Ukraine Is Sending T-84 to Fight Russia
Photos circulated online that purported to show a platoon of Ukraine’s T-84 Oplot main battle tanks (MBTs) deployed in the Donbas region. That is notable as Ukraine had only produced 10 of the tanks some two decades ago at the Malyshev factory in Kharkiv.
As David Axe, writing for Forbes.com, explained this week, the cost was one factor in why Kyiv never produced significant numbers of the T-84. In addition, Ukraine possessed hundreds of T-64 tanks, and the Ukrainian government likely didn’t expect that Russia would be rolling across the frontier anytime soon, so the advanced domestically-built MBT was likely never a priority.
In fact, of the 10 or so that were built, four were reportedly sold to the United States for evaluation, while five or six remained in Ukraine’s inventory.
The 14th Separate Mechanized Brigade is believed to be operating the five (or possibly six) T-84 Oplots in Eastern Ukraine. Until now the tanks were largely held back, possibly for the defense of the capital or other significant targets.
Introduction of the T-84 MBT
The T-84 has its origins in the Soviet-era, when development grew out of the T-80UD program in the early 1980s. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was left with thousands of T-80 tank platforms in the city of Kharkiv, which gave the newly independent state the ability to produce hundreds of modernized main battle tanks.
However, it also left the government in Kyiv with hulks of tanks that relied on equipment from the Russian Federation.
Ukrainian tank designer KMDB sought to address that issue by creating a new, all-Ukrainian vehicle derived from the original T-80 design. At the same time, Kyiv developed local capabilities to produce a modern tank – and the results were revealed to the world in 1995.
Yet, due to the aforementioned funding issues, Ukraine was never able to produce the tanks in large numbers for domestic use.
A Most Capable MBT
The T-84’s armament is similar to the T-80UD, notably its 125mm smoothbore main gun, which is equipped with an autoloader. In addition to a variety of rounds, the T-84 MBT can also employ 9K119M Refleks anti-tank guided missiles, which can be launched in the same manner as regular rounds. Secondary armament of the T-84 includes a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, as well as a roof-mounted 12.7mm heavy machine gun.
It is also a well-armored tank, which features an all-welded turret that is fitted with built-in explosive reactive armor blocks, while the protection of the MBT is further enhanced by a Shtora-1 countermeasures system. The Ukrainian T-84 tank is powered by a 6TD-2 turbocharged diesel engine, which provides 1,200 horsepower and enables it to reach a top speed of 70 km/h (43 mph) on the road, and 45 km/h (28 mph) cross country.
In addition to the few T-84s that are now in operation in Ukraine, some 50 were exported to Thailand, while Pakistan had also sought to purchase 100 of the MBTs. Given the current situation, it is likely foreign sales have been put on hold – while the T-84s still in Ukraine could likely be used to confront the Russian invaders. As Forbes.com’s Axe noted, “Every tank—and every fighter jet and artillery piece, too—is precious to Ukraine as the war grinds on.”
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.