Main battle tanks continue to play a significant role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian forces at the outset of the war relied primarily on modern tanks to advance into their neighbor’s territory.
But over many months, nearly half of Moscow’s more advanced tank fleet has been destroyed, captured, or left behind by ill-equipped soldiers.
According to the Dutch open-source website Oryx, Russia has likely lost 2,000 MBTs. As Kyiv’s counter-offensive heats up, prospects are not looking brighter for Moscow.
Total Tank Annihilation Footage in Ukraine
Back in June, Ukraine’s so-called Omega unit took out a Russian T-80 tank in the Donetsk oblast.
A few seconds into the video, a T-80 is targeted by some kind of munition.
In the next few moments, a flame erupts on the hull of the tank, followed by billows of gray fumes.
Around 45 seconds in, the flameball enlarges, and the tank continues to burn through the end of the video.
Loitering munitions, also known as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles that hover around a specific area until they detect a target and strike.
Introducing the T-80 MBT
During the Cold War, the T-80 was conceptualized to replace part of the Soviet Union’s aging tank fleet.
Superficially, it looks very similar to its T-72 predecessor, but the tank is largely an evolution of the even earlier T-64.
The Morozov Design Bureau designed both the T-72 and T-80, and the latter includes several significant improvements.
Specifically, the T-80 features a gas turbine engine in the initial variant, in addition to a gun tube that launches anti-tank guided missiles, as noted by the 1995 Threat Update for U.S. Forces Command OPFOR Training Program.
Also, according to that report, “The T-80 fires the same rounds as the T-64B and T-72. These ammunition types include Frag-HE fin-stabilized (FS), HEAT-FS, and HVAPFSDS. With the AT-8/SONGSTER, the T-80 can range targets out to 4,000 meters. The T-8OUD variant is equipped to fire the AT-11/SNIPER (Russian nickname Svir) laser beam-riding ATGM.”
Armament-wise, the T-80 sports a 125MM 2A46M-1 automatic smoothbore gun. Older T-80 variants host a 9k112 Kobra anti-tank system, while newer iterations carry 9M119 Refleks anti-tank guided missile systems. The GTD-1250 gas turbine engine powers the T-80 MBT, which can travel as fast as 80 kilometers per hour.
The T-80 Is a Wash
While the Kremlin often boasts that its modernized T-80 tank can outperform foreign near-peers, the platform has fallen well short of Moscow’s expectations in Ukraine.
The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that roughly two-thirds of Russia’s T-80 fleet has been wiped out since the onset of the invasion.
As the promised advanced Western MBTs begin to arrive in Kyiv in the upcoming months, Russian heavy weaponry will likely struggle even more.
Two more previously destroyed tanks can be seen nearby as well. pic.twitter.com/1xwqRTg2Q0
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) June 13, 2023
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.