Status: 24.09.2023, 05:10 a.m.
By: Christoph Gschoßmann
Russia and Ukraine are wearing each other out in the war. Moscow is losing a lot of tanks – and is now considering restarting production of an old model.
Moscow – With old tanks against Ukraine – or does Russia want to modernize the "jet tank" T-80 into a high-tech weapon? According to media reports, the Kremlin is considering the resumption of production of the T-80 tank model. "The task stands, at least the military gave it to us," said the head of the Uralvagonzavod defense company, Alexander Potapov, in an interview with the army channel Svyezda. The T-80 has proven itself particularly well during the "special military operation", as the war of aggression against Ukraine is called in Russia, according to the channel's report.
Russia has lost more than 2000 tanks in the Ukraine war
The T-80 is not new, rather the opposite: it is a tank from the Cold War. The T-80 was built in the Soviet Union from 1976, but in much smaller numbers than the T-72, which had already been developed before it but was still produced in parallel. A total of 10,000 T-80s are said to have rolled off the assembly line before series production was largely discontinued in favor of the T-90.
A T-80 tank used in the Ukraine war, here near Kharkiv. (Symbolic photo) © IMAGO/Lev Radin
There were no details yet on the possible restart of production. According to Potapov, there are talks with the Ministry of Industry about setting up new production facilities. Russia has suffered heavy losses during its invasion of Ukraine, which has now lasted more than 18 months, losing more than 2000,<> tanks, according to investigative group Oryx. Russia's soldiers are also dying quickly – and young – in the Ukraine war.
Russia's tanks in the Ukraine war: "miracle tank" T-14 and veteran "jet tank" T-80
An end to the conflict between Moscow and Ukraine is currently unforeseeable. Nevertheless, the decision is surprising, because with the T-90, more modern tanks are already being built in Russia. The new "miracle tank" T-14 Armata is also already in service with the first models. Nevertheless, Russia now wants to take a step into the past. Since 1999, according to the Janes military database, the T-80 model has not rolled off the assembly line. However, the T-90 is more of a successor to the T-72 and differs fundamentally from the T-80.
The T-80 is the successor to the T-64, the most modern tank in the Soviet Union at the time. Because of a fast gas turbine instead of a diesel engine, the T-80 also holds the name "jet tank". In the West, he was considered feared because he was difficult to assess. An officer of the Bundeswehr told Der Spiegel: "In fact, the T-80 is considered a relatively fast main battle tank and was more powerful than the T-72 anyway."
Classics in action – Will the T-80 get a modern cannon?
In addition to speed, the gas turbine also has disadvantages. For example, it is considered maintenance-intensive and a fuel guzzler. Military experts speculate that a new production of the T-80 could eliminate its weaknesses, such as problems with reversing. In addition, he could receive a modern cannon such as the 125-millimeter gun of the T-14. The weapon system 2A82-1M including automatic loader could also be installed. "However, the Russians have tried to integrate the weapon system with other tanks several times, but so far this has never been implemented," said the Bundeswehr tank soldier.
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The place of production could also play a role, because the T-80 was built in Omsk. The T-72 and T-90 are currently being modernized or built in Nizhny Tagil – the production facilities there could be working at full capacity. Either way, the decision shows how urgently Vladimir Putin and Russia currently need heavy weapons. Ukraine also needs tanks – but recently rejected worn-out Leopard models from Germany. (CGSC with dpa)