TechRussia replenishes tank losses with new T-80BWM units amid Ukraine conflict

Russia replenishes tank losses with new T‑80BWM units amid Ukraine conflict

Modernized T-80BVM tank
Modernized T-80BVM tank
Images source: © Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

9:42 PM EST, February 15, 2024

Reportedly, the Russians have already lost over 3,000 tanks, more than 200 of them in recent struggles in Avdiivka alone. The losses are being replenished in two ways: on the one hand, older tanks such as the T-62 or T-54/55 are being pulled from warehouses and put back into service, and on the other, the production of new designs like the T-72B3, T-90M, and T-80BWM is underway.

A batch of the T-80BWM was just delivered from a factory in Omsk. These tanks are equipped with specialized anti-drone roofs and an electronic warfare system. Both are designed to increase their chances of surviving attacks by FPV drone swarms.

The T-80BWM tank - among Russia's finest

The T-80BWM tanks are among the latest additions to Russia's arsenal, beginning production in 2017. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia is estimated to have had around 200 of these. The "Military Balance 2021" report suggests exactly 190 units in 2020.

The exact number of these vehicles fully operational at the start of military operations remains uncertain. Reported losses are at least 121 examples, as photographically confirmed according to data collected by the Oryxspioenkop group.

The modernization of the T-80BWM tanks involves transforming the older T-80BW models. In addition to a general overhaul, they are adapted to use longer APFSDS missiles, feature an electric turret rotation mechanism, and are equipped with heavy two-layer reactive armor Relikt, which provides protection even from tandem shaped-charge projectiles.

One of the more crucial upgrades is the advanced Sosna-U fire control system, initially using a third-generation Catherine-FC thermal camera from the French company Thales. Due to sanctions, these are not available to the Russians, so alternative solutions, potentially with inferior specifications, from China or other sources are likely employed.

It's worth noting that T-80BW tanks are better armored than their T-72 and T-90 relatives. Once equipped with new reactive armor, these tanks can survive multiple FPV drone hits, as evidenced in the recording below. However, there are vulnerabilities, and a well-placed hit could trigger a detonation of the ammunition magazine. This type of incident, however, is rarer than with T-72/T-90 machines.

In addition to their armor, T-80 tanks feature a gas turbine, providing better mobility than a diesel engine. The gas turbine achieves maximum torque instantly, earning these machines the nickname "flying tank."

In the 2023 edition, one can notice the characteristic canopy, designed to protect from PG-7VL grenades dropped vertically by "Baba Jaga" drones. The Russians also incorporated an electronic warfare system capable of localizing and jamming FPV drones. The actual effectiveness of this system might vary, depending on Ukraine's ability to adapt the drone control signal to operate beyond the jammer's range.

The T-80BWM tanks now in Russian possession rank among the most formidable machines Ukrainians might encounter. They could pose a significant threat to older Leopard 2A4 tanks, whose technology dates back to the 1980s. However, compared to more recent models like the Leopard 2A6, the T-80BWM falls short in every aspect.

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