T-80

The T-80 is a third-generation main battle tank (MBT) designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union. A development of the T-64, it entered service in 1976 and was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine for main propulsion. The T-80U was last produced in a factory in Omsk, Russia, while the T-80UD and further-developed T-84 continue to be produced in Ukraine. The T-80 and its variants are in service in Belarus, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine. The chief designer of the T-80 was the Russian engineer Nikolay Popov.


T-80
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Kirov Plant
Production Period 1976 - 1992
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1976
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Armenia View
China 1993 View
Cyprus 2010 View
Egypt 1997 View
Kazakhstan View
Pakistan 1997 View
Russia (USSR) 1976 View
South Korea 1996 View
Ukraine 1995 View
Yemen 2000 View
Belarus 2000 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Omsktransmash 1976 1992 View
Malyshev Factory 1976 1992 View
Kirov Plant 1976 1992 5404 View

The project to build the first Soviet turbine powered tank began in 1949. Its designer was A. Ch. Starostienko, who worked at the Leningrad Kirov Plant (LKZ). The tank was never built because available turbine engines were of very poor quality. In 1955 two prototype 1,000 hp (746 kW) turbine engine were built at the same plant under the guidance of G. A. Ogloblin. Two years later a team led by the famous heavy tank designer Zh. Y. Kotin constructed two prototypes of the Ob'yekt 278 tank. Both were hybrids of the IS-7 and the T-10 heavy tanks, powered by the GTD-1 turbine engine, weighing 53.5 tonnes and armed with the M65 130 mm tank gun. The turbine engine allowed the tank to reach a maximum speed of 57.3 km/h (35.6 mph) but with only 1950 liters of fuel on board, range was a mere 300 km (190 mi). The two tanks were considered experimental vehicles and work on them eventually ceased. In 1963, the Morozov Design Bureau designed the T-64 and T-64T tanks. They used a GTD-3TL turbine engine which generated 700 hp (522 kW). The tank was tested until 1965. At the same time in Uralvagonzavod a design team under the guidance of L. N. Kartsev created the Ob'yekt 167T tank. It used the GTD-3T turbine engine which supplied 801 hp (597 kW).

In 1966 the experimental Ob'yekt 288 rocket tank, powered by two aerial GTD-350 turbine engines with a combined power of 691 hp (515 kW), was first built. Trials indicated that twin propulsion was no better than the turbine engine which had been in development since 1968 at KB-3 of the Kirov Plant (LKZ) and at WNII Transmash. The tank from LKZ equipped with this turbine engine was designed by Nikolay Popov. It was constructed in 1969 and designated Ob'yekt 219 SP1. It was renamed the T-64T, and was powered by a GTD-1000T multi-fuel gas turbine engine producing up to 1,000 hp (746 kW). During the trials it became clear that the increased weight and dynamic characteristics required a complete redesign of the vehicle's caterpillar track system. The second prototype, designated Ob'yekt 219 SP2, received bigger drive sprockets and return rollers. The number of wheels was increased from five to six. The construction of the turret was altered to use the same compartment, 125 mm 2A46 tank gun, auto loader and placement of ammunition as the T-64A. Some additional equipment was scavenged from the T-64A. The LKZ plant built a series of prototypes based on Ob'yekt 219 SP2. After seven years of upgrades, the tank became the T-80.

Soviet Union

Two T-80UD MBTs on the Red Square in Moscow during the failed Coup d'état attempt, August 1991

In 1985 there were 1,900 T-80 MBTs overall. According to data publicized in Russia, 2,256 T-80 MBTs were stationed in East Germany between 1986 and 1987. NATO realized that new Soviet tanks could reach the Atlantic within two weeks and because of that started to develop counter methods that could stop them. This led to a sudden increase in development of anti-tank weapons including attack helicopters. In 1991 when the Soviet Union was breaking up the Soviet Army operated 4,839 T-80 MBTs in several different models.

T-80 MBTs were never used in the way in which they were intended (large-scale conventional war in Europe). They were deployed during the political and economical changes in Russia in the 1990s; In August 1991 communists and allied military commanders tried to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev and regain control over the unstable Soviet Union. T-80UD tanks of the Russian 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division drove onto the streets of Moscow but the Soviet coup attempt failed.

Russia

While a number of T-80 MBTs were inherited by Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia had possession of the majority of the tanks.

In 1995 the number of T-80 tanks increased to around 5,000 but was reduced in 1998 to 3,500.

The Russian Army had 3,044 T-80s and variants in active service and 1,456 in reserve as of 2008. There are at least 460 T-80UD in service with 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division and 4th Guards Kantemirowsk Motor Rifle Division. A T-80BV is on display in Kubinka Tank Museum and a T-80U is on display at an open air museum in Saratov. The T-80Us have recently been seen at arms expos in Russia such as VTTV.

