The T-84 Oplot-M is Ukraine’s latest Main Battle Tank. While it hasn’t seen combat service in the Ukrainian military, the type contains many advanced features. But the Oplot is hardly a clean slate.
- The Ukrainian T-84 Oplot Main Battle Tank The Ukrainian T-84 Oplot Main Battle Tank Timeline T-84 is the Ukrainian upgrade of the T-80UD, the diesel version of the Russian T-80U, which was built in the.
- We tracked down the story of T-84 Oplot, Ukrainian main battle tank which was brought back from storage to its life in 2017 but disappeared again in 2018 after Independence parade. T-84 Oplot is Ukrainian main battle tank, an upgrade of Russian T-80UD with Ukrainian components. Ten T-84s entered service in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
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The Oplot is an improved version of Ukrainian T-84 main battle tank, fitted with new turret. Sometimes it is referred as T-84 Oplot. Overall in terms of protection, firepower it is broadly similar to the Russian T-90. The Oplot was officially adopted in 2000. Only 10 of these tanks were produced in 2001 and delivered to Ukrainian armed forces. Ukrainian army never ordered this tank in large numbers due to funding problems and relies ageing T-64 main battle tanks and its upgraded versions. Currently its improved version, the Oplot-M is in production, which is being built in small numbers for Thailand.
Recently 6 surviving Ukrainian Oplot tanks were repaired and refurbished. Status of remaining 4 tanks is unclear, but these tanks are certainly not operational. In 2018 Ukrainian team with Oplot tanks took part in Strong Europe tank challenge. Other participants included American M1A2 SEP V2, British Challenger 2, French Leclerc, German Leopard 2A4, 2A5 and 2A6 tanks, Swedish Strv 122. However in this competition Ukrainian team lost to all other participants and took the last place. It was mainly due to numerous reliability issues. So the Ukrainian Oplot proved to be inferior to modern Western main battle tanks due these reliability issues. In terms of overall performance it is rather comparable to the Russian T-90 tank. On the other hand the whole concept behind the Oplot is rather successful, but the faulty components let the side down.
This Ukrainian tank has a much smaller profile than most Western main battle tanks. So it is a smaller target on the battlefield. Protection of the Oplot has been improved over the previous T-84. It has a welded hull and turret with built-in explosive reactive armor. The tank is fitted with Shtora-1 countermeasures system which reduces the chance of being hit by enemy anti-tank guided missiles with semi-automatic guidance. As usually vehicle is fitted with NBC protection and automatic fire suppression systems.
The Oplot is armed with a 125 mm smoothbore gun. It is compatible with all Soviet/Russian 125 mm tank ammunition. This tank is fitted with a carousel-type autoloader, similar to that of the Soviet and Russian tanks. Four types of different rounds can be used. Typically these are APFSDS, HEAT, HE-FRAG, and guided missiles. A total of 28 rounds are stored in the autoloader and ready to use. The rest are stored inside the hull.
The Oplot tank is capable of launching anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary rounds. It is either a Soviet 9K119M Refleks (Western reporting name AT-11 Sniper-B), or its Ukrainian version.
There is a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun. Also there is a roof-mounted remotely-controlled 12.7 mm machine gun. It has an effective range of 2 km against air and ground targets. This machine gun is operated by vehicle commander.
This main battle tank is operated by a crew of three, including commander, gunner and driver.
This tank is powered by 6TD-2 turbocharged multi-fuel diesel engine, developing 1 200 hp. The Oplot is much faster than the Russia's T-90. It is also fitted with auxiliary power unit, which powers all systems when the main engine is turned off. This tank has a deep wading kit and can ford water obstacles up to 5 m deep. The Oplot is fitted with a self-entrenching blade and can prepare itself a defensive emplacement. This tank can be airlifted by an An-124 or similar heavy military transport aircraft.
Yatagan prototype main battle tank, intended for export. It was mainly aimed at a Turkish Army requirement. It is a further development of the Oplot, featuring a 120 mm gun, compatible with standard NATO ammunition. It used a special 120 mm gun-launched anti-tank guided missiles, based on the 9K119M technology. The Yatagan had a new turret. Ammunition was stored in the turret bustle, in a separate compartment with with blow-out panels. This model also had a new autoloader. However there were no production orders for this tank.
Oplot-M improved version. It is fitted with new Nozh explosive reactive armor which protects against tandem warheads. This tank also has new panoramic sight with hunter-killer capability. It has been exported to Thailand.
Atlet armored recovery vehicle. Actually it is based on a modified T-80UD chassis, which is essentially similar. This ARV was specially developed to support Oplot main battle tanks, as the Soviet T-80 series tank had no dedicated armored recovery vehicle.
Ukrainian officials want the country’s defense industry to produce top-of-the-line tanks for the army. But that might prove a tad pricey..
Ukraine does not yet produce Oplots for its own usage. Instead, the tanks are exported abroad. Photo credit: Volodymyr Strymkovskiy/UNIAN
File this under “Only in Ukraine.” By any measure, the country produces great tanks. Other countries pay larges sums of money to buy these tanks. But Ukraine can’t afford to provide these same tanks to its own army.
