Russian army expands T-80BVM v.23 tank fleet: numbers rising

With the ongoing addition of upgraded T-80BVMs to its T-80 main battle tank collection, the Russian Army continues to fortify its military armaments. The Omsktransmash Transport Engineering Plant has been responsible for these deliveries. 

Russian army expands T-80BVM v.23 tank fleet: numbers rising
Photo credit: Twitter

The press division of Uralvagonzavod, Russia’s only tank-manufacturing corporation, confirmed the recent delivery on February 14: “The Defence Ministry recently received a fresh batch of T-80BVM tanks from Omsktransmash. The revamped T-80BVM tanks feature upgraded reactive armor, drastically heightening protection for the crew. Additionally, upon exiting the Omsk Transport Engineering Plant premises, the tanks are fitted with an additive turret protection module, previously revealed at the Army 2023 military forum.” 

Uralvagonzavod and Omsktransmash were the dominant factories among the four that Russia inherited following the Soviet Union‘s dissolution, with the former producing the T-72 and the derivative T-90, and the latter specializing in the highly capable T-80 that served the Soviet Army. 

Russian army expands T-80BVM v.23 tank fleet: numbers rising
Photo credit: Reddit

However, the subsequent lack of demand for the T-80, primarily due to its elevated manufacturing and operational costs, led to Omsktransmash losing its financial stability quickly, forcing a takeover by its rival in 2004. 

The Russian Army has rapidly expanded its tank divisions since late 2022, a move targeted at catering to the needs of the Ukrainian front and combating the increasing NATO forces encompassing Russia’s eastern, western, and northern boundaries. As a result of this military strategy, there has been a rush to retrieve and upgrade Soviet-made tanks stored away. 

These dated vehicles have undergone modernization, equipped with contemporary fire controls, armor, and weaponry. The Defence Ministry preferred more cost-friendly tanks like the T-72s and T-90s, causing a large number of T-80s to remain stored when Russia-Ukraine tensions erupted into an outright war in February 2022 due to their high operational expenses. 

Russian army expands T-80BVM v.23 tank fleet: numbers rising
Photo credit: Anton Novodrezhkin

The comparatively affordable tanks, however, do not pack the supplemental mobility and high climate adaptability that the T-80 offers, thanks to its gas turbine engine. Despite increasing the T-80’s maintenance requirements, such engines greatly enhance mobility, a feature shared only with the American M1 Abrams. But the T-80, being smaller than the Abrams, boasts an unrivaled power-to-weight ratio, all while accommodating a larger caliber gun. 

A Russian army commander, who was battling Ukrainian Army units inclusive of Leopard tanks supplied by Germany, praised the revamped T-80s in January during a local media interview: “We now have an absolutely different vehicle. It possesses an entirely new communication system that is impervious to jamming, highly efficient, and produces distinctly clear audio without breakages.” “The tank also comes with a completely new protection system,” he emphasized. “Armor modules were added to the tank, reinforcing its ability to endure hits from drones and anti-tank missiles.” 

Russia began equipping T-80BVM tanks with a laser target designator
Photo credit: Twitter

The Russian Defence Ministry seems to be reconsidering its previous judgments on the T-80’s cost-effectiveness. State media reported in September that Omsktransmash had started remanufacturing the tank model, which will be used in addition to the newly built T-90M and cutting-edge T-14 tanks at Uralvagonzavod. 

The anticipations are high that the newly produced models will exhibit significantly enhanced designs over the recent T-80BVMs, possibly mirroring how the T-72 was extensively renovated to create the T-90 in the early 1990s.

150 T-80BVM tanks a year

Evidence from Russian social media suggests that Omsktransmash is actively manufacturing 152 units of the T-80BVM Model 2023, with a significant number of them already destined for deployment. According to reports from the West back in September, this assembly is a segment of a larger strategy to refurbish nearly 180 T-80 tanks from military reserves. The plan is to roll out these updated versions periodically throughout 2023 and 2024. 

High in the Urals, the Omsk tank plant stops producing Russian T-80 tanks
Photo credit: Reddit

In the past, Omsktransmash was known to churn out nearly 40 tanks each year. However, their capacity extends to the annual modernization of up to 400 units. Ties have been noted between this surge in production and the current unrest in Ukraine. The revitalization process sees Armored Repair Plants taking older T-80 units under their wing. They are then advanced to the T-80BVM model courtesy of the skilled team at Omsktransmash.

Version 2023

Unveiled in 2023, the T-80BVM model features a series of upgrades designed to improve the tank’s defense capabilities. These updates include enhanced wire cage armor on both the turret and the hull to fortify the tank against threats like RPGs and drone attacks. Engineers have also added a detachable wire cage to the top turret to make transport easier. New ‘cape’ covers have been designed to decrease visibility. Intriguingly, changes in the dynamic protection system, now encased in metal, were found on the tank’s sides and turret from unveiling to deployment in Ukraine. 

An impressive addition to this tank is the Volnorez anti-drone jamming system, equipped with antennas to counter drone attacks from all directions. The traditional Sosny-U sights have been replaced by the advanced 1PN96MT thermal imaging sight, designed to enhance target acquisition precision

Considerable improvements have also been made to the tank’s reverse speed, which now surpasses 20 km/h, decisively ahead of the prior limit of 11 km/h. However, the specifics of these modifications remain highly confidential. 

The T-80BVM, an evolved version of the erstwhile Soviet-era T-80BV, has undergone numerous updates to meet modern warfare demands. Outfitted with Relikt explosive reactive armor, it is powered by a gas turbine engine. In terms of firepower, the tank comes armed with a 125 mm 2A46M-4 smoothbore gun capable of firing a broad range of projectiles. 

The 2023 model of the T-80BVM has been engineered for superior off-road performance with the integration of an upgraded torsion bar and strengthened running gear. Another enhancement includes the automatic track tension system being incorporated into the design.

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