Archive for August, 2015

Syria: From the sublime to the shameful.

Posted: August 15, 2015 in Syria
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Rimal Beach, Tartous, Syria

What follows is a report from a resident of Aleppo whose identity is not revealed for reasons of security.  Their reports delve deep into the terrorist underworld and expose many of the NGO and media narratives, as propaganda and hypocrisy.  We are thankful to these brave, courageous people who bring us the truth from inside Syria, without them we would still be in the dark as to the extent of the terror they are forced to endure day after night at the hands of the US  alliance funded and armed mercenary brigades.

An Escape from Reality

My sojourn on the Syrian coast was exquisite but too brief, a welcome respite from the hardship in Aleppo.

We left Aleppo just before sunrise.  The coast is to the West of us but we drove into the hazy sunrise, towards the east. This is Syria, where the crisis has made many things nonsensical.  The direct routes and main highways have been occupied and sabotaged by armed terrorist gangs and there is an ever present risk of sniper fire on these roads, so many are best avoided at all cost.

As we bumped & rattled along the road, 3 other passengers were conversing with the driver about the “bloody history” of our route.  “This is where the terrorists attacked a bus” said one, “there is where the terrorists massacred a Christian family”, said another.  “That is where Da’esh targeted a high ranking SAA General” said the driver, pointing at the burned out remains of a car and van on either side of the road, dust covered, eerie reminders of the assassination.  It was a sobering experience to travel this road of tragedy with its ghosts of lives taken so brutally and senselessly.

The road from Aleppo to Homs, shaped like a mirrored letter C, was the desert road.  We went through many fake check points and over rough gravel surfaces that, at one point, resulted in a flat tyre.  However, once past Homs the change is extraordinary.  The roads to Tartous are in good condition and the closer we got to the coast, the greener our surroundings.  This is how I remember the highways in Syria before the “conflict”.  This was Old Syria..the one that ceased to exist after 2011.

Some Syrian provinces have fared better in the crisis than others, but every one of them has been touched by loss.  Not one has been without its casualties in the Syrian armed forces.  Tartous, for instance, is considered one of the safest areas in Syria [maybe because of its Russian naval base] but even here, when you enter someone’s house you see the familiar pictures of lost sons, daughters, uncles, brothers, fathers on the walls, paying homage to the brave family members fighting terrorism in far flung provinces.

My destination was my teenage haunt of ar Rimal ad-Dhahabiyya [the Golden Sands] about 15km to the north of Tartous City.  The resort is secure, with water 24/7 and electricity, maximum 15 hours per day.  I was even able to turn on the air conditioning, an unheard of luxury in Aleppo.  Internet reception is excellent, again in marked contrast to the limited 3G reception in Aleppo.

Rimal is a reminder of Syria before 2011.  Peaceful ambiance, laughter, dancing, bikinis, parties. A typical Mediterranean resort, far removed from the ravages of war.  A cosmopolitan gathering of Syrian families without bombs, rockets or mortars to shatter their joviality. Hijabs mingling with bikinis on the packed beaches.

The peaceful early morning beaches, Rimal.

The only flares in the night skies came from celebratory fireworks not from terrorist rockets or mortar fire.  Here you could see Christians and Muslims from many different sects sitting side by side in friendly camaraderie.  None of the sectarianism being described in Western media, none of the religious judgementalism.

I did stumble upon several demolished chalets that closely resembled the bombed structures in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.  In reality, the local municipality had demolished them because they were an eyesore and had been erected illegally by the corrupt resort manager. I couldn’t help thinking that they might still appear in an HRW tweet or in Western Media with the caption of the ubiquitous barrel bombs that are being blamed for everything.  I would certainly not put this beyond the “rebel” propagandists.

Demolished chalets in Rimal, Tartous

I do know that photos & videos from Rimal have been used by the “opposition” to claim that Syrians & the Syrian Government are rejoicing in the deaths of their countrymen.  One of my relatives informed me that nobody had celebrated in the resort for the last four years out of respect for the suffering in Syria.  For the first time this year, they felt that they needed some relief from the intensity of the struggle and to remember the good old days in Syria when unity and peace were the norm. So let the terrorists mock our happiness, we have had enough of the sadness and sorrow that they have imposed upon us.

