18 armies just took part in a crazy tank race in Russia – and South Africa came dead last

Business Insider SA
The Army Games 2018 tank biathlon. (Youtube / Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
  • The first event of the "military Olympics", a tank biathlon, took place in Russia on the weekend.
  • 18 countries raced tanks around a course at crazy speeds, stopping to fire at targets.
  • South Africa lost. Very, very badly.

South Africa came dead last in a spectacular "tank biathlon" even in Russia on the weekend, the opening event in the 2018 International Army Games, billed as the Olympics of the military world.

South Africa's tank team was clocked at 57 minutes to finish the course – versus less than 26 minutes for SA's group winner, Azerbaijan, to finish. 

Watch: SA and 38 other countries battle it out at the ‘military Olympics’ – featuring tank ballet and lots of stuff blowing up

On average the countries that finished the event did so in 31 minutes and 17 seconds. Only Zimbabwe came close to being as slow as SA, at a finishing time of 54 minutes and 27 seconds.

These were the official rankings, with South Africa (bottom right) identified by its Cyrillic acronym.

The racetrack features crazy high-speed sections, slalom-type poles, an anti-tank trench, and other obstacles. At various points along the track the tanks fire at targets that simulate infantry, another tank, and a helicopter

The Army Games run until August 11, with 28 events featuring 39 competing nations.

Most of the events take place in Russia, but there are also events scheduled in China, Kazakhstan, Iran, Belarus, and Armenia.

The Games includes everything from falconry – with drones – to a field-kitchen cook-off

But few of the events are as specular as the tank race.

Teams of three drive identical Russian T72 tanks supplied by the Russian military – although this year the Chinese team brought its own Type 96A tanks, and Belarus came with its own modified T72s.

Up to four teams are on the track at once, in different lanes, separated by a minute or two at start.

The 2018 tank biathlon track. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

As in more traditional biathlons, the final time is determined by summing the actual time to complete plus penalties for things such missing targets or driving over "mines" on the course.

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