Russian Tank T-80 with Gas Turbine Еngine. Танк Т-80 с газотурбинным двигателем.
Image by Peer.Gynt
Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps. Saint-Petersburg
АРТИЛЛЕРИЙСКИЙ МУЗЕЙ, САНКТ-ПЕТЕРБУРГ
The T-80 is a third-generation main battle tank (MBT) designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union. A development of the T-64, it entered service in 1976 and was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine for main propulsion.[nb 1] The T-80U was last produced in a factory in Omsk, Russia, while the T-80UD and further-developed T-84 continue to be produced in Ukraine. The T-80 and its variants are in service in Belarus, Cyprus, Kazakhstan,Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine. The chief designer of the T-80 was the Russian engineer Nikolay Popov.
The project to build the first Soviet turbine powered tank began in 1949. Its designer was A. Ch. Starostienko, who worked at the Leningrad Kirov Plant (LKZ). The tank was never built because available turbine engines were of very poor quality. In 1955 two prototype 1,000 hp (746 kW) turbine engine were built at the same plant under the guidance of G. A. Ogloblin. Two years later a team led by the famous heavy tank designer Ż. J. Kotin constructed two prototypes of the Ob’yekt 278 tank. Both were hybrids of the IS-7 and the T-10 heavy tanks, powered by the GTD-1 turbine engine, weighing 53.5 tonnes and armed with the M65 130 mm tank gun. The turbine engine allowed the tank to reach a maximum speed of 57.3 km/h (35.6 mph) but with only 1950 liters of fuel on board, range was a mere 300 km (190 mi). The two tanks were considered experimental vehicles and work on them eventually ceased. In 1963, the Morozov Design Bureau designed the T-64 and T-64T tanks. They used a GTD-3TL turbine engine which generated 700 hp (522 kW). The tank was tested until 1965. At the same time in Uralvagonzavod a design team under the guidance of L. N. Karcew created the Ob’yekt 167T tank. It used the GTD-3T turbine engine which supplied 801 hp (597 kW).
In 1966 the experimental Ob’yekt 288 rocket tank, powered by two aerial GTD-350 turbine engines with a combined power of 691 hp (515 kW), was first built. Trials indicated that twin propulsion was no better than the turbine engine which had been in development since 1968 at KB-3 of the Kirov Plant (LKZ) and at WNII Trans Masz. The tank from LKZ equipped with this turbine engine was designed by Nikolay Popov. It was constructed in 1969 and designated Ob’yekt 219 SP1. It was renamed the T-64T, and was powered by a GTD-1000T multi-fuel gas turbine engine producing up to 1,000 hp (746 kW). During the trials it became clear that the increased weight and dynamic characteristics required a complete redesign of the vehicle’s caterpillar track system. The second prototype, designated Ob’yekt 219 SP2, received bigger drive sprockets and return rollers. The number of wheels was increased from four to five. The construction of the turret was altered to use the same compartment, 125 mm 2A46 tank gun, auto loader and placement of ammunition as the T-64A. Some additional equipment was scavenged from the T-64A. The LKZ plant built a series of prototypes based on Ob’yekt 219 SP2. After seven years of upgrades, the tank became the T-80.
The T-80 is similar in layout to the T-64; the driver’s compartment is on the centre line at the front, the two man turret is in the centre with gunner on the left and commander on the right, and the engine is rear mounted. Overall, its shape is also very similar to the T-64. The original T-80 design uses a 1,000 horsepower gas turbine instead of a 750 horsepower diesel engine, although some later variants of the T-80 revert to diesel engine usage. The gearbox is different, with five forward and one reverse gear, instead of seven forward and one reverse. Suspension reverts from pneumatic to torsion bar, with six forged steel-aluminium rubber-tyred road wheels on each side, with the tracks driven by rear sprockets. The glacis is of laminate armour and the turret is armoured steel. The turret houses the same 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore gun as the T-72, which can fire anti-tank guided missiles as well as regular ordnance. The tracks are slightly wider and longer than on the T-64 giving lower ground pressure.
The main gun is fed by the Korzina automatic loader. This holds up to 28 rounds of two-part ammunition in a carousel located under the turret floor. Additional ammunition is stored within the turret. The ammunition comprises the projectile (APFSDS, HEAT or HE-Frag) plus the propellant charge, or the two part missile. The autoloader is an effective, reliable, combat tested system which has been in use since the mid-1960s. The propellant charge is held inside a semi-combustible cartridge case made of a highly flammable material – this is consumed in the breech during firing, except for a small metal baseplate.
A disadvantage highlighted during combat in Chechnya was the vulnerability of the T-80BV to catastrophic explosion. The reason given by US and Russian experts is the vulnerability of stored semi-combustible propellant charges and missiles when contacted by the molten metal jet from the penetration of a HEAT warhead, causing the entire ammunition load to explode. This vulnerability may be addressed in later models. When Western tank designs changed from non-combustible propellant cartridges to semi-combustible, they tended to separate ammunition stowage from the crew compartment with armoured blast doors, and provided ‘blow-out’ panels to redirect the force and fire of exploding ammunition away from the crew compartment.
The autoloader takes between 7.1 and 19.5 seconds to load the main weapon, depending on the initial position of autoloader carousel.
The T-80’s armor is made of composite armor on the turret and hull, while rubber flaps and sideskirts protect the sides and lower hull. The later T-80 models use explosive reactive armor and stronger armor, like the T-80U and T-80UM1. Other protection systems include the Shtora-1 and Arena APS, as well as the discontinued Drozd APS (though a limited number of T-80Us have them installed).
The latest T-80 variant in service, the T-84 Oplot, has an entirely new turret with armoured ammunition compartment to help prevent accidental detonation.