Life became a series of indulgences during my time in Rimal.  Delicious food, beautiful balmy nights, swimming in the warm sea with my nephews and nieces [although jellyfish were a less palatable hazard]. I had to laugh when at one point, I bumped into a group of elderly men and women discussing politics in the shallows.  They were even criticizing the government quite openly and stridently without “reprisal”.

I can’t tell you what a luxury it was to have a shower and an air conditioned room.  How quickly did I forget the showers in Aleppo, a large cup and a washbowl!

The drive back to Aleppo

All too soon, my time in paradise came to an end and after 6 days we were heading back to Aleppo. On the way back, I noticed that the C-like road between Homs and Aleppo had changed, even in such a short time.  As quickly as the Government were trying to asphalt roads in some areas, the terrorists were bombing them at night to create new craters and crevasses, forcing drivers back onto the gravel roads.  However, I can proudly say the Government was winning even this battle.  There were more newly asphalted roads than sabotaged ones.

I did manage to take some photos of the Aleppo province villages alongside that arid, remote highway.  These villages are famous, with their mud conical roofs, a typical feature of these village homes.  Originally they would have built miniature versions for birds, chickens and small domestic animals but over time they had evolved into human dwellings.  I remember seeing old WW11 and even WW1 archive videos showing Australian troops marching among these conical roofed houses, military motorcycle riders stopping to give the locals a pillion ride for fun.  Now these homes are deserted and abandoned, their inhabitants forced to flee inside or outside Syria, refugees from their own lands.

Queiq River and its deadly secrets

Returning to Aleppo after such a delicious transportation into Syria of old, made me reflect on one important aspect of Aleppo, Queiq or Koweik, Aleppo’s river.  A thousand years ago this river fortuitously burst its banks in the winter and swept away the Crusader camps who were besieging Aleppo. In the summer its flow dries to a trickle that is the source of jokes and local proverbs.  The river lost much of its importance decades ago when Turkey built a dam at its source reducing flow into Aleppo & diverting its waters into Turkish territory.

The river was reduced to a dry valley, distinctly malodorous in the summer.  This ensured the loss of all the species of fish that had been documented by western scientists and historians centuries before. Turkish-Syrian relations had improved in the decade prior to the crisis to the extent that the Aleppo river basin had been converted into a series of canals dotted with beautiful bridges, illuminated at night.
With the advent of the crisis, however, the tide literally turned.  The river formed a natural border between terrorist held eastern Aleppo and government held western Aleppo.

The river became the terrorist dumping ground for dead bodies, massacred by the terrorists not by the government as depicted in western media whose sole aim was & still is,  to demonize the Syrian government.

A couple of years back, the terrorists were sending young kids to buy huge amounts of bread supplied by the government to feed the people of Aleppo city.  Once purchased, this bread was callously dumped in the river resulting in a crippling bread shortage for a long time.  Eventually the government managed to round up the culprits and imprison them.  I don’t have to tell you how the media portrayed this activity but the truth is, it was necessary to ensure the people of Aleppo didn’t starve.

The terrorist held areas in the East receive all the water from the Euphrates but they can’t store it all, so they have solved this issue by pouring thousands of litres of clean water into the filthy, contaminated water of Queik which is, of course, undrinkable.  This is not all, the Red Crescent is then pumping this filthy water into huge cisterns which is piped to the taps that people are using to fill up their water containers.

The Red Crescent is claiming that the water is clean and only needs chlorine tablets or boiling to purify it.  They ignore the fact that the river has been a dumping ground for dead and decaying corpses, stale bread, sewage and a myriad of filth and rubbish over the last 4 years.  Their actions in supplying this water to residents are indefensible, their claims that it is safe are criminal.

Those capable of dumping bread and clean water into a contaminated river to prevent half the city from eating the bread or having clean drinking water are committing heinous crimes against humanity.  I am not sure if it is a “war crime” as such but they are the real “infidels” if there is any real meaning for this word that they bandy about so liberally.

They are not “freedom fighters” or “moderates” that NATO and their allies are supporting so vociferously.  We are suffering from lack of water, we go thirsty while they are intentionally squandering it.  I watch, heavy hearted, as the elderly and children patiently wait in endless queues in the searing heat to fill their assorted containers.  I see them having to lug these heavy containers through the narrow alleyways, struggling under the weight as the precious water splashes into the dust beneath their feet.

