SOLDIERS at Europe's biggest Army base are training with Russian tanks representing the enemy amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West.

Troops from The Royal Lancers came up against Soviet-built military hardware while taking part in Army skills competition at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.

The tanks, which included a BMP-1 and a 2S1 self-propelled howitzer, were acting as enemy for the reconnaissance soldiers to spy on.

“I was really surprised to see real Russian armour to be driving around,” said Corporal Stephen Beard, 39.

“Normally we identify models, but to have a real one was a total game changer.”

The competition, codenamed Exercise Omdurman Shield, was conducted over a 50km course and included medical skills, a shooting competition, vehicle recognition, and a close target reconnaissance.

This saw soldiers attempting to sneak up on the Russian tanks at the dead of night.

Soldiers then had to run two miles carrying over 40kgs and carrying a stretcher before then finishing an obstacle course.

“It’s designed to test soldiers under pressure at their most stretched,” said staff sergeant Tony Davis, 41, from Newcastle.

The soldiers all form part of the British Army’s first response team, the Lead Cavalry Battle Group.

“We are all on ten days notice to move at the drop a of a hat,” said Troop Leader Alastair Robertson, 24, from Leicestershire.

“Events like this really prepare us; navigating without any form of GPS was challenging, but it’s reassuring to know that all the blokes can do it.”

The competition concluded with a psychological test where the soldiers were told they were deploying for another 24 hours, and then were interrogated for information by senior ranks.

On Wednesday, a German politician warned that Russian president Vladimir Putin could try to fund anti-EU efforts in Britain in an attempt to weaken Europe.

The exercise is taking place as the US draws up plans to send 250 tanks to countries along the Russian border in a move it claims will “respond to Russian aggression” in Europe.