The T-80 was created with the aim of catching up with NATO, but became a headache in operation.
Videos regularly appear online showing trainloads of Russian tanks that the Kremlin is transporting to Ukraine to replenish its catastrophic losses. Among them, you can often see the T-80.
This choice is rather difficult to explain. After all, in the army of the Russian Federation it was far from being as common as, for example, the T-72, it is distinguished by rather complex maintenance and “voracity”.
The history of the appearance of the T-80
The history of the T-80 is rooted in competition between three Soviet tank design bureaus in Kharkov, Nizhny Tagil and what was then Leningrad. After the Kharkov T-64A with a 125-mm cannon was adopted in 1968, it was supposed to become the most massive battle tank.
But the Nizhny Tagil people assured the leadership of the USSR that this machine was rather complicated and expensive to manufacture, and they were producing their project, the future T-72, having issued its appearance by 1969, and four years later it was put into service.
At the same time, in the 60s, the United States and Germany were jointly developing the promising MBT-70 tank. When Soviet intelligence found out about the plans to install a 1500-horsepower engine on it, it became clear that both the T-64A with a 750-horsepower engine and the T-72 with a 780-horsepower engine lose to it in terms of mobility at times.
Therefore, in 1968, the Leningrad Design Bureau, which had been experimenting with gas turbine installations since the 50s, received an order to upgrade the T-64A with a promising 1000-horsepower gas turbine engine, which was supposed to provide a speed of 70 km / h.
As a result of the work, it turned out that the undercarriage could not withstand high-speed loads and the modernization actually turned into the development of a new tank, in which only the gun, the loading mechanism, armor protection elements and individual components and systems remained from the T-64A.
Thus, from 1968 to 1976, the USSR adopts three tanks that are incompatible in terms of suspension, engines and the absolute majority of all components, assemblies and systems, but are the same in terms of firepower and level of armor. And to this “zoo” then a lot of modifications of the machines already adopted were added.
In particular, in 1978, that is, two years after being put into service, the T-80B was produced, which received a guided weapon system and a new fire control system. And in 1985 – T-80BV with dynamic protection “Contact”.
Features of T-80BV
That is what the T-80 was created for – a 1000-horsepower gas turbine engine, the power of which was later increased several times to 1250 hp, really provides high dynamic performance and allows the tank to tear from a standstill. But it also became a real headache in operation.
Firstly, it is “gluttonous” – fuel consumption is 460 liters per 100 km, and this is when driving on paved roads. And off-road, the “appetite” of the T-80 is even higher.
Secondly, unlike diesel engines, gas turbine plants, which are more often used in aviation, are quite sensitive to dust, so a whole system of filters is installed on the T-80 to clean the air. And the engine itself requires regular, thorough and professional maintenance.
In Kharkov, even before the collapse of the USSR, they managed to develop and adopt the T-80UD, tritely “throwing out” the gas turbine engine and installing a diesel 6TD. By the way, it was these Kharkov machines that shot down the White House in Moscow in 1993. According to an interview with one of those tankers, the T-80UD were the only ones that could then be brought in from all the T-80s that were in the three regiments of the Kantemirovskaya division.
In terms of overall combat capabilities, compared to the T-72B, the T-80BV has significantly better efficiency due to a more advanced fire control system. But the operational characteristics of the machine, which were demonstrated for years in the army of the SRSR, and then the Russian Federation, were so unsatisfactory that they were massively written off since the 2000s. In particular, in 2000, the Russian army was armed with 7558 T-80s of all versions, and in 2021 only 360 were in service.
From this number, you can subtract about one and a half hundred T-80s of all versions, the destruction or capture of which was verified by the Oryx project from public photos and videos. And considering that not every destroyed vehicle was posted online, we are talking about twice as many destroyed T-80s of all versions, including the latest T-80BVM.
By the way, according to the distribution of losses relative to the total number of vehicles, it is the T-80 that the Russian army loses most often. Which once again speaks about the real combat and operational characteristics of this machine.
Characteristics of the T-80BV
- Crew: 3 people
- Gun caliber: 125 mm
- Weight: 43.7t
- Engine power: 1100 HP
- Maximum speed: 70 km/h