Children carry a cylinder of water in a street of the Syrian city of Aleppo on April 17, 2014. PHOTO / ALEPPO MEDIA CENTRE / ZEIN AL RIFAI

I feel nothing but rage when I see these thugs and criminals on the other side of the city pouring thousands of litres of clean, fresh water into the disease infested river under the noses of the thirsty Syrians they are claiming to liberate.  They are the terrorists, they are the monsters in this story and they are committing daily mass crimes against the citizens of Aleppo but this is never mentioned by the western media.  Are we not Syrian?  Does our plight mean nothing, does our story not count?  This is Aleppo, the real Aleppo, not the western media fantasy, this is our sleeping, waking, perpetual nightmare of life under terrorist occupation.

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In the course of military-technical forum “Army-2015” which was held in the Moscow region “Kubinka” was a presentation of a modernized version of BMP-2M, which caused great interest among the experts, according to “Journal of Mordovia” .

“BMP-2 proven as reliable and unpretentious car. They took part in many military conflicts, and still are the basis of the Russian Army mechanized infantry connections. Unfortunately, at the present time, this war machine is considered outdated and in most specifications do not meet modern requirements. Therefore, military experts believe that in anticipation of the newest “Kurganet-25” is necessary to re-start the procurement of the BMP-3, and to modernize the armed forces present in the BMP-2 “- the newspaper notes.

The upgraded version of BMP-2M received additional armor and lattice screens for protection against large-caliber bullets and cumulative ammunition. You also have the ability to set specific mine pallets. Due to the increased weight gain protection machine: now it is more than 16 tons. However, thanks to a new engine UTD-23 turbocharged 360 hp mobility remained the same: the car speeds up to 65 km / h on highway and up to 7 km / h on the water. In addition, the upgraded version has a modern sight BO7-K2 with optical and thermal imaging channels, a laser rangefinder and a control channel anti-tank missile complex . As part of the armament of the BMP-2M – a 30-mm cannon and 7.62 mm machine gun PKTM. It is also possible to install anti-tank guided missile system 9M120-1, 9M120-1F, 9M120-1F-1 with tandem cumulative, high-explosive and high-explosive warheads, capable of destroying various targets at a distance of 5,000 meters. “Modernization developed in Kurgan, will greatly enhance the characteristics armored veteran and provide an opportunity to significantly extend the life “- the paper concludes.

Through the efforts of enthusiasts from the battalion “Azov”, being developed is a heavily armored infantry fighting vehicle based on the chassis of the main battle tank T-64.

According to reports from workers involved in repair plants and experts of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, which are responsible for the performance of a new concept of the combat vehicle.

Additional is the protection cutting boards organized by the dimensions of the fenders.

The layout of the tank as a whole remained the same, the engine was in the stern. As a result, there will be something in the style of BMO-T, but without weakened areas in the frontal projection is located where the driver’s hatch. True enthusiasts will decide how the issue of management of the new machine is a mystery.

Combat vehicles of this class are badly needed as Ukrainian law enforcement officers during the conflict in the east of Ukraine in the battles lost a large number of poorly protected infantry fighting vehicles BMP-2 armored personnel carriers BTR-80 type.

UAE BMP-3 hits Yemeni Mines

Posted: August 13, 2015 in BMP-3, Tank, Yemen
Tags: , ,

This UAE BMP-3 ran into some Yemeni Mines.

Concern “Tractor plants” will show at the exhibition RAE-2015 in Nizhny Tagil, new versions of the BMP-3, equipped with remote-controlled weapon stations, according to Tass .One of the modifications will be equipped with 57-mm cannon in high ballistics unmanned combat module development CRI “Petrel”, part of the Corporation “Uralvagonzavod”.

Version of the BMP-3 with 57-millimeter cannon received code “Derivation”. The second modification, under the code “Dragoon”, has undergone a major change. In particular, changed the layout of the machine motor, located on the base version of the BMP-3 in the diet, moved to the bow, which will increase the troop compartment and equip it for the exit ramp.”Dragoon” save standard armament of the BMP-3 100-millimeter gun ballistics low, coupled with her ​​30-mm automatic cannon and machine gun PKT, but also weapons will be located in an uninhabited module. Source

Help RG:

Russia Arms Expo – international exhibition of armaments and equipment. Consistently since 1999, held in Nizhny Tagil. Russia Arms Expo-2015 will be the tenth in a row exhibition. In addition to Russian companies, the audience will also be able to see defense companies from France, Turkey, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Along with the rearmament of the Russian army from cruise missiles, submarines and armored vehicles to small arms and communications, they are actively being worked on in addition to sniper rifles. So in the near future, namely in the next year troops will have a new sniper rifle.

