The T-80, a main battle tank that was incorporated into the Soviet army in 1976, was produced until 1996 and earned the moniker “jet tank” due to its impressive speed and gas turbine power plant. Despite the cessation of production, the T-80 remains a relevant force in today’s military landscape, continuing to serve in the Russian army and other global forces. The T-80BVM, a modernized version of the original, is still being received by the Russian army.
Recently, there have been reports suggesting a revival of T-80 production. This isn’t about refurbishing existing units but rather manufacturing new ones from scratch. Alexander Potapov, the head of Uralvagonzavod, has confirmed that there is a demand for such tanks within the army.
This news has sparked interest among Russia’s allies and adversaries alike. The T-80 was considered the most capable tank in the Soviet Army’s arsenal. However, post-USSR, Russia favored the T-72 and T-90 tanks due to the high operating costs of the T-80. With increased defense spending in light of ongoing military operations and escalating tensions with NATO, Russia has decided to restart T-80 production.
Interestingly, NATO and its allies have shifted their focus to Poland, which has placed substantial orders for advanced battle tanks like South Korea’s K2 Black Panther. This move has raised eyebrows across the Atlantic.
The exact specifications of the new T-80 remain unclear. The most advanced version produced so far is the Soviet T-80UK. It is speculated that due to high operating costs, the new T-80 will be standardized with the T-90M tank that was introduced in 2020.
Analysts from Military Watch suggest that the revamped T-80 will not be the known T-80BVM but a highly modified version. One proposed upgrade is equipping it with a 2A82-1M from the T-14 Armata tank along with its autoloader. This would enable it to use “Vacuum-1” armor-piercing ribbed sabot projectiles with a core length of 1000 mm, enhancing its capabilities against enemy armored vehicles. Additionally, the 2A82-1M gun offers three times the firing range of Western tank guns.
Another potential upgrade for the T-80 could be the incorporation of Malakhit reactive armor, a dynamic protection system that offers superior defense compared to the Relikt complex used in the T-90M tank.
However, these are merely possibilities. It’s uncertain to what extent the basic design will be revamped and how quickly T-80 production can be resumed. The number of new tanks that will be deployed is also unknown. This lack of clarity is not exclusive to American observers; even Russian sources have not provided definitive information at this stage.
Deep modernization proposals for the T-80 were put forth as early as the mid-1990s but were never realized due to funding constraints. The most advanced version, the Black Eagle tank, featured an extended base and an unmanned turret and reached the prototype stage.