Near St. Petersburg, hundreds of T-80 tanks await modernization

Current assessments suggest that the Russian army could sustain a conflict in Ukraine for an additional 2-3 years, given the existing reserves of military weaponry and machinery. This insight is provided by the Polish media outlet, Defence24. The assertion stems from an analysis of a recent satellite image displaying a stockpile of Russian T-80 tanks.  

Near St. Petersburg, hundreds of T-80 tanks await modernization
Photo credit: Reddit

Specifically, the satellite has captured the uncovered inventory of the 61st Armored Repair Plant. Situated near St. Petersburg, this facility is one of the many tank plants under the Uralvagonzavod umbrella. Russian sources, interpreting remarks from their Polish peers, stipulate, “Regular satellite data on the equipment housed in our base storage facilities allow the West to keep a keen eye on the material resources of our armed forces. This gives them a ballpark picture of our potential mobilization capabilities.” 

The image has become a hot topic across various social media platforms, eliciting hundreds of comments. Observers note a discernible reduction in the volume of tanks, while also acknowledging the retained reserves. While there’s an apparent drop in their number within the facility’s premises, there’s unanimous agreement that the Russian army still possesses a sizable fleet of tanks. BulgarianMilitary.com draws attention to numerous analytical reports and firsthand accounts from the Ukrainian battleground, which highlights the T-72 and T-80 as the major tank models in use.

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

Rust or camouflage

Sea green and grass green appear prominently on several of the captured Russian T-80 tanks. These camouflage colors, typically seen in the Russian military, have also been spotted on Western equipment. The specific type of camouflage a vehicle bears is usually determined by the natural color schemes of its combat area. 

Many of the stowed T-80s sport a brown hue, at least according to the satellite imagery. This rich brown shade might be an indication of rusting tanks. Indeed, while brown tank camouflage isn’t unheard of, it’s usually blended with other hues. The solid brown coloration of these tanks, distinctly different from the green ones that display varying shades, does raise questions about possible rusting. However, we must remember that these are merely satellite images, and drawing conclusions too quickly would be ill-advised.

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

The deliveries don’t stop

As you may remember from BulgarianMilitary.com, a month or two ago, British intelligence made a compelling assertion. They claimed that Russia could offset monthly tank losses in Ukraine by supplying a comparable amount. Let’s clarify, not all of these are fresh off the assembly line. A significant amount of the tanks sent to Ukraine were pulled from reserves, upgraded, and then dispatched. 

Fast forward to February 14 when the most recent delivery of T-80 took place, facilitated by the logistics of the Omsktransmash transport engineering plant. The press department at Uralvagonzavod was prompt in confirming the delivery. You might find it surprising that the T-80 did not receive much recognition from the Russian side early in the conflict. The Defense Ministry relied more on cost-efficient tanks such as T-72 and T-90, resulting in a surplus of idle T-80s. Here’s a little-known fact: the operating expense of refurbishing a T-80 surpasses that of the T-72 and T-90. 

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

However, it appears the Russian Ministry of Defense is reevaluating the cost-benefit analysis regarding T-80 tanks. In September, state media revealed that Omsktransmash had initiated the process of retrofitting the tank for use alongside the brand-new T-90Ms being manufactured at Uralvagonzavod.

T-80 back in production

A revelation came to light at the close of 2023 – Russia plans to relaunch the production of T-80 tanks. It’s not just a mere facelift or refurbishing of the existing models, but a full-scale re-initiation of creating these battleground devices from the ground up. The credit for bringing this significant news to the forefront goes to Alexander Potapov, the esteemed director of the Uralvagonzavod concern. 

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

According to Potapov, this monumental undertaking has been bestowed upon the concern by the military command. The present scenario links back to negotiations with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, as the renewal of tank production hinges on acquiring additional capabilities. 

The T-80BVM, being the newest incarnation of the tank, comes equipped with a formidable gas turbine engine churning out an impressive 1,250 horsepower. This cutting-edge upgrade has been inducted into the armored divisions of the Russian Army since 2019, signifying a considerable leap forward in the field of military technology.

Strange decision

Russian army received a batch of 'new serial produced' T-80BVM tanks
Video screenshot

Interestingly, the Russian military appears to be on an upward trend, sparking some essential questions. Reports indicate that Russia is contemplating resuming operations at the Nizhny Tagil [Uralvagonzavod] plant. 

You might wonder why Russia, being a leading global manufacturer of high-tech military machinery, doesn’t ramp up the production of its T-90M Proriv tanks. This model, with its advanced design and performance, has proven its worth and was crowned as the world’s top production tank. 

The decision to add the new T-80 to the military fleet is possibly due to its cost-effectiveness, considering the vast quantity of tanks required. Alternatively, it’s quite possible that the T-80BVM, explicitly designed for extreme polar conditions, was chosen for Arctic unit deployment.

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

The fate of the St. Petersburg tanks

Reviewing the satellite snapshot, it’s clear that if this war were to persist, Russia is likely to pull both the “green” and “brown” tanks from the depot near St. Petersburg. The indication lies in the substantially thinning ranks on the right half of the image. 

These tanks are set to be revamped to the BVM standard. Now, you might be wondering, “What is BVM?” Well, it’s a fascinating term that actually stands for “Bolshaya Modernizaciya” or “Big Modernization” in Russian. The T-80BVM comes with an upgraded engine and transmission system. Powering it is the GTD-1250 gas turbine engine, a significant step up from the T-80’s original GTD-1000TF, providing enhanced power and efficiency. The improvement is reflected in the acceleration, agility, and overall performance across varied landscapes. 

T-80BVM's gas turbine engine prevents it from 'drowning in the mud'
Photo credit: Quora

But what about armor protection, you ask? Well, the T-80BVM has raised the bar in this aspect as well. Equipped with “Relikt” explosive reactive armor, the T-80BVM is more resilient to contemporary anti-tank weaponry than its predecessor, the T-80, which utilized the “Kontakt-5” armor. The introduction of the “Relikt” armor, therefore, provides the T-80BVM with an edge in terms of protection against attacks involving kinetic and chemical energy. 

Firepower will also improve

When it comes to sheer offensive prowess, the T-80BVM showcases a noteworthy upgrade with its new 125mm 2A46M-4 smoothbore gun. This new addition not only boasts a higher fire rate but also surpasses its predecessor, the T-80’s 2A46-2 gun, in terms of precision. The capacity to fire the 9M119M1 Invar-M anti-tank guided missile gives the T-80BVM an extraordinary edge in remote warfare.  

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

Highlighting the significant differences, the advanced fire control system of the T-80BVM deserves a mention. The integrated multi-channel gunner’s sight, Sosna-U, in combination with the 1A40-4 fire control system, assures enhanced aim and tracking even under unfavorable weather conditions or during nightfall. this is indeed a noteworthy improvement from the T-80’s 1A33 fire control system.  

Lastly, the T-80BVM comes fitted with a sophisticated navigation system along with state-of-the-art communication equipment. This major upgrade amplifies its tactical efficacy and synergy with other assets on the battlefield. Without a doubt, this is a significant advancement over the T-80, which lacked these cutting-edge systems.

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