The role of the T-80 main battle tank will become important for the Russian Army in the winter war in Ukraine thanks to its special features.
The T-80 tank is expected to become the trump card for the Russian Army, it will be deployed more than the T-72 or T-90 series.
The T-80 is a very special main battle tank (MBT) with about 10,000 built. Up to the time before the war, the Russian Army had nearly 1,000 vehicles in combat components, the rest in the reserve. The T-80 is based on the T-64, while incorporating features from the later T-72. When it entered service in 1976, it was the second MBT in the world to be equipped with a gas turbine engine, after the Swedish Stridsvagn 103, and the first to use it as a main propulsion engine. The T-80U was last produced in 2001 in a factory in Omsk, Russia.
During the Cold War, these MBTs served on the westernmost frontier. Thanks to the gas turbine engine, it can start quickly even in frost and maneuver quickly at a speed that is respectable for a heavy vehicle. This is a powerful combat vehicle, but there are also disadvantages because the GTE engine is too fuel-efficient, obviously less competitive than the T-72/90 series with diesel engines.
After 1991, when Russia became more friendly with the West, the T-80 became superfluous and was replaced by more practical and economical tanks with diesel engines such as the T-72 and T-90. Many things have changed now, the old T-80BV tanks modernized to the T-80BVM standard are equipped with an upgraded GTD-1250TF gas turbine engine with a capacity of 1,250 hp. This makes it even more responsive, but fuel consumption has been reduced.
The turret is equipped with a 125 mm 2A46M-4 cannon, NSVT and PKT machine guns, as well as a Sosna-U sighting system, allowing combat at any time of the day, in all weather. The Reflex guided missile weapon system will help destroy enemy armored vehicles at a range of up to 5 km. The level of protection is also increased by Relikt explosive reactive armor.
The appearance of the T-80BVM caused a mixed reaction in the expert community. It has been suggested that aside from the unusual speed for a tank, the T-80BVM has no particular advantage over the T-72B3 or the T-90M. In addition, maintaining different types of tanks on the battlefield will make make maintenance more expensive.
But there is another opinion, the main advantage of the T-80BVM is its near-instant start-up at low temperatures, as well as its extraordinary travel speed. This is an element that will prove extremely useful in the upcoming “winter war” in Ukraine, when the T-80 tanks are expected to have a significant advantage over the newer T-72 or T-90 tanks. In cold and wet climates, the Russian Army desperately needs a tank with good mobility, and that is why these tanks are being increasingly reinforced for the frontline units. The upcoming war in Ukraine is considered to be the most important test for the T-80 main battle tank using gas turbine engine, since it was born nearly 5 decades ago.