The development of the new sniper complex is under the name“Precision” it became known in 2013. Five companies have been involved in production to include TSNIITOCHMASH . The final version of the weapons comes available in two calibers, unique to Russia: 7,62×51 mm caliber (NATO cartridge) and 8x.6×69 mm (Lapua Magnum). The effective range of the rifles is out to half a kilometer. The reason for manufacturing weapons in two calibers is the features of the ballistics for bullets. For example, one is to achieve maximum accuracy at distances up to 500 meters possible with the caliber 7.62×51 mm, and to maximize the destruction of targets at distances more than 500 m is most suitable for the  caliber 8.6×70 mm.

ORSIS T-5000

In turn, rifle ORSIS T-5000 is manufactured at the factory “ORSIS” concern “Survey Systems” in Moscow, and is known in military circles as “the Russian Terminator.” The rifle exists in three caliber versions: 7.62 × 67 mm (Winchester Magnum), 7.62 × 51 mm (Winchester) and 8.6 × 70 mm (Lapua Magnum). The material of the barrel is stainless steel 416R, and rifling in the bore is made ​​by cutting in a single pass, which today is the most accurate. The material of main parts, including the trigger mechanism of T-5000 is stainless steel.

Lodge rifle aluminum alloy D16T, which is not inferior to the strength of steel, but at the same time it is just as strong if not stronger. Additionally, it is not affected by changes in temperature, for example, when moving the rifle from a warm temperature into the cold. In fact during testing of the T-5000, researchers were shooting in 73-degree cold temperature, and such a low temperature had no effect on accuracy.

ORSIS T-5000 with a short barrel

The new Four-chamber muzzle brake, kompensotora significantly reduces recoil. It comes with a frfle bipod attached to the forearm console on which the Picatinny rail is attached. It is also fitted with an adjustable butt stock. It comes with a three position safety device and box detachable magazine able to carry 5 to 10 rounds. The weight of the T-5000 varies from 6.1 to 6.5 kg, and the length unfolded rangers from 1060 to 1270 mm.

The resource barrel can withstand 5,000 shots of 7.62×51 (Winchester) without degrading the accuracy. At the T-5000, this figure is half a minute of arc (at a distance of 800 meters spread fire hit no more than 11 cm). No pre zeroing needed in any weather and at any time of the day or night T-5000 hits a target at a distance of up to 1650 m. In the future, a modernized version will increase the distance up to 2000 m.
There is a thought that “accuracy” should be replaced with time efficiency that the  T 5000 offers, as well as foreign high-precision sniper rifles, which are now in service with, for example, the British Accuracy International and Sako TRG , and the Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher SSG 04 . But most likely the sniper complex will complement the “Russian Terminator” and will effectively will complement the full range of problems faced by the Russian special forces.

Sako TRG

Steyr-Mannlicher SSG 04

Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) are expected to perform two main combat missions:
  • Engage light armored vehicles of the enemy using armor piercing ammunition
  • Support organic infantry by fire
In today’s asymmetric battlefields including urban scenarios, the infantry needs to closely work together with their armor.
  • The infantry might pinned down by enemy fire behind cover such as walls either be it brick or adobe or concrete. In this case, the IFV must be able to effectively fire through the wall and incapacitate the enemy team behind cover.
  •  In order for the infantry squad to enter a suspicious building covered by walls, the IFV is neded to create an opening thru the wall for the infantry to enter the compound.
In some parts of the world a material called Adobe (not the software company… 😉 is very common in building walls.
Wikipedia defines Adobe as:
 Adobe is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and some kind of fibrous or organic material (sticks, straw, and/or manure), which the builders shape into bricks (using frames) and dry in the sun. Adobe buildings are similar to cob and mudbrick buildings. Adobe structures are extremely durable, and account for some of the oldest existing buildings in the world

The image below shows different calibers and types of rounds fired against a 20cm thick concrete wall.

