Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks during an opening ceremony of the International Army Games 2018, in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia, July 28, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHIN)
Israel will be participating in Russia’s International Army Games for the second year in a row, sending delegations to the games, which will also see the participation of teams from Iran and Syria.
The games were opened by Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu in Patriot Park on Saturday and will last until August 11. Participating are 189 teams from 32 countries, including for the first time personnel from Algeria, Vietnam, Sudan, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The games will be held at 24 training grounds in seven different countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, China and Russia.
Russia has been holding its annual military Olympics for the past four years with armies from around the world competing in professional fields such as tank biathlon, paratroopers, military medicine, military police, logistics and aerial maneuvering.
The 2018 program consists of 28 contests, including the tank biathlon, fighter jet maneuvering contest, a Seaborne Assault contest, a Depth competition held in Iran as well as smaller competitions like falcon hunting, military medical relay race and service dog race.
Israel will be participating in three competitions, all on Russian soil: the military rally, a field kitchen cook-off and a field medicine rally. It will be competing against Russia in all three, against Iran only in field medicine – although Tehran is participating in 17 of the 28 contests – and not against Syria in any of them.
As part of the kitchen cook-off, in which Israel came in last place in 2017, the Israeli team participated against teams from Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Mongolia and Vietnam. As of press time, Israel is in tenth place out of 12.
Israel will also face off against teams from, among other countries: Iran, Armenia, China, Myanmar and Zimbabwe in the field medicine rally which includes a shooting competition, an individual race demonstrating special medical skills (first aid, evacuation of the wounded from the battlefield, etc.), team qualification with the use of military equipment and cross-country driving contest.
Israel will not be sending a large military delegation to participate for several reasons, including the cost of transporting equipment and lack of willingness to expose capabilities, as well as not having permission from the Americans to send US-built equipment to Russian soil.
The tank biathlon, one of the central parts of the games, saw the participation of 23 countries including Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Iran, Morocco, Syria and Sudan. Each team consists of 21 soldiers divided into four crews and tests the crews’ driving skills traversing over some 15 km. in the shortest time possible while firing at various targets such as models of other tanks, helicopters and rocket-propelled grenade-launcher crews.
While Israel did not participate in the biathlon, a spokesman from the IDF told The Jerusalem Post that officers were sent to watch and learn from countries who did participate.
Israel’s flag was nonetheless posted next to the Iranian flag on the games’ official website as participating – since Israel immediately precedes Iran in Russian alphabetical order.
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