Watch the NATO tank competition where the US lost to Germany, Denmark, and Poland

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A German solider peers out the hatch of a Leopard 2A5 tank during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Javon Spence

On May 13, seven platoons from six NATO nations squared off for the Strong Europe Tank Challenge, a three-day tank competition that tested offensive and defensive operations.

The German platoon took first place, with Denmark taking second and Poland taking third.

The US platoons did not place in the contest, which was the first of its kind since 1991.

The joint competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, underlines a large-scale effort to increase military readiness in Eastern Europe as Russia increasingly engages in threatening behaviors.

Increasingly, military planners are beginning to realize that conventional warfare, like infantry and tank brigades, are needed to deter, or even win a conflict with Russia.

“To maintain the whole portfolio of capabilities, it is really important to also train together with tanks,” German Army Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal, the first non-American to be chief of staff for US Army Europe, said in a US Army statement. “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.”

In the slides below, see exactly how the competition went down.


Here is the German Leopard 2A6 at the competition.

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German Bundeswehr Soldiers fire at their target, during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge, at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 11, 2016.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Javon Spence

Crew: 4 soldiers

Platoon size: 4 tanks

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 42 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 36 feet

Weight: 62 tons


Here’s the Danish entry into the competition, also a Leopard but a 2A5 model.

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A Danish soldier guides a Danish Leopard tank, during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC), at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 10, 2016.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Emily Houdershieldt

Crew: 4 soldiers

Platoon size: 4 tanks

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 45 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 62.5 tons


Here we see the Polish Leopard 2A5.

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Polish soldiers, assigned to the 34th Armor Cavalry Brigade, conduct a Vehicle Identification exercise on their Polish Leopard tank, as part of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC), at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 10, 2016.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Emily Houdershieldt

Crew: 4 soldiers

Platoon size: 4 tanks

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 45 mph

Range: 310 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 62.5 tons


Here is the M1A2 Abrams SEP, the US’s entry into the contest.

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US soldiers, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, move to their battle position, during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC), at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 11, 2016.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Javon Spence

Crew: 4 soldiers

Platoon size: 4 tanks

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 12.7 mm, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 41/25 mph on road / off road

Range: 240 miles

Length: 32 feet

Weight: 62 tons


Here international troops inspect Slovenia’s M-84 tank. Troops from all countries performed inspections of each other’s armor to improve interoperability.

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Soldiers from all nations participating in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) inspect each other’s equipment May 8, 2016 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.
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US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

Crew: 3 soldiers

Platoon size: 4 tanks

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 12.7 mm, 7.62 mm

Speed: 42 mph

Range: 435 miles

Length: 31 feet

Weight: 41.5 tons


This is Italy’s Ariete tank firing a round in the competition.

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An Ariete Italian tank fires at its target during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC), at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 12, 2016.
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US Army photo by Spc. Nathanael Mercado

Crew: 4 soldiers

Platoon size: 4 tanks

Armament: 120 mm smoothbore, 2x 7.62 mm

Speed: 30/18 mph on road / off road

Range: 310 miles

Length: 31 feet

Weight: 54 tons


Crews had to compete in an obstacle course and carry heavy tank rounds.


They also had to identify 25 friendly and threatening vehicles while going through the course.

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Soldiers from all nations participating in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) inspect each other’s equipment May 8, 2016 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.
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US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

Tank crews competed in offensive drills, like hitting moving targets.


Many rounds were fired.


Tanks also practiced defensive operations, like towing a tank during a simulated gas attack.


Crew members also had to get out and fire 10 rounds from three different locations in a shooting test …


… but they weren’t all using pistols.

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A Polish soldier, assigned to the 34th Armor Cavalry Brigade, fires a PM-84 Glauberyt, as part of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC), at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 10, 2016.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Emily Houdershieldt

Lastly, crews had to respond to a simulated IED strike, where they had to treat and evacuate casualties.

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Polish soldiers, assigned to the 34th Armor Cavalry Brigade, prepare to evacuate a simulated casualty, as part of the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC), at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 10, 2016.
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US Army photo by Pfc. Emily Houdershieldt

Though the US lost to Germany, Denmark, and Poland, the real winners were NATO forces at large, as the competition helped to strengthen the bonds between foreign militaries and increase interoperability.

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Soldiers from all nations participating in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) pose for a group photo May 08, 2016 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. The SETC is cohosted by US Army Europe and the German Bundeswehr May 10 to 13, 2016.
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US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger