Russia may unveil T-100 tank: excelling T-14, produced from T-80

In September 2023, according to Russian national news, the tank manufacturing plant, Omsktransmash in Russia, decided to recommence the production of the T-80 main battle tank. This decision stems from the fact that these tanks have significantly impressed both operators and the Defense Ministry with their exceptional combat prowess. 

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

In the context of the entire Soviet Army, the T-80 stood out as the most expensive and technologically advanced tank class. Despite being about three times pricier than the T-72, production was carried out in large numbers due to its superior capabilities. It led the Soviet fleet starting from the early 1980s. 

However, after the dissolution of the USSR, the Russian Defense Ministry shifted towards the T-72 due to its more economical production and operational costs compared to the T-80. It was also considered to have better export potential.

Soviet-era unique T-72M1 tank was spotted near Camp Dodge, Iowa
Photo credit: Twitter

The T-72 became the T-90

When economic turmoil swept during the 1990s, the decision to cease the production of the superior T-80 tank was met with considerable pushback from various sections of the military command. Consequently, tank production halted around 1996, and a significant modification of the T-72, fittingly named the T-72BU, stepped up to replace the legacy as the T-90. 

During the 1980s, five primary facilities manufactured main battle tanks for the Soviet Army. These included three prominent entities: Omsktransmash, Uralvagonzavod based in the Ural Mountains, and the Malyshev Factory based in what is now Ukraine. 

Putin tours Uralvagonzavod, dispatches T-90M tanks to the Army
Photo by Samil Ritdikov

Throughout the protracted Cold War era, the lion’s share of T-54/55 tank production was undertaken by Omsktransmash until the late 1970s. Subsequently, their focus shifted to the T-80 series, specifically for export markets. As the Cold War concluded, the industry landscape featured two facilities Ieading in T-80 tanks manufacturing, while three others engaged in T-72 production. In addition, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia also initiated the licensed production of the T-72s.

The ‘Black Eagle’

In the late 1980s, Omsktransmash pioneered a bold initiative to transform the T-80 into a futuristic tank, much like its contemporary, the T-14, which is currently undergoing limited production by Uralvagonzavod. This new-generation tank was designed around the concept of an unmanned turret and a crew securely accommodated within an armored capsule. 

T-14 Armata operates in Ukraine, but fires from afar - media
Photo by Natalia Kolenskinova

The sudden shrinkage of the Russian economy in the post-Soviet era led the company to seek financial support from foreign markets. Internationally, this tank was marketed as the Black Eagle. However, due to an embargo imposed by Russia on its main potential customers, including countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea, the funding fell short. 

Considering the naming convention of the T-72’s subsequent version known as the T-90, it’s quite plausible and in line with the existing trends in Russia’s naming of its main battle tanks, that a new T-80 variant will receive a name upgrade.

The ‘Black Eagle’ is T-100

In terms of logical progression and bearing in mind the propensity for impactful terminology, ‘T-100’ would likely be a suitable name for the upcoming model. This does diverge from the T-90, which was produced as a follow-up to the T-72, and even briefly co-existed on the production line. With the upcoming model, we’re looking at a gap of nearly 30 years since the production of the final Soviet T-80 model. 

Therefore, it’s reasonable to anticipate a significantly more advanced set of capabilities compared to what the disparity was between the final T-72B models and the initial T-90 models. The burning question is how modernized the design of the T-80 will be. A crucial factor to consider is the extent to which characteristics from the ‘Black Eagle’ design will be incorporated. 

Being most ambitious, the T-80 program could potentially channel funds to construct a new generation tank based on its design. This might present better prospects than the entirely new T-14 design developed by Uralvagonzavod.

T-100 possibly better than T-14

The setbacks in the development of the T-14 might necessitate considering a rival tank as a useful safeguard. This could, in turn, put more pressure on Uralvagonzavod to fulfill their commitments. 

However, considering Uralvagonzavod’s acquisition of Omsktransmash – which gives them exclusive control over the production of Russian tanks – the prospects of boosting performance by fostering competition seem limited. It’s highly probable that the revamped model of the T-80 tank – likely to bear a new name – will emerge as Russia’s most potent tank, perhaps second only to the T-14.

Russia 'unveils T-100' tank: outperforming T-14, produced from T-80
Photo credit: Russian MoD

Object 640

Originating from the KBTM of Omsk in the 1990s, the Russian Black Eagle tank, also known as the Object 640, represents a new generation of main battle tanks. The primary goal of its conception was to surpass Western tanks on the battlefield and replace the now obsolete T-80 and T-72 tanks that were actively serving in the Russian Army. 

What sets the Black Eagle tank apart from others are its forward-thinking design and high-caliber technical specifications. Measuring 11 meters in length, 3.5 meters in width, and 2.2 meters in height, this enormous tank embodies a commanding presence. In terms of weight, it tips the scales at approximately 48 tons. To protect against anti-tank weaponry, the tank is equipped with reactive armor, cloaking both the hull and turret. 

Russia 'unveils T-100' tank: outperforming T-14, produced from T-80
Photo credit: Reddit

At the heart of the Black Eagle tank is its powerful gas turbine engine. Although similar to the T-80’s engine, it offers a significant upgrade in power, producing an impressive 1,500 horsepower. This power allows the tank to reach road speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour and maintain a swift pace of 45 kilometers per hour, even in challenging off-road conditions.

The ‘Black Eagle’ firepower

Notably, the Black Eagle tank boasts a broad operational radius of fire, thanks to its state-of-the-art fire control system and a precise 125mm smoothbore gun. With target engagement capability up to an impressive 5 kilometers away, the inclusion of an autoloader reduces the crew requirement to a mere three, subsequently increasing the rate of fire. 

In terms of arsenal, the Black Eagle tank does not disappoint. Equipped with a powerful 125mm smoothbore gun, the tank can discharge diverse forms of ammunition like APFSDS, HEAT, and HE-FRAG. Complementing the main artillery is a 7.62mm machine gun stationed coaxially and a formidable 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun. It has a storage capacity for 40 rounds for the primary gun and a remarkable 2,000 rounds for the machine guns. 

Highlighting its ammunition versatility, the Black Eagle tank employs specific rounds for different targets. The APFSDS [Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot] rounds are crucial when dealing with heavily armored opposition, while the HEAT [High-Explosive Anti-Tank] rounds are effective against less armored adversaries. For soft targets and infantry engagements, the tank utilizes HE-FRAG [High-Explosive Fragmentation] rounds.

Black Eagle (T-100) after 30 years

I bet you’re eager to discover what the Russian tank industry, by the year 2024, could add to a tank that was developed in the latter part of the 20th century – the 90s, to be specific. These are merely speculations for now, but they do exist, and certainly merit consideration. So, let’s visualize what the anticipated upgrade of the Black Eagle might include: the use of composite materials, reactive armor, and perhaps even the integration of active protection systems. 

Russia 'unveils T-100' tank: outperforming T-14, produced from T-80
Photo credit: Reddit

Let’s delve into the Enhanced Fire Control System. The integration of avant-garde targeting systems may harness artificial intelligence for identifying targets and prioritizing engagement. Now, let’s shift our focus to upgraded weaponry. This enhancement could involve installing a more potent main gun, potentially one with a larger caliber or superior smoothbore gun. Improvements could also be made to the engine and transmission systems, leading to a better power-to-weight ratio, acceleration, and maneuverability. Not to mention, the potential inclusion of advanced suspension systems and chains could significantly enhance the tank’s off-road capabilities. 

Consider the potential benefits of incorporating high-tech communication systems for advanced battlefield awareness, the capability to share information in a networked environment, and controlling unmanned aerial or ground vehicles. Design features aimed at reducing the tank’s radar, infrared, and acoustic signatures could also be implemented. Ponder the practicality of design considerations allowing for effortless incorporation of future upgrades and modular components. The prospect of automation for specific tasks is also on the table.

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