Thursday, December 23, 2021

Previously Unseen Photograph Shows The Russian T-80U Tank In India

Twitter recently threw up an unseen photograph of a Russian weapon system in India.

T-80U Main Battle Tank - Indian Army Trial - 01

via @BhaduriRajendra

The T-80U Main Battle Tank [MBT] reached India during 1992-1993 to square off against it's cousin, the T-72S "Shilden", for a coveted place in the Army's Armoured Corps stable. The Corps was facing an alarming shortfall of set pieces, as it's British-origin 60s-era Vijayanta/Vickers Tank were confounded with major obsolescence issues, 30+ years hence.

Initial plans involved India developing it's own MBT, the Arjun, to replace legacy platforms. The programme, conceived in the 70s, with a goal of going into production in the 80s, appeared nowhere close to realisation in the 90s. Thus, the tricolour began the hunt for the Red Armour.

T-80U Tank - GTD-1250 - Gas Turbine Engine - 01

The T-80U holds the unique distinction of being the world's first production-variant Tank kitted with a Gas Turbine Engine as it's main Power plant. The GTD-1250 could burn either diesel fuel, kerosene, gasoline or a combination to churn out 1,250 hp of propelling force. Another Gas Turbine unit, the GTA-18, functions as an Auxiliary Power Unit, providing 18 kW to run.

T-80U Tank - GTA-18 - Gas Turbine APU - 01

This photograph shows the T-80U mounted with a Agava-2 thermal night vision imager. It was a very recent addition, then, that the Russians began integrating in the early 90s. The Russians sent in it's steed, adorned with all it's bells & whistles.
T-80U Tank - Agava-2 Thermal Imaging - 01

It's Gas Turbine Engine, as efficient as it is, was also it's Achilles heel, where it "failed miserably" in the extreme heat of the Thar Deserts where the trials took place. The Americans faced similar predicament during Operation Desert Storm with the 1500 hp Gas Turbine powering it's M1A1 Abrams Tank, where the

"harsh desert environment demanded frequent air filter cleaning because sand-clogged filters reduced engine power and speed. In extreme cases, sand damaged engines.".

In some instances, it found that,

"tanks stopped in their tracks due to severe sand ingestion encountered during a sandstorm. One crew said it had encountered a sandstorm and five tanks in its company had shut down due to clogged filters. All five tank crews stopped to clean their air filters, but within 15 minutes, two of the same five tanks shut down again due to sand ingestion.".

~ OPERATION DESERT STORM Early Performance Assessment of Bradley and Abrams

The Indian Army eventually selected the T-90S, that was equipped with a conventional 1000 hp V92S2 Diesel Engine. At present, it operates 2000+ T-90S variant Tanks, christened Bhishma. The Arjun, forever relegated to the status of the 'ugly duckling', managed to get around 200 of itself into the stable.

A variant of the T-80, the T-80UD, that erstwhile USSR made in present-day Ukraine, with a conventional Engine, found an end-user in the neighbourhood.

This photograph of a T-80U Tank in India, a fleeting 'blink and you miss' glimpse into the convoluted course of Indian military acquisition endeavour.


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