During the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis Boris Yeltsin ordered the use of tanks against the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People's Deputies which opposed him. On 4 October 1993 six T-80UD MBTs from 12th Guards Tank Regiment, 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division took positions on a bridge opposite the Russian parliament building, and fired on it.

In July 1998, a T-80 commanded by Major Igor Belyaev was driven into a square in front of the administration building of Novosmolensk and its gun aimed at the building in protest of several months of unpaid wages.

First Chechen War

T-80B and T-80BV MBTs were never used in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but they were first used during the First Chechen War. This first real combat experience for T-80 MBTs was unsuccessful, as the tanks were used for capturing cities, a task for which they were not very well suited. The biggest tank losses were suffered during the ill-fated assault on the city of Grozny. The forces selected to capture Grozny were not prepared for such an operation, while the city was defended by, among others, veterans of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. The T-80 tanks used in this operation either did not have reactive armour (T-80B) or they were not fitted before the start of the operation (T-80BV), and the T-80 crews lacked sufficient training before the war.

The inexperienced crews had no knowledge of the layout of the city, while the tanks were attacked by RPG teams hidden in cellars and on top of high buildings. The anti-tank fire was directed at the least armoured points of the vehicles. Each destroyed tank received from three to six hits, and each tank was fired at by six or seven rocket-propelled grenades. A number of vehicles exploded when the autoloader, with vertically placed rounds, was hit: in theory it should have been protected by the road wheel, but, when the tanks got hit on their side armour, the ready-to-use ammunition exploded. Out of all armored vehicles that entered Grozny, 225 were destroyed in the first month alone, representing 10.23% of all the tanks committed to the campaign. The T-80 performed so poorly that General-Lieutenant A. Galkin, the head of the Armor Directorate, convinced the Minister of Defence after the conflict to never again procure tanks with gas-turbine engines. After that, T-80 MBTs were never again used to capture cities, and, instead, they supported infantry squads from a safe distance. Defenders of the T-80 point out that the T-72 performed just as badly in urban fighting in Grozny as the T-80 and that there were two mitigating factors: after the breakup of the Soviet Union, poor funding meant no training for new Russian tank crews, and the tank force entering the city had no infantry support, which is considered to be suicidal by many major military strategists of armored warfare.

Exported T-80s

Poland

While other kinds of Soviet equipment, like the T-72, were exported to many countries around the world, T-80, like T-64 before it, had a status of secret weapon which meant that it was not planned to be exported early on. Despite that, Poland was negotiating with the Soviet Union to buy either T-72S or T-80 MBTs. There were plans to start serial production of T-80 MBTs in Poland but it turned out that Polish industry was not yet ready to handle T-80 production.[citation needed] After the political changes of 1989 in Poland and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, Polish-Soviet talks on purchase of modern tanks came to a halt. This led to Poland developing the PT-91 MBT.

United Kingdom

In 1992, the United Kingdom bought a number of T-80U MBTs for defence research and development. They were not bought officially but through a specially created trading company which was supposed to deliver them to Morocco. The price of five million USD offered for each tank ensured a lack of suspicion on the part of the Russians. Britain evaluated the tanks on their proving grounds and transferred one to the US where the Americans evaluated it on the Aberdeen Proving Ground. While evaluating the vehicle, the US and UK are alleged to have noted any weak spots and flaws of the T-80U. In January 1994, British Minister of State for Defence Procurement Jonathan Aitken (answering a Question to the Secretary of State for Defence) confirmed in parliamentary debates that a Russian T-80U tank was imported for "defence research and development purposes".

People's Republic of China

Some sources considers in late 1993 Russia signed a contract with the People's Republic of China for the sale of 200 T-80U MBTs for evaluation. Only 50 were delivered.

Pakistan

Ukrainian exports of the T-80UD have been moderately successful. In 1993 and 1995 Ukraine demonstrated the tank to Pakistan, which was looking for a new main battle tank. The tank was tested in Pakistan and in August 1996 Pakistan decided to buy 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine for $650 million in two variants: a standard Ob'yekt 478B and export Ob'yekt 478BE. The tanks were all supposed to be delivered in 1997. After the first batch of 15 vehicles were shipped in February 1997, Russia protested that they held the rights to the tank and that Ukraine couldn't export it. Nearly 70% of T-80UD components were produced outside of Ukraine (mainly in Russia). Under the guise of keeping good relations with India, one of its most important military customers, Russia withheld 2A46-2 125 mm smoothbore guns, cast turrets and other technology, which forced Ukraine to make its tank industry independent. It developed domestic components, including a welded turret which was in use on the new T-84. Ukraine was able to ship 20 more T-80UD tanks to Pakistan between February and May 1997. These 35 tanks were from Ukrainian Army stocks of 52 T-80UDs; they were built in the Malyshev plant several years before but were not delivered to their original destination. Their capabilities were below the standard agreed by both Ukraine and Pakistan. The contract was completed by shipping another 285 Ukrainian T-80UD MBTs between 1997 and early 2002. These had the welded turret and other manufacturing features of the T-84.

