is being conducted.