The 169th Training center, the military unit A-0665, is located 70 km to the north from Kyiv, on the left bank of Kyiv water reservoir. The place is silent, wild and uninhabited, surrounded by pinewood with rare glades. The only proof that we are on the military base is the funny street sign - tank in a white triangle with red frame, warning drivers to beware of tracks.
The armor-training battlefield is located several km far from the town Desna.
Troopers hold not training as it is, but competition among troops of Crimea, Chernihiv region, Kryvyi Rig, Novograd-Volynsk, Lviv region and Volodymyr-Volynsk. Troopers compete for the title of "The best tank troop of the Armed Forces of Ukraine". Troopers participate not only for the fame and award, but for financial compensation as well. The prize fund makes UAH 100 thousand. The gold winner gets 50 thousand, silver winner gets 30 thousand and bronze winner - 20 thousand. The reward is divided equally among the participants of the winning troop. Thus, troopers get 5, 3 and 2 thousand each, respectively. For troopers this is good money, as lieutenant's salary is about 2000 hryvnias and young contract-soldiers get even less.
The competition is held in several stages and lasts 11 days - from August 27 to September 6.
The mass media was invited to observe one of the days, one of the richest with events. The troops shoot tank guns using various targets: gun team, armored vehicles or personnel target of imaginary enemy.
The difficulty of this stage of the competition is that troops do not know when and where on the field the target will appear. A troop commander must lead all three tanks and divide targets among them, so it does not happen that two tanks shoot the same target. Besides, the shooting is carried out from a moving tank, which complicates the task.
Tanks in marching formation took the departure position, then reformed in the battle formation and started the attack. Shots were coming one after another, accompanied with machine-guns. After every shot the target area burst with dust and smoke.
The only way to verify whether the target was hit is to use army field glasses - the targets are located minimum one and a half kilometers far from the observation platform.
Having finished shooting the troop left to discharge the combat vehicles, and the next competitor was on the position.
No training passes without an accident. During the shooting competition, the training was suddenly stopped and an ambulance arrived at the firing point.
Fortunately, nothing serious happened. One of the gun-layers got gas-poisoning, when powder gases ended up in the tank turret during the shooting. The trooper received necessary medical assistance and the completion continued.
When the shooting competition was over, the tanks and guns returned to the park for cleaning and maintenance works.
The cleaning of a tank gun barrel is a complicated procedure lasting about 20 minutes and involving the whole team - commander, gun-layer and tank driver.
The tanks, which took part in the competition, are the most common models of the USSR and now Ukraine's Armed Forces - T-64. They were put in operation back in 60ies of the last century and still serve hand and foot.
Since then the tanks have been modified repeatedly, but have become obsolescent anyway, especially their electronics, navigation and aiming systems. However, the Armed Forces have already started the complete modernization of the tank fleet. Except for the frame and gun, the guts of T-64 will be replaced with the latest equipment. The re-equipped tank will be named "Bulat". Several tens of these combat vehicles have already been put in operation and keep coming to the tank troops. The most important, we have people to serve on these machines.
Dmytro Khyliuk, photos by Maxim Trebukhov
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