The Tankograd blog has released another of their in-depth posts examining a Soviet era armored vehicle. This new post takes a look at the T-80 MBT.
Although nowadays the T-80 isn’t nearly as famous as the T-72 and the T-90, it was understandably the most highly regarded item in the entirety of the vast Soviet tank fleet, and though they had T-72s stretching as far as the eye could see, it was the T-80s and the T-64s that formed the vanguard of the Soviet tank armies of the Rhine. However, it wasn’t planned out this way in the beginning.
As one should come to expect from anything on the other side of the Iron Curtain, the T-80 has a rather intriguing story of inception. While the designers were still ironing out issues on the 5TDF opposed-piston engine for the T-64, experiments on mounting a turboshaft engine were already in full swing. It was requested that production expand from just Kharkov (KMDB) to Kirov (LKZ) and Nizhny Tagil (UKBTM) as well. Both of the latter plants struggled to produce some of the more complex parts for the T-64 – namely the engine – due to a lack of personnel familiar with the intricacies of the fundamentally different engines, and hence, created their own variations of the basic T-64. UKBTM (today a part of UralVagonZavod) and LKZ split design elements and ended off designing what came to be known as the T-72 and T-80 respectively. LKZ’s progeny were defined by their signature turbine engines and more robust suspension, hybridized with the turret of the T-64A, thus forming the original model T-80.
This new vehicle was more extravagant and expensive than the ones preceding it, making the
T-80 much less common than the T-64 and T-72. It also came off as being a more ambitious project than UKBTM’s T-72 (evidenced by a far longer development span). The T-80 came too late for its’ own good. The instant it entered low-rate production in 1976, it was already surpassed in capability by both the T-64B and T-72A: a troubling situation for a vehicle meant to replace and supplement them, made worse by its excessive price tag. As a result, the T-80B was quickly ushered into service a mere two years after the T-80, boasting the ability to fire ATGMs from the cannon while on the move with the Kobra system, and an updated armour layout that had better prospects against the latest and future anti-tank munitions, and beginning from 1980, a more powerful 1100 hp GTD-1000TF engine. These upgrades along with the addition of Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armour – and a further enhanced armour package, formed the basis of the T-80BV, which arrived in 1985. The most advanced direct T-80 variant – the T-80U, also arrived in 1985, while . This new model presented improvements to just about everything; a new digital fire control system, engine, explosive reactive armour, and some other tidbits.