Launched seven years ago as an annual military sports event in Russia, the International Army Games has found staunch supporters among several Asian nations, who eagerly open their firing ranges and training grounds to foreign servicemen competing for trophies. The number of competitions has risen to 34, of which China runs three, Vietnam two, Iran three, Armenia, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan one each. Even though Russia still hosts the majority (16), it now provides only 11 firing ranges and training grounds out of 23 in total.

Laotian crew on a T-72B3M, “Tank Biathlon”, Alabino Firing Range. Credit: V. Karnozov

Typically, the ARMY GAMES stretch for two weeks. Service personnel representing their national armed forces try to outdo others in skills in a given warfare discipline, military equipment operation, field repair and managing an emulated situation. This year’s event attracted over 5,000 participants in 277 national teams. These are just those taking part in the sports, not counting many more of their colleagues in 42 countries arranging and running the competitions and supporting their teams as fans and viewers.

Over 800 PLA officers and soldiers took part in the ARMY GAMES 2021. They fought in 21 contests, which is less than Russia (34), Belarus (27) and Uzbekistan (24). Addressing journalists in Kubinka, Chief Colonel Hu Zunpin (serving as a referee) stated that the event serves as an excellent platform for service personnel to show their skills, better train on the equipment and share experience with other armies. Since PLA officers are not entitled to address the media except under explicit orders to do so, it is believed the speech had been approved by senior PLA leadership.

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