The Ukrainian T-84U Main Battle Tank Does Not Have the Numbers: Russia may have as many as 1,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and self-propelled howitzers along the border with Ukraine, according to recent satellite imagery released this month. And that’s just the force located north of Ukraine. About 90,000 Russian troops are on the border too.
All of this means that Ukraine needs a dependable main battle tank to plug the gaps and hold the line. The Ukrainian T-84U Oplot, based on the Russian T-80 tank, is not really ready to answer the call of duty. There are just not enough T-84U Oplots to deter the Russians.
The T-84U Is Based on the Russian T-80
The T-84U has a better-built turret, explosive reactive armor, and protected ammunition storage. The Soviet T-80 was built at the end of the Cold War in three locations, one of which was in Ukraine. Ukraine kept building and improving on the T-80 platform because there were thousands leftover from the Soviets, but the spare parts were all in Russia. This resulted in the Ukrainians resorting to fashioning their own upgraded T-84U.
Different Engine and Turret Than the T-80
The Ukrainians did not keep the gas turbine engine of the T-80 in its own T-84U. It swapped in a 6TD-2 automatic transmission diesel engine. The diesel is easier to maintain and has better endurance, but it does not perform as well as the gas turbine in winter. The diesel does have a decent output of 1,200 horsepower – roughly the same amount of horsepower as the gas turbine. The diesel tops out at a speed of 43 miles per hour on paved roads with a 311-mile range. For better combat maneuverability, it can go 21 miles per hour in reverse.
The Ukrainians used a welded turret with better protection around the vulnerable sides of the turret. The turret is still short for a lower silhouette like most Russian tanks.
T-84U: The Armor Is Decent
The overall tank protection is based on the Duplet explosive reactive armor (some tanks have Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor) to protect against high-explosive anti-tank rounds, armor-piercing shells, and hollow charges.
Accuracy of the T-84s Main Gun Is in Question
The main gun is a Ukrainian KBA-3 125 mm smoothbore with thermal imaging which can fire high-explosive, fragmentation, and sabot rounds. But the fire control system is suspect and that reduces the accuracy and firing range by as much as 50 percent. The autoloader has also exhibited problems.
Ukraine has an estimated 2,430 tanks in totality. But there are only a handful of T-84U tanks in service. Most of these still fighting are older and obsolete models such as the T-64. Hundreds of the T-64s have been destroyed in combat with the separatists.
Thus, the T-84U is too little too late to make a difference for the Ukrainians when it comes to defending against Russia.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.