Monday, 7th May 2012, 1345 Imfl hours — “Due to the current news-official situation from military intelligence, the stand-out situation FURST or SEE is likely to happen. The move of major parts of the brigade into staging area Uster and of Infanteriebatailllon 61 into the staging area Wil to be undertaken immediately.” — this was the initial order for Panzer Battalion 13 to start the Field Training Exercise (FTX) ‘Stabilo Due’.
Between Monday, 7th May and Wednesday, 9th May 2012, the Swiss Panzer Battalion 13 of Panzer Brigade II conducted a Field Training Exercise in a civil area around Uster-Wil, Bischofszell and Gossau involving some 1,000 soldiers and more than 50 tracked vehicles.
The battalion provides multiple tasks and as well as the ‘Fiihrungsstaffel’ (Headquarters Squadron) and the logistics squadron, the unit also fields two armoured squadrons with 11 Panzer 87 WE (Leopard 2 Wert Erhalt (Leopard 2 (value preservation) and two companies with 14 Spz 2000 (CV90) infantry fighting vehicles, enabling the commanding officer to undertake multiple tasks.
Over the next three days, the battalion’s six squadrons trained as a mechanised unit as if they were facing real combat conditions. The exercise took place away from the military training areas in the area between Hinwil and Frauenfeld, where soldiers were faced with situations not normally found on any training area, i.e. the civil traffic network, that is often designed for civilian vehicles rather than armoured formations. It was therefore necessary to plan a route suitable for an armoured formation that doesn’t have to negotiate built up areas and to ensure that bridges and roads can withstand the weight of main battle tanks. This demanded careful and serious planning procedures, correct release of orders and the attention of both vehicle drivers and commanders to avoid expensive damage. Furthermore, they aimed not to disturb civil traffic any more than necessary.
Snipers & Dilemmas
The FTX was split into four phases, moving into staging area in Uster, approaching the operational theatre in the direction of Wil, and attacking the area around Fiirst to secure the area.
On Monday, the battalion moved from Hinwil to Volketswil, Effretikon, Ilnau, Weisslingen and Russikon.
On Tuesday morning 08:30 troops started moving towards Russikon-Wila-Tubenthal-Bichelsee-Balterswil-Eschlikon-Miinchwilen-Wil-Zuzwil-Oberbiiren-Niederbiiren and Bischofszell.
During the exercise, some twenty ‘Markeure’ (Role Players) provided unexpected situations for the battalion with the role players acting out a series of scenarios, challenging the squadrons in a variety of situations ranging from angry villagers, blocking roads to mob rule, and saboteurs trying to infiltrate opposing forces, needless to say the role players kept the battalion busy!
Some 1,000 soldiers with about 50 tanks are hardly likely to go unnoticed in a civilian area, and the armoured squadrons of Panzer Battalion 13 became unlikely stars in the villages, with interested people looking in and around the military vehicles, children being treated to military biscuits by the soldiers and older people chatting about their own military experiences. Even the civil land owners (mainly farmers), showed a positive attitude to the FTX, supporting the troops move into their staging areas willingly.
It was obvious, that an FTX like ‘Stabilo Due’ is not an every day occurrence and the rarity of the event prompted media interest with more than a dozen representatives joining the battalion, reporting directly from the only FTX conducted by Panzerbrigade 11 in 2012.
Panzer Brigade 17
The Panzer Brigade 11, with their commanding staff at Winterthur, field a total of eight battalions and detachments as an effective armoured formation, including:
Fiihrungsunterstu tzungsbataillon 11 (Headquarters Support Battalion 11); Aufklarungsbataillon 11 (Reconnaissance Battalion 11); Infanteriebataillon 61 (Armoured Infantry Battalion); Panzerbataillon 13 (Armoured Battalion 13); Panzerbataillon 14 (Armoured Battalion 14); Panzerbataillon 29 (Armoured Battalion 29); Artillerieabteilung 16 (Artillery Detachment 16); and Panzersappeurbataillon 11 (Armoured Engineer Battalion 11).
The brigade has about 10,122 soldiers and is equipped in the following way: 143 Armoured Command and Engineer vehicles (Piranha 6×6 & 8×8); 116 CV 2000 (CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle); 112 Kampfpanzer 87 Leopard 2 WE (Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks); 73 Reconnaissance Vehicles (Mowag Eagle); 48 12 cm Minenwerferpanzer 64/91 (Mortars based on Mil3); 28 Panzerhaubitzen (Self Propelled Guns); 20 Panzerjager (Anti-Tank Guided Weapon); 17 Schiesskommandantenfahrzeuge
(Armoured Command Vehicle); 17 Kdo Radschiitzenpanzer 93/99 inkl. INTAFF (Integrated Artillery Target Engagement System)
The Swiss Panzerbrigade 11 is equipped with the most modem combat vehicles within the Swiss Armed Forces, used primarily for the task of providing defence in the event of a military attack.
Next to the Panzer Brigade 1 from French-speaking Western Switzerland, Panzer Brigade 11 forms the only remaining heavy brigade within the Swiss Armed Forces, and while most NATO states in Europe seem to be reducing heavy armoured formations, this currently cannot be said of the Swiss Army.
A DVD of this FTX is available from M&N Pictures (Order number 144), see the website below for details, www.mn-pictures.de