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Comprehensive national defense includes the struggle for critical infrastructure. These include mines without a doubt. However, freeway, road or subway tunnels can also be environments in which military opponents have to be fought. The Austrian Armed Forces recently carried out extensive evaluations of how to ensure that any attackers in the shaft have a shift in the shaft as quickly as possible: For five weeks, a combat group in company strength on the Styrian Erzberg in the tunnel training area "Center on the Mountain" trained the fight underground.

Österreichisches Bundesheer öffnet den Tunnelblick: Schicht im Schacht für Terroristen
Infantrymen from fighter battalion 18 deployed underground. (Photo: Bundesheer / Kiedl)

The whole thing happened within the framework of the military research project "NIKE" (sustainable interdisciplinarity in complex operations underground). The armed forces' ability to fight underground is to be further developed. The responsible project group under Colonel Peter H. coordinates the research and development work. Military and civilian experts from the Montan University, specialists with Montanist know-how from the militia and experienced representatives of the various blue light organizations work together. "We are developing the urgently required ability to fight underground," said Colonel H. "The 'Center on the Mountain' at the Montan University provides us with a perfect infrastructure for training, applied research and development."


Combat group in company strength

The company-strong training force consisted of around 100 soldiers. It included professional soldiers from the Jäger Battalion 18, a pioneer and ordnance defense platoon as well as specialists from the NBC Defense Force.

Österreichisches Bundesheer öffnet den Tunnelblick: Schicht im Schacht für Terroristen
The Ulan armored personnel carrier proved itself underground as a combat force multiplier. (Photo: Bundesheer / Kiedl)

The research, development and training center of the Montanuniversität Leoben offered a challenging training ground for underground collaboration: four kilometers of facilities were available. As part of the exercises, tactics, adjustments including night vision technology and heavy breathing protection as well as other resources such as sniffer dogs or special equipment such as speleologist leaders were evaluated. The highlight of the five-week test block was the interaction of all units in a realistic underground application scenario.

Major Rosche F., commander of the combat group: “The use under the surface of the earth carries different and higher risks and we train soldiers to fight against military attackers in a tunnel system with heavy breathing protection with simulated danger of collapse after a bomb attack and at the same time in complete darkness after a power failure - because we assume a complex application scenario. "

Österreichisches Bundesheer öffnet den Tunnelblick: Schicht im Schacht für Terroristen


Österreichisches Bundesheer öffnet den Tunnelblick: Schicht im Schacht für Terroristen
Wounded evacuation by the ABC defense team. (Photo: Bundesheer / Kiedl)

First findings

At the end of the exercise, the Federal Army drew a positive conclusion. Considerable experience has been gained, particularly with regard to fighting in toxic underground systems. In addition, for the first time during the exercise, an Ulan armored personnel carrier was tested in a road and rail tunnel. The tracked vehicle proved to be effective protection and support for the soldiers in order to act against military attackers.

"With the completion of this research section, we gained very important knowledge," said Colonel H. "These are now being analyzed in detail and should be available for further testing and training regulations. After all, this is about dealing with a complex threat to our fellow citizens - and with the greatest possible protection for our soldiers. We have made a big step in developing capabilities in underground military combat under complex conditions. ”

Jan-Phillipp Weisswange