The nation of Ukraine was under the Soviet sphere of influence up to 1990 when the Empire was dissolved amidst a move to a more democratic state. Nations such as the Ukraine garnered their independence to become sovereign powers once more. During its years under Soviet rule, the Ukrainian military was subject to procurement of Soviet-inspired designs that included aircraft, small arms, tanks and armored vehicles. One such system became the T-80, a Soviet main battle tank that had entered service in 1976 with the Soviet Army and never saw export until the end of the Soviet Empire. The tank still operates in large numbers (albeit dwindling to an extent) across the globe. Over 5,400 of the type were produced and subsequently passed on to successor states when the new Russia emerged. It was this tank - or, more specifically, the T-80UD production model - that was selected by the Ukrainian government to modernized and upgrade to new Ukrainian Army standards. Ukraine managed up to 345 T-80s as recently as 1995 though this number has since declined over time. Nevertheless, Ukrainian experience with Russian equipment was there.
The selection of the T-80 was essentially one of necessity for the Ukrainians sought to become more independent concerning their military requirements. As such, it was seen that localized efforts would become the call of the day, resulting in a Ukraine that was less dependent on foreign parties for which to staff her military requirements in the foreseeable future. While the resulting design initiative actually began in the late 1980s, the new "T-84" did not appear until 1995, entering frontline service with the Ukrainian Army in 1999. Design of the type was undertaken by the KMDB (Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau) firm with production coming out of the Malyshev Factory of Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Externally, the T-84 maintains much of its original Soviet-inspired appearance. Soviet tanks are well-known for their low-profiles and the T-84 does not disappoint in this respect. The vehicle is set upon a wheeled track system that fields six rubber-tired road wheels to a vehicle side. The drive sprocket is at the rear with the track idler at the front. The hull sports a well-sloped glacis plate with the driver at his position at the front center of the hull. The turret is set at the middle of the hull roof within its bustle and the turret is hexagonal in basic shape when viewed from the top profile. The turret also sports well-sloped facings and a barrel installation that protrudes well-forward of the hull. There are two hatches along the turret roof, one for the commander to the right hand side and another to the left hand side. The commander has access to a heavy caliber machine gun at his cupola for anti-aircraft and anti -infantry defense while this weapon can target light armored vehicles. The main gun is complemented by a coaxial machine gun operated by the gunner. There is a standard operating crew of three - the driver, tank commander and gunner - for an autoloader (consistent with other modern Soviet/Russian tank developments) reduces the need for a dedicated loader personnel. Armor protection, including use of Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), makes the T-84 one of the best protected tanks anywhere in the world. An integrated self-entrenching blade system - another Soviet tank design mainstay - is standard on the T-84 and allows the tank crew the ability to dig its own defilade.
The engine is held in a rear-set compartment and additional optional external fuel stores can be fitted to the rear hull roof for increased operational ranges. Primary power comes from a KMDB 6TD-2 series, 6-cylinder, multi-fuel, turbo-diesel engine developing 1,200 horsepower which is a major upgrade from the original Soviet T-80UD model. The engine is mated to a planetary transmission system sporting seven forward and one rearward gears of operation. Collectively, this provides the vehicle with a top speed of approximately 40 miles per hour with an operational range nearing some 340 miles. The vehicle exhibits one of the best power-to-weight ratios of its class which enables it to be considered one of the fastest main battle tank elements in service anywhere in the world. Fuel consumption is up to 25% less than as found on the original T-80UD which makes for a more efficient system. Suspension is via torsion bar with hydraulic dampeners for excellent cross-country performance. The vehicle weighs just over 50 Short Tons. The T-84 can also clear up to five meters of water as it includes standard fording equipment. A more powerful engine - the 6TD-3 diesel - is also available and provide upwards of 1,500 horsepower output.
Primary armament is in the form of a 125mm KBA03 smoothbore main gun, one of the largest main guns to be fitted to any modern-day main battle tank. There are between 40 and 42 x 125mm ready-to-fire projectiles (HE and AP warheads) in stowage. Consistent with Soviet tank design doctrine, the T-84's main gun features the interesting inherent ability to fire anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) - specifically the 9K119M "Reflex" (AT-11 "Sniper-B") which further increases the T-84's lethality on the modern battlefield - giving the crew the ability to fire against moving armored targets at range with a good level of accuracy and armor-defeating potential. The missiles are loaded and fired in the same fashion as the standard 125mm projectiles.
Additional armament is available in the form of a 12.7mm KT-12.7 series heavy machine gun (at the commander's cupola) and a 7.62mm KT-7.62 series general purpose machine gun fitted coaxially in the turret next to the main gun. The commander's machine gun has been given the ability of remote fire to keep the crewmember within the relatively safe confines of the turret. 1,250 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition are carried as are 450 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition. There are twelve smoke grenade dischargers - in banks of six to either turret side - for self-defense or to cover the tank's offensive movements in the field. The "Shtora-1" countermeasures suite helps to counter threats from guided anti-tank missiles through warning indicators. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection is standard as is an automated fire suppression system should the tank be subject to a direct hit from enemy fire - this keeping the ammunition from exploding or filling the turret with lethal smoke.
The initial T-84 production version was designated simply as the "T-84" with no letter prefix. While based highly on the Soviet T-80UD design, these incorporated all-new welded steel turrets and introduced the Shtora-1 electro-optical active protection system for integrated self-preservation on the battlefield. The tank was powered by the locally-produced KMDB 6TD-2 diesel-fueled engine of 1,200 horsepower.
The T-84U was brought online with various upgrades to help improve the T-84s battlefield reach. Chief among the additions was a laser-range finder, thermal imaging sight, GPS navigation, Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks, standard side armor skirts and an auxiliary power gas turbine engine which allowed the tank to operate its key systems without the engine running - a feature that the preceding T-80UD lacked.
The T-84 "Oplot" became a rather ambitious modernization program for the T-84 series as a whole. The turret was redesigned again and of welded construction. Ammunition was now stored in separated compartments from the crew to help increase crew safety in the event of a direct hit from an enemy projectile or missile. The autoloader was now installed to the turret bustle. The Ukrainian Army currently fields only a handful of Oplot series tanks as of this writing though recent developments have seen procurement of the type in greater quantity.
The T-84 "Oplot-M" is nothing more than the latest incarnation of the T-84 and naturally based on the Oplot production variant. The type is a modernized form of the Oplot (hence the "M" in the designation) and brings about an updated countermeasures suite to deal with the ever-expanding potency of new anti-tank/anti-armor weapons on the battlefield today. Armor protection is also improved through Nozh ERA blocks which protect the vehicle from newer tandem projectile warheads.
The export-minded T-84-120 "Oplot" sports a revised turret installation and fits a NATO-standard 120mm main gun with new autoloader. Side armor skirts are standard.
Naturally, as with any other main frontline tank system available in number, the T-84 has been evolved into various other battlefield forms including the BREM-84 armored recovery vehicle (ARV, also known as the "Atlet"), the BMU-84 bridgelayer and the BTMP-84 infantry fighting vehicle - the latter currently residing in prototype form as of this writing. The infantry fighting vehicle version deserves special notice here for it is one of the few modern instances where a main battle tank design has served as the basis for an IFV. This particular modification sees an extra pair of wheels added to a lengthened hull design which mounts a 125mm main gun in a traversing turret installation. The engine is relocated to permit installation of a five-man fighting compartment to the rear of the hull.
The Ukrainian government has attempted to swoon the Turkish Army into procuring their T-84 system and developed the T-84U "Yatagan" prototype specifically for the task (also