Russia Is Building New T-80 Tanks (That Are Actually Ancient)

T-80 Tank
February 14, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaUkraineT-80TanksMilitaryDefenseWar In Ukraine

Russia Is Building New T-80 Tanks (That Are Actually Ancient)

Russia has largely put a positive spin on its efforts to produce and/or refurbish the older models. Recently, the Omsk-based Transport Engineering Plant Omsktransmash – part of the state-owned Uralvagonzavod defense enterprise within the military conglomerate Rostec – announced that it has delivered a batch of T-80BVM tanks with enhanced turret protection to Russian troops.

Russia Producing Upgraded T-80 Tanks - The Russian military has reportedly lost more than 3,000 tanks in the nearly two-year-long war in Ukraine – the equivalent of its entire pre-war active inventory. However, it maintains enough lower-quality armored vehicles in storage for years of replacements, according to the U.S.-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Ukraine has also seen significant losses, yet its Western military replenishment has allowed it to maintain its inventories while also seeing upgraded quality, Reuters reported.

Russia has managed to maintain its tank force over the past two years, including adding upwards of 1,500 tanks in the past year. However, only about 200 at most were newly built, and the large majority of those were refurbished older models.

"Moscow has been able to trade quality for quantity... by pulling thousands of older tanks out of storage at a rate that may, at times, have reached 90 tanks per month," the IISS report added.

T-80: New Old Tanks

Russia has largely put a positive spin on its efforts to produce and/or refurbish the older models. Recently, the Omsk-based Transport Engineering Plant Omsktransmash – part of the state-owned Uralvagonzavod defense enterprise within the military conglomerate Rostec – announced that it has delivered a batch of T-80BVM tanks with enhanced turret protection to Russian troops.

"Omsktransmash has dispatched a new batch of T-80BVM tanks to the Defense Ministry. The upgraded T-80BVM tanks have received enhanced reactive armor, which considerably improves the crew protection. In addition, the tanks leave the territory of the Omsk Transport Engineering Plant with an extra turret protection module, which was unveiled at the Army 2023 military forum," the Uralvagonzavod press office reported via a post on its Telegram social messaging channel.

Why the T-80?

According to Tass, the T-80BVM is an upgraded version of the T-80BV tank – and it features an improved 125mm cannon and an enhanced 1,250 hp gas turbine engine, along with a multi-channel gunner sight, while a mechanic-driver's vision device and an armament stabilizer are also mounted on the upgraded tank. The MBT is reinforced with slat armor and a modular active protection system.

T-80

Deliveries of T-80BVM tanks to Russian troops began in 2019.

As previously reported, it remains unclear why Russia would opt to produce additional T-80s. Though the Russian military has taken great strides in improving the T-80, which had been designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it hasn't exactly been a game changer in the war in Ukraine.

Moreover, Uralvagonzavod's factory in Omsk, Siberia, hasn't manufactured any new T-80 hulls since 1991, and even if the Omsk factory might still have the 32-year-old tooling, it may lack the suppliers for the tens of thousands of parts it would need to assemble a new T-80.

Yet, the T-80 was quite advanced for its day, and when the T-80 first entered service in 1976 and was only the second MBT to be equipped with a gas turbine engine­after the Swedish Strv 103. With a crew of three, the T-80's basic configuration is similar to most Russian tanks designed before the collapse of the Soviet Union including the T-72 and T-90.

T-80

Prior to its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin had approximately 480 T-80s of all models in active service, according to open-source intelligence. Some 3,000 additional tanks were in storage and are now being updated, and could soon be sent to Ukraine. It is possible – even likely – that Moscow isn't actually building new T-80s, but is upgrading the old models that have spent years in storage.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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