russia's annual international army games are back and bigger than ever. the games, which pit the armed forces of (largely totalitarian) countries against one another in staged military exercises, are in their fifth year. thirty countries took part in the games between august 3 and 17, which for the first time took place in locations outside russia including iran, india, and china.
this year's games packed in more than 30 competitions, including the popular tank biathlon, a sniper competition, aviadarts fighter and helicopter games, bridge-laying exercises, and even a field kitchen exercise that involves baking bread. the games typically feature some fairly realistic competitions, where soldiers, sailors, and airmen are graded on their ability to complete tasks skillfully in a set amount of time.
the list of contestant countries has slowly increased over the years, and this year's participants included russia, belarus, china, kazakhstan, iran, angola, cuba, armenia, azerbaijan, india, venezuela, zimbabwe, syria, tajikistan, uzbekistan, and mongolia. the u.s. military has been invited to previous games but has declined. most participants are traditional client states or regional allies of the soviet union and now russia, and many have nondemocratic or even dictatorial regimes.
many countries, as friends of russia, use russian equipment and thus have little trouble using competition equipment. (unlike an olympic snowboard, it's not easy shipping a 40-ton t-72b3 tank overseas.) china tends to send its own tanks and armored vehicles. the vehicles are often painted in bright colors to stand apart in the competition. there are occasionally accidents, with tanks skidding out of control and equipment breaking down. watch the tanks fly in the video below.
russia's ministry of defense has released a lot of footage from the games on youtube. china's ministry of defense reported that the country's teams won the master gunsmith howitzer repair competition and the seaborne assault marine landing exercise.
the u.s., france, slovakia, and turkey sent observers—but not participants—to the games.