TNO, “Capability Gap in Urban Ops”, 2012

Some information on the types of rounds fired:
FAPDS: Frangible Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot. The round breaks up upon impact with soft and hard targets. On the one hand, the projectile’s lethality is due to its penetrating power; on the other, to the effects of fragmentation. Consisting of a tungsten heavy metal alloy.
PELE: Penetrator with Enhanced Lateral Effect.
Crucial to its success is the specially engineered projectile, which combines two materials with different levels of density. Containing neither a fuse nor explosives, the round’s lethality derives from its high penetrating power coupled with fragmentation, blast and incendiary effects.
APDS: Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot.
P-ABM: Programmable Air Burst
MP: Multi Purpose
The other below shows the effects of again different calibers and types against a 80cm thick adobe wall.

TNO, “Capability Gap in Urban Ops”, 2012

Adobe Hut

Conclusions from the TNO’s study are remarkable:
Projectiles with fuze (20 to 35 mm HE & MP) are
NOT capable to defeat 80 cm Adobe wall
– Fragment debris in front of wall
– No fragment debris after the wall
NOT capable to breech
KE projectiles (25 to 35 mm APDS and APFDS) are
capable to defeat 80 cm Adobe wall
– No fragment debris in front of wall, but during flight
– No fragment debris after the wall
PABM and KETF unprogrammed are capable to defeat 40 cm Adobe
– No fragment debris in front of wall
– Fragment debris after the wall
Frangible and PELE-PEN (25 to 30mm) projectiles are
capable to defeat 80 cm Adobe wall
– No fragment debris in front of wall
– Some Fragment debris after the wall.

Images recently uploaded to Twitter by the Free Syrian Amy’s ‘Division 30’ show combatants with US-made arms. In one image, a Mk 14 EBR (enhanced battle rifle) series weapon is visible in the foreground, while another fighter holds what is likely an M16A4 rifle.

The Mk 14 EBR series are self-loading rifles chambered for 7.62 x 51 mm and typically employed as designated marksman rifles (DMR). Originally introduced by the US Navy, Mk 14 series rifles have since been produced for other US service branches and sold to foreign allies. The model pictured appears to have been produced by Rock Island Arsenal, in Illinois. Minor diagnostic details such as the type of optic, scope mount, bipod, and other components distinguish it from other models. It is designated as the M14EBR-RI, and some 6,200 examples were fielded by the US Army. Another photo uploaded the same day shows fighters with a 120 mm M120 mortar system, with one fighter carrying another M16-type rifle.

FSA fighters from Division 30 with an M120 mortar system.

It is not clear how Division 30 acquired these weapons, but it is likely they received them as part of a US-administered train and equip programme. The Mk 14 EBR has previously been seen in Iraq in the hands of IS fighters, as seen below, thought to be captured from Iraqi security forces who had, in turn, received it from the United States. With recent reports that Jabhat al-Nusra fighters successfully abducted members of Division 30, and killed others, there remains a possibility that some of these supplied weapons will yet find their way into the hands of other groups.

T-14 Armata Art

Posted: August 11, 2015 in Armata, Armata T-14, Armor, Art, T-14, Tank
Tags: , , , , ,

A user sent this drawing in. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The T-80 is a glaring lesson in why heavily-armored tanks can hide major weaknesses. Once considered a premium tank by the Russian military establishment, T-80s suffered savage losses to lightly armed guerrillas during the First Chechen War. The tank’s reputation never recovered.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The T-80 was the last main battle tank to come out of the Soviet Union. It was the first Soviet tank to mount a gas turbine engine, giving it a top road speed of 70 kilometers per hour and an efficient power-to-weight ratio of 25.8 horsepower per ton.

This made the standard T-80B one of the most nimble tanks to come out of the 1980s.

The Chechen rebels’ combat prowess–and poor Russian tactics–was more responsible for the T-80’s losses than the inherent design. Though, it did have one major flaw. But in the end, it was too expensive and guzzled too much fuel. The Russian military grew to favor the more economical T-72 series instead.

The T-80 was an evolution over its predecessor, the T-64. As the most modern tank design of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the T-64 was a departure from the Soviet penchant for simple armored vehicle designs, such as the T-54/55 and T-62.

For instance, the T-64 was the first Soviet tank to replace human loaders with mechanical autoloaders, reducing the crew from four to three. The T-64’s second trend-setting innovation was the introduction of composite armor, which layered ceramics and steel together to provide superior resistance compared to only steel.

