In NATO tank competition, U.S. comes up short against Germany

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May 16, 2016

German soldiers fire at their target during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge in Grafenwoehr, Germany, on May 11. (Javon Spence/U.S. Army)

Six NATO countries squared off last week in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge, a two-day competition that pitted some of the alliance’s best tank crews against each another in a series of events centered on armored warfare.

The challenge, which concluded Thursday and was held in Grafenwoehr, Germany, was the first of its kind there since 1991. The competition was designed to foster “military partnership” while showcasing the ability of NATO countries to work together, according to a U.S. Army statement.

Germany took top honors in the competition, followed by Denmark and Poland in second place and third place respectively.

The challenge, co-hosted by U.S. Army Europe and the German Bundeswehr, is a nod to the Cold War era and a tacit acknowledgment that NATO will need well-trained conventional forces if it ever has to go to war with a newly-emboldened Russia.

“You’ve got to continue to train; you have to invest the time and resources in the training to have the best possible deterrent force,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, told Stars and Stripes.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced it was quadrupling the 2017 budget for its “European Reassurance Initiative” and has indicated that the United States will soon rotate additional troops into the region in an effort to deter any future Russian aggression.

“This international tank challenge is a part of a series of things that helps us improve our skill,” Hodges added.

The challenge featured seven tank platoons in total. Denmark, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Poland all competed with one platoon, while the United States sent two. Each platoon included four tanks manned by four men. Germany took the gold in its Leopard 2A6 tanks, while the U.S. Army in the M1A2 Abrams didn’t place.

Events in the competition included an obstacle course littered with 13 different challenges, a shooting competition, and tank-based navigation. The platoons were given points for each event in an effort to get the most out of 1,000.

While the challenge could mark the beginning of a new trend for the United States and its European allies, Russia has long held, what it calls, tank biathlons. The Russian competitions feature a ballet-like spectacle of armored vehicles and are well-attended by civilians.

Last summer, Russia beat 16 other countries in its third annual international challenge of the sort, although no Western nations were present.


Update – NATO Europe Tank Competition 2016 – Video: HERE

German Leopard 2A6 tank


The Leopard 2A6 tank is armed with the Rheinmetall 120-mm L55 smoothbore gun, which is longer version of the L44, used on the Leopard 2A5. It has better fire accuracy and longer range, comparing with the 2A5 tank. It is worth mentioning that the L55 gun can be fitted on any Leopard 2 MBT without any significant changes. This gun is loaded manually and is compatible with standard NATO ammunition. The longer barrel allows ammunition to attain higher velocities. A total of 42 rounds are carried and 15 of them are ready to use, while the rest are stored in front of the hull.

The Leopard 2A6 has a hunter-killer capability. Many other contemporary tanks lack this capability.

Secondary armament consists of two 7.62-mm machine guns. One of them is coaxially mounted with the main gun, while the other one is positioned on top of the roof.

Vehicle has a crew of four, including commander, gunner, loader and driver.

The Leopard 2A 6 retains the engine of its predecessor. This combat vehicle is powered by an MTU MB-837 Ka501 turbocharged diesel, developing 1 500 horsepower. Cross-country performance is similar to that of the 2A5. Vehicle is fitted with an auxiliary power unit, which powers all systems, when the main engine is turned off. The Leopard 2A6 can be fitted with a deep wading kit.

Entered service 2001
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 62 t
Length (gun forward) 10.97 m
Hull length 7.7 m
Width 3.7 m
Height 3 m
Main gun 120-mm smoothbore
Machine guns 2 x 7.62-mm
Elevation range – 9 to + 20 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 42 rounds
Machine guns 4 750 x 7.62-mm
Engine MTU MB-837 Ka501 diesel
Engine power 1 500 hp
Maximum road speed 68 km/h
Range 500 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 30%
Vertical step 1.15 m
Trench 3 m
Fording 1 m
Fording (with preparation) 4 m

Full details of Leo 2A6

U.S.  M1A2 Abrams


Vehicle is armed with the M256 120-mm smoothbore gun, originally developed by Rheinmetall and manufactured under license in USA. This gun is loaded manually. The M1A2 has an improved fire control system and its components. Range of effective fire in excess of 4 km. The M1A2 has a target acquisition system with hunter-killer capability. Many tanks produced in the early 90s lack this capability.

Secondary armament consists of coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun, another 7.62-mm MG mounted over the gunner’s hatch and 12.7-mm MG mounted over commander’s hatch.

Vehicle has a crew of four, including commander, gunner, loader and driver.

The M1A2 Abrams is powered by Honeywell AGT1500 multi-fuel gas turbine engine, developing 1 500 horsepower. This engine can run on any grade of petrol, diesel, kerosene, or jet fuel. Its main drawback is a high fuel consumption and troublesome maintenance. Engine can be replaced in field conditions within 30 minutes.

Entered service 1992
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 62.5 t
Length (gun forward) 9.83 m
Hull length 7.92 m
Width 3.48 m
Height 2.44 m
Main gun 120-mm smoothbore
Machine guns 2 x 7.62-mm, 1 x 12.7-mm
Elevation range – 9 to + 20 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 40 rounds
Machine guns 12 400 x 7.62, 1 000 x 12.7
Engine Honeywell AGT1500 gas turbine
Engine power 1 500 hp
Maximum road speed 67 km/h
Range 425 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 1 m
Trench 2.7 m
Fording 1.2 m
Fording (with preparation) 2 m

For full details M1A2



One thought on “In NATO tank competition, U.S. comes up short against Germany

  1. pounce

    Competition such as this should be taken with a pinch of salt. For example when the British army fielded the Challenger 1 tank , it was entered into the NATO –Canadian Army Trophy- and did badly. really badly. This was down to simply not giving the troops selected time to practice. Yet only 4 years later, the Chally 1 in Kuwait performed brilliantly, outdoing every other tank going for no losses and recording the longest ranged tank kill in history:
    ” 4,700m first round FIN kill. It was a supreme technical achievement for man and machine. 4,700m, a shade under 3 miles, is more than three times the 1,200m battle range of the Challenger. The shot is written up in books, sometimes incorrectly, with one book saying it was a Depleted Uranium (DU) round, it wasn’t, it was a normal service FIN round while another book said it was at longer range, it wasn’t, it was 4,700m. I believe that it is the longest range direct fire kinetic round kill ever achieved by a tank on the battlefield.”

    Back to the article, the Danes,Germans are troops burdened by the diktats of political correctness , thankfully the Poles aren’t and neither are the US. Yes on Paper, the the first two look good in a fight, but having served alongside all 4 Nations, I would have the Yanks, Poles,Danes and then the Germans to watch my back



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