Cyprus

Cyprus is the first foreign country to officially obtain T-80 tanks. Russia sold 27 T-80U and 14 T-80UK for $174 million to Cyprus in 1996. The tanks arrived in two batches. The first shipment consisted of 27 T-80U MBTs arriving in 1996, while the second batch of 14 T-80UK MBTs arrived in 1997. This significantly reinforced the army of this country; their best tank up until that point was the AMX-30B2. New tanks gave the Cypriot National Guard the edge in a possible confrontation with the Turkish Army in Northern Cyprus. In October 2009 Cyprus ordered an additional batch of 41 used T-80Us and T-80UKs from Russia for €115 million. Deliveries are expected to be completed in the first half of 2011.

South Korea

South Korea was given 33 T-80U and 2 T-80UK tanks to pay Russian debts incurred during the days of the Soviet Union. The tanks came in three batches; the first was of six T-80Us in 1996, followed by 27 T-80Us in 1997, and finally two T-80UKs in 2005. Originally, eighty T-80Us were planned.

United States

The US Government obtained one T-80U from the United Kingdom. It was evaluated on the Aberdeen Proving Ground. In 2003, Ukraine transferred four T-80UD MBTs to the USA.

Failed export attempts

Apart from Cyprus and the People's Republic of China, Russia has tried to export T-80 MBTs to Turkey and Greece, who were looking for new tanks. These two attempts have failed. They were also offered to Sweden for its mechanized brigades in the early 1990s but lost to second hand Leopard 2A4s (Strv 121) and new upgraded 2A5s (Strv 122).

Type Main battle tank
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1976–present
Used by Belarus, Cyprus, Kazakhstan,Armenia, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine
Wars First Chechen War, Second Chechen War, 2008 South Ossetia War, War in Donbass
Production history
Designer Nikolay Popov, LKZ (T-80),KMDB (T-80UD)
Designed 1967–1975
Manufacturer LKZ and Omsk Transmash, Russia
Malyshev Factory, Ukraine
Unit cost USD $2.2 million T80U export, 1994.
Produced 1976–1992
Number built 5,404 (as of 2005)
Variants engineering & recovery, mobile bridge, mine-plough with KMT-6 plough-type system and KMT-7 roller-type system.
Specifications (T-80B / T-80U)
Weight 42.5 tonnes T-80B, 46 tonnes T-80U
Length 9.9 m (32 ft 6 in) T-80B, 9.654 m (31 ft 8.1 in) T-80U (gun forward)
7.4 m (24 ft 3 in) T-80B, 7 m (23 ft 0 in) T80U, (hull)
Width 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in) T-80B
3.603 m (11 ft 9.9 in) T-80U
Height 2.202 m (7 ft 2.7 in) T-80B, T-80U
Crew 3
Armour T-80B : Hull 440-450 mm vs APFSDS 500-575 mm vs HEAT, Turret 500 mm vs APFSDS 650 mm vs HEAT
T-80U : Hull & Turret with Kontakt-5 780 mm vs APFSDS 1320 mm vs HEAT
Main
armament
125 mm 2A46-2 smoothbore gun, 36 rounds T-80B, 2A46M-1 with 45 rounds T-80U
9M112 Kobra ATGM, 4 missiles T-80B, 9M119 Refleks ATGM, 6 missiles T-80U
Secondary
armament
7.62 mm PKT coax MG, 12.7 mmNSVT or PKT antiaircraft MG
Engine SG-1000 gas turbine T-80B, GTD-1250 turbine T-80U, or one of 3 diesel T-80UD
1,000 hp T-80B, 1,250 hp T-80U
Power/weight 23.5 hp/tonne T-80B
27.2 hp/tonne T-80U
Transmission manual, 5 forward gears, 1 reverse T-80B, 4 forward, 1 reverse T-80U
Suspension torsion bar
Ground clearance 0.38 m (1.2 ft) T-80B, 0.446 m (1.46 ft) T-80U
Fuel capacity 1,100 litres (240 imp gal) (internal)
740 litres (160 imp gal) (external)
Operational
range
335 km (208 mi) (road, without external tanks)
415 km (258 mi) (road, with external tanks)
Speed 70 km/h (43 mph) (road)
48 km/h (30 mph) (cross country)

End notes