Further, the T-64 had lightweight, small diameter all-steel road wheels in contrast to the large, rubber rimmed ones on the T-55 and T-62.

The first mass produced variant, the T-64A, mounted the huge 125-millimeter 2A46 Rapira main gun, which was so popular that it came included on all subsequent Russian tanks … up to the T-90. Remarkably, the T-64A packed all of this potential into a petite 37-ton package–relatively light for a tank of this size.

But as marvelous as these innovations were, the T-64 had a sensitive 5TDF engine and unusual suspension–both prone to breaking down. As a result, the Soviet army deliberately assigned the tanks to units stationed close to its manufacturing plant in Kharkov.

Even worse, rumors circulated that the T-64’s new autoloader chomped off the arms of crew members who strayed too close. It’s a plausible scenario given the T-64’s tiny internal space.

While fixing the T-64A’s automotive maladies, the Soviets developed an interest in developing a new tank with a gas turbine engine. Gas turbines have high acceleration and an efficient power-to-weight ratio, can start quickly in cold weather without prior warm-up–a necessity in Russia’s frigid winters–and they’re lightweight.

On the downside, gas turbines guzzle fuel and have higher susceptibility to dirt and dust owing to their voracious air intake compared to conventional diesels.

T-80B.

The original base model T-80 didn’t enter active service until 1976–much later than planned. The Soviet tank industry had its hands full working out the T-64A’s kinks and gearing up for producing the T-72 as a cheaper backup option. At the same time, the Soviets were building more T-55s and T-62s for Arab allies which had lost hundreds of tanks during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The early-model T-80s also had their problems. In November 1975, the USSR’s then defense minister Andrei Grechko blocked the tank’s production because of its wasteful fuel consumption and few firepower advancements over the T-64A. Five more months passed before Grechko’s successor, Dmitriy Ustinov, authorized the new tank to go into production.

The original T-80’s production line continued for two years–not long–as it was already outclassed by the T-64B tank, which featured a new fire control system that could fire 9M112 Kobra missiles from its main gun. More serious, the T-80 was nearly three-and-a-half times more expensive than the T-64A.

The T-80B succeeded the baseline model in 1978. As the most advanced “premium tank” in the East, the Soviets beginning in 1981 assigned most T-80Bs to its highest risk garrison–the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany.

Its high speed earned it the nickname “Tank of the English Channel.” In Soviet war game calculations, T-80Bs were able to reach the Atlantic coast within five days–assuming that they didn’t run out of fuel.

This new variant borrowed from the T-64. In addition to firing conventional sabot, shaped charge and anti-personnel fragmentation shells, the T-80B’s 125-millimeter 2A46M-1 smoothbore gun could launch the same 9K112 Kobra missiles.

Since this anti-tank guided missile was considerably more expensive than regular tank shells, the tank only carried four missiles compared to 38 shells. The missiles were intended to swat down attack helicopters or ATGM-capable vehicles beyond the range of the T-80B’s conventional gun rounds.

A co-axial 7.62 x 54-millimeter PKT and 12.7 x 108-millimeter NSVT Utes machine gun for the commander’s cupola rounded off the tank’s anti-personnel weapons.

While the T-80B boasted advanced composite armor, it had even greater protection through its Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor, or ERA. Arranged in the same horizontal layers as late production T-72A tanks, ERA-equipped T-80Bs were called T-80BVs.

T-80BVs in column formation.

In 1987, the T-80U succeeded the T-80B in production, if not absolute numbers.

Externally, the T-80U mounted Kontakt-5 reactive armor. This was an improvement over Kontakt-1–which used an add-on array of explosive filled shingles. Instead, Kontakt-5 was a factory applied set of plates pointing forward to maximize the deflection angle of incoming rounds. Kontakt-1 was only useful against shaped charge warheads, while Kontakt-5 added resistance to kinetic energy sabot rounds as well.

Internally, the T-80U traded the T-80B’s 1A33 fire control system for the more advanced 1A45. The engineers swapped out the Kobra missiles with the laser-guided 9K119 Refleks guided missile–a more reliable, longer range and harder hitting weapon. T-80Us crammed in seven more rounds of 125-millimeter shells than the T-80B.

