Uralvagonzavod crafts T-72 and T-90 tank parts with US ally tools

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Amid the Ukrainian conflict, Russia’s escalating tank production seems to be traced back to Japan and Taiwan, two stalwart allies of the USA. Interestingly, it appears that a significant player in this complex supply line is China.  

Photo by Samil Ritdikov

According to an investigation by Nikkei Asia, from the onset of 2022, several companies in Chinese provinces, owned by Belarusian individuals, have been crucial conduits. They’ve facilitated the import of precision tools via China, which eventually landed at Uralvagonzavod [UVZ]. These tools are essential in manufacturing spare parts for UVZ’s renowned T-72 and T-90 tanks.  

The intricate efficacy of this supply chain is evident. Although the US and Great Britain can impose economic sanctions on Russia effortlessly, influencing third-party entities proves more difficult. Time and time again, we see evidence of Russia’s capability to procure microchips, semiconductors, drones, and even Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite Internet system. More often than not, these acquisitions are facilitated by the maneuvers of third, or even fourth parties.

Photo by Simil Ritdikov

Nikkei writes

Shenzhen 5G High-Tech Innovation, a new company established in 2022 in Guangdong, China, boasts a strong affiliation with the Belarusian Government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko. Their core business focuses on supplying specific engine parts essential for manufacturing tanks and other weaponry. 

This firm procures these engine components from a multitude of manufacturers, including Metrol, a company in Tachikawa, Tokyo, specializing in precision positioning sensors, and Oriental Motor, a small precision motor producer also located in Tokyo. They also source from a leading machine tool manufacturer in Aichi Prefecture. It’s conjectured that Shenzhen 5G also procures parts from various other companies across China. 

Photo credit: Telegram

These components are then shipped to Belarusian arms manufacturers SALEO and LLC Laboratory of Additive Technologies, both of which are tightly controlled by Lukashenko. In May 2023, SALEO acquired sensor parts produced by Metrol, with each unit priced at 16,035 yuan [$2,228]. 

Vladimir Zhihar, a representative from Belpol, noted that armor businesses in Belarus and Russia utilize these precision tools to fabricate crucial parts for tanks. These components are sourced from SALEO and LLC, and subsequently delivered to UralVagonZavod, a Russian tank manufacturer. Consequently, they play a significant role in the production of T-72, T-90, and other widely recognized Russian tanks.

Photo by Samil Ritdikov

Tank production only

In the world of spare parts manufacturing, precision tooling stands out as a pivotal factor that heralds substantial change. Without these tools, producing quality items, including tanks, becomes a daunting task. 

Let’s take a moment to recall the dramatic transformation UVZ underwent last year, a result of a decisive shift enacted by the Kremlin that redirected its business trajectory. Until June 2023, UVZ had been not only producing tanks but also undertaking overhauls of those that were battle-worn. Then came the profound change in June. The directive from the Kremlin was unequivocal: UVZ was to concentrate exclusively on mass tank production, thereby suspending all repair work. This repair responsibility was reallocated to other large tank factories, such as the one in Omsk.

The importance of precision tools

Precision tooling is all about creating parts with exceptional accuracy and consistency. In the context of fabricating tank spare parts, the caliber of the tools employed has a significant influence on the outcome. Tools of a higher quality encourage genuine precision, enduring durability, and unwavering reliability. All these factors contribute to excellent overall results. 

Firstly, high-quality precision tools can manufacture parts with extreme accuracy. This means the parts are more likely to match the exact required specifications. Even a minor deviation in size can lead to issues with fit, function, and performance. 

Moving forward, it’s important to note that high-quality tools usually maintain their endurance under constant use. This durability is crucial in a manufacturing environment, where tools are intensively utilized for extended periods. Lower-quality tools may degrade or fracture prematurely, leading to inconsistencies in the parts produced. On the flip side, superior quality tools sustain their precision across multiple uses, ensuring uniform results. 

Photo credit: MoD Iraq

Lastly, what distinguishes high-quality tools is their reliability. These tools are less prone to errors or malfunctions, thereby reducing the likelihood of defective parts. In the realm of manufacturing, tool reliability is essential. Any disruption due to tool failure can result in production delays and escalated costs.

An example

Let’s delve deeper into how precision equipment is used in day-to-day situations. As per a Nikkei report, UVZ, a Russian tank company, utilized encoder disks from Attoptic, a Taiwanese precision instrument manufacturer. 

Photo credit: Reddit

These encoder disks are an integral component of an encoder—a sensor that gauges the direction and angle of movement. They are especially significant in the panoramic scopes of T-72 tanks. Let’s dive into why understanding the direction and angle of a T-72 tank’s panoramic scope is crucial on the battlefield. 

Firstly, these tanks need to possess accurate navigation data. When a tank’s movement information aligns correctly, it provides a detailed view of the tank’s current and possible paths. 

Secondly, the tank crew’s proficiency in accurately understanding their direction and angle of movement is key to efficient combat operations. Having this information allows for precise aiming, especially when the targeted objects or the tank itself are in motion. 

Video screenshop

Thirdly, being knowledgeable about the exact direction and orientation can significantly enhance a tank’s survival prospects. Precise data enables tank crews to make strategic decisions, minimizing their vulnerability to enemy assaults. 

Lastly, accurate readings are vital for effective coordination among tanks during large-scale maneuvers. Such precision facilitates synchronized movements and boosts coordination, thus improving overall performance.

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