The Oplot is the top Ukrainian-produced tank, according to Ukroboronprom, the state-owned defense industry conglomerate. A single Oplot costs $4.7 million. Around 100 Ukrainian enterprises are involved in the production of these fighting vehicles. However, at the present moment, the Ukrainian army doesn’t have a single Oplot.
Now, the Ukrainian government is planning to introduce these top-shelf tanks into the army. But experts are unsure whether such an expensive move is workable, let alone necessary.
The Oplot tank was first introduced in 2009. The Ministry of Defense planned to order ten units for the army. Then, reality struck: the authorities couldn’t find any money in the budget. Instead, the Malyshev plant, located in Kharkiv, has been producing these tanks for export to Thailand for the last six years.
In June, Oleksandr Turchynov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, visited the Malyshev plant. “We are already planning on fully equipping a squadron with ten Oplot tanks next year,” he stated after the visit.
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Oplot offers a clear advantage over other models. Its powerful engine gives it more speed than other tanks. It also has better armor and a modern weapons management system. This makes Oplot preferable to other modernized tanks that Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union. But it also makes Oplot very expensive.
For this reason, officials only returned to the question of equipping the Ukrainian Army with Oplot tanks in 2014, after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and war erupted in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Oplot construction at Kharkiv's 'Malyshev Plant,' a state enterprise. Photo credit: Anastasia Kanareva
Since then, military and political leaders have argued over the benefits of using these tanks in the the Donbas war. However, as of early 2017, President Petro Poroshenko believed that it would be irrational to produce such expensive and complex tanks when the existing T-64 tanks could be modernised into the improved “Bulat” model for the same price.
“It’s either one Oplot or 10 highly modernised and completely refurbished T-64s and T-80s,” Poroshenko said in January, referring to two similar Ukrainian-manufactured Soviet tank models. “First and foremost, we have to equip the tank units in an extremely short period of time.”
The last batch of Soviet T-64s modernised into Bulats was given to the military back in March 2013. Since then, the Malyshev plant has not been producing any new tanks of this model, and just repairing the damaged ones.
“We don’t have any ‘Bulats.’ We haven’t even heard of them,” says Pavlo Mishchenko, commander of the tank unit of the Ukrainian Army’s 93rd brigade. “Even I, the unit commander, have never seen this tank. Everyone just says that they are supposedly somewhere else.”
The brigade has recently returned from the war zone with its old T-64s. Using this old tanks poses serious problems for Mishchenko’s unit.
“If, for example, we had to quickly retreat from battle and travel a great distance, it’s not certain that the old engines would withstand it,” he says. “The vehicles are overheating. Not a single vehicle has undergone any proper technical maintenance or complete overhaul since the start of the war.”
However, the Ukrainian Ground Forces’ command assured Hromadske that there are indeed “Bulats” in use, but information on their exact numbers is confidential. In accordance with the Minsk peace agreements, no heavy artillery is taking part in the hostilities. Therefore, the tanks are in the withdrawal zone.
Hromadske traveled to this area of the Donetsk region to see what equipment the Ukrainian tank operatives have at their disposal. The 92nd brigade showed us a T-64 which is almost 40 years old. The brigade’s soldiers can only dream of Bulats and Oplots.
Necessary Upgrade or Pointless Expenditure?
This June, the President signed an order allocating an additional $11.8 million for the Armed Forces’ first ten Oplots. But there is little hope that the tanks will be ready for the army by next year.
“The Oplot tanks for Thailand and the Oplot tanks for Ukraine are two different projects,” says Serhiy Zgurets, a military expert and director of the Defense Express consulting firm. “The Malyshev factory will begin production during the year and this will go on throughout 2018. So, in fact, we’ll have one tank unit worth $47.1 million in two years’ time.”
One Oplot tank cost the state as much as ten extensively modernized and repaired T-64 and T-80 tanks (in the photo, a T-64) Photo credit: Bohdan Kinaschuk
For the same money, they could provide seven tank units with modernized Bulat tanks.
“There is no need to invest a lot of time and money in Oplots. Even if Ukraine had them, the situation on the ground would not change significantly,” says Michael Kofman, a military expert at the Wilson Center. “In the worst case scenario — that is, full-scale hostilities with Russia and the full use of its conventional weapons — Russia could simply crush the Ukrainian tanks, because of its significant numerical advantage alone. In your situation, it’s better to have a lot of basic tanks, rather than a few very expensive ones.”
Even producing Oplots for other countries increasingly appears pointless. In 2011, Ukraine signed the contract to provide 49 tanks to Thailand. The deal was worth $7.9 million. According to state-owned arms trading company Ukrspetsexport, the Malyshev plant has received the payment in full. That money was supposed to fund Ukraine’s tank industry.
However, after several failures to meet production deadlines, the order is still ongoing, and experts think that it is no longer financially beneficial to Ukraine.
“It’s a matter of image. Otherwise, Russians and any other competitor countries on the market would say that Ukraine is incapable of building tanks,” Zgurets says.
Hromadske was unable to find out exactly where the money from the Thai contracts went and how much equipment was modernised or produced for the Ukrainian Army using this money. That information is a commercial and government secret, the state enterprise claims.
/By Anastasia Kanareva and Bohdan Kinaschuk