But the T-80U didn’t last long in production. Its new GTD-1250 turbine was still too fuel hungry and maintenance heavy. In its place came the diesel powered T-80UD. This represented the last T-80 variant to be produced in the Soviet Union. It was also the first of its kind to see action outside of a training school … if “action” meant blasting tank shells into the Russian parliament to settle the October 1993 constitutional crisis.

The December 1994 separatist war in Chechnya was the first action for the T-80 where the shooting was going both ways … and it was an epic disaster.

When rebels in Chechnya declared their country’s independence, Russian president Boris Yeltsin ordered troops to bring the former Soviet republic back to the fold by force. These troops took T-80Bs and BVs with them. The soldiers had never trained with the T-80 before. Ignorant of the new tank’s gluttony for fuel, they ran their engines dry while idling.

The Russian advance into the Chechen capital Grozny was a near massacre for the invaders–nearly 1,000 soldiers died and 200 vehicles were destroyed from Dec. 31, 1994, to the following New Year’s Day evening. As the most advanced vehicle in the Russian assault force, the T-80B and T-80BVs suffered horrific losses.

While impervious to direct frontal hits, dozens of these tanks were destroyed in catastrophic explosions, their turrets blowing off after sustaining multiple strikes from the Chechen rebels’ RPG-7V and RPG-18 rocket launchers.

T-80UD during the 1993 crisis.

It turned out–the T-80’s Korzhina autoloader had a fatal design flaw. The autoloader stored ready propellant in a vertical position, with only the tank’s road wheels partially protecting it. RPGs striking the T-80 in the sides abovethe road wheels were likely to set off the propellant, resulting in the tank’s explosive decapitation.

In this respect, the T-72A and Bs–which received the same kind of punishment–had a marginally higher probability of surviving flanking strikes because their autoloaders stored propellant in a horizontal position below the rims of their road wheels.

A second major fault of the T-80, like previous Russian tanks, was minimal gun elevation and depression. The tank’s gun could not fire back at rebels shooting from upper story rooms or basements.

To be fair, T-80 casualties were more likely the fault of ill-prepared crews, inadequate training and disastrous tactics. Such was the haste of Russia’s rush to war that T-80BVs entered Grozny without the explosive filler in their reactive armor panels, making the armor useless. It was even alleged that some soldiers sold off the explosive inserts to supplement their salaries.

The Soviet army had long forgotten the hard lessons of urban warfare from World War II. During the Cold War, only Spetsnaz commandos and the Berlin garrison had trained for serious city fighting. Expecting little resistance, Russian forces drove into Grozny with infantry buttoned up inside their BMP and BTR transports. Their commanders got lost because they didn’t have proper maps.

Since Russian soldiers were reluctant to exit their transports and clear buildings room by room, their Chechen adversaries–who knew the weaknesses of Russian vehicles from Soviet-era conscription–were free to turn the tanks and other armored vehicles into crematoriums.

It was easy for the Russian high command to blame the T-80’s design for the Chechen disaster–as opposed to clumsy operational planning and tactical inadequacies. But ultimately, it was a lack of money which caused the cheaper T-72 to displace the T-80 as the preferred choice for Russia’s export sales and its post-Chechen wars.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia lost the T-80UD production plant in Kharkov to the newly independent Ukraine. The T-80U factory at Omsk declined into bankruptcy, while the Leningrad LKZ plant no longer made the earlier T-80BV.

For Russia to have three tank types–the T-72 (A and B), T-80 (BV, U and UD) and T-90 (a rebrand of the T-72BU)–made no financial or logistical sense. Each tank had the same 125-millimeter 2A46M gun and similarly performing gun-launched missiles. But they all had different engines, fire control systems and chassis.

In simpler terms, these tanks offered commonality in capabilities but diversity in spare parts, rather than common spare parts and diversity of capabilities. Since the T-80U was far more expensive than the T-72B, it was only logical for a cash-strapped Russia to favor the T-72.

But Moscow continued to experiment with its T-80s, adding active protection systems–which use millimeter-wave radar to track incoming missiles before launching explosive countermeasures. The resulting T-80UM-1 Bars was revealed in 1997 but did not enter production, probably again because of budget cuts.

Russia did not use the T-80 during the Second Chechen War of 1999-2000, or the brief 2008 conflict with Georgia–as far as we know. T-80s have so far not joined the war in Ukraine.