What is the Strong Europe Tank Challenge?

U.S. Army Europe and the German Bundeswehr co-hosted the Strong Europe Tank Challenge at Grafenwoehr Training Area, May 10-12, 2016, with an awards ceremony held on May 13.

Six NATO nations took part in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge — each sending tank platoons to vie for first place. The participating nations were: Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the United States.

Each team was tested on offensive and defensive operations as well as tasks including vehicle identification, battle damage assessment, mounted orienteering and more.

The Strong Europe Tank Challenge fosters military partnership while promoting NATO interoperability.

This is footage from the first day of the event. Denmark and Poland have the Leopard 2A5, Germany the Leopard 2A6, Italy the Ariete, Slovenia the M-84 and U.S. M1A2 Abrams.

The German platoon took top honors in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge, a three-day competition that tested offensive and defensive operations and mounted orienteering, with Denmark and Poland placing second and third, May 13, 2016.

Seven platoons from six NATO nations took part in the U.S. Army Europe and German Bundeswehr-sponsored competition that was hosted by 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, May 10-12, here.

Units that participated included Denmark’s 1st Platoon, 1st Tank Company, 1st Tank Battalion; Germany’s Platoon C, Company 3, Mountain Panzer Battalion 8, Panzer Brigade 12; Italy’s 1st Platoon, 2nd Company, 8th Battalion, 132nd Regiment; Poland’s 11th Lubuska Armoured Cavalry Division, 34th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, 1st Battalion, 1st Company, 1st Platoon; Slovenia’s Wolf Platoon, 45th Center of Tracked Combat Vehicles; and the U.S. Army’s 1st Platoon, D Company and 3rd Platoon, C Company both from 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

All platoons brought four tanks each to compete. Poland and Denmark both operated Leopard 2A5 tanks, each with crews of four soldiers. Slovenia competed with M-84 tanks with three people in each. Germany brought four-person crews to man Leopard 2A6 tanks. Italy’s four-person crews operated Ariete tanks. The U.S. had two platoons using M1A2 tanks with four Soldiers in each one.

“To maintain the whole portfolio of capabilities, it is really important to also train together with tanks,” said German Army Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal, chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe. “We want to promote the capabilities of armored warfare and tanks because it is needed.

“It is really important to work together with other nations as close as you can,” he said. “Only training and integration build interoperability and trust for success in multinational operations.”

Platoons rotated throughout the three events, vying for a possible 1,000 points. Crews conducted both offensive and defensive operations involving fire and maneuver for 350 possible points in each lane.

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Mounted orienteering had a possible 300 points that was combined from six 50-point tasks, including a mystery physical challenge that emphasized teamwork. Platoons navigated through an obstacle course with 13 challenges. Soldiers fired 10 rounds from three different locations using their own service weapons during the combat pistol shoot lane. The vehicle identification lane tested the platoons’ abilities to identify 25 friendly and threatening vehicles while traversing through a course. Crews had to recover, hook up and tow vehicles while under a simulated chemical attack. Finally, multinational teams reacted to an improvised explosive device, assessed and treated a casualty, and requested a medical evacuation.

This was the first multinational tank challenge that took place here since 1991, and the event fostered military partnership while promoting NATO interoperability.

“Grafenwoehr is an excellent place to do this because the maintenance areas are great, the ranges are great and the accommodations are great,” Laubenthal said. “We can really accommodate many, many nations here together.”

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Featured Image – German Leopard 2A6 battle tanks fire downrange during a maneuver at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES