The United States and a number of European countries have asked to participate in Russia’s international tank biathlon, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. “They filed a request with the Defense Ministry to participate. We will be happy [to have them],” News agency Novosti quoted president Putin addressing questions from students at a Moscow university. The Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that more than 40 countries had expressed interest in participating. Putin said the event helps promote the nation’s defense industry, noting that Russia is second only to the US in terms of the volume of arms exports. With the global decline of demand for tanks and other heavy, tracked armored vehicles Russia emerges as the largest manufacturer and exporter of such vehicles, including T-90 and upgraded T-72s.
Russia invited the US to participate back in August at a meeting of defense officials. The first tank biathlon was held in the Moscow suburb of Alabino in August last year, with members from four armies participating. This year’s competition is planned to run from July 26 to August 10. According to the Russians, the Tank Biathlon is analogous to the Olympic event. Tank crews must navigate a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) course that includes obstacles such as a slalom run, water crossings, bridges and steep climbs. The tanks must also accurately shoot with guns, machine guns and rifles a set of targets at distances of up to 2.2 kilometers (1.4 miles) that simulate other tanks or low-flying helicopters and cross military-representative obstacles such as mine fields and barricades.
Through the 2013 biathlon tank crews went through a three-round route of 6-10 kilometers. During the first round crews fire at targets positioned at a distances of 1,800, 1,700 and 1,500 meters. The second round firing is at targets imitating an anti-tank mortar (RPG) squad and an infantry unit – these targets are at a distance of 600–700 meters, and must be engaged with a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. The third round targeting is at an anti-tank gun and ATGM unit by use of heavy machine guns at a distance of 1,200 meters. Like in usual biathlon firing misses lead to an extra round, 500 meters long. On the final round tanks have to go through various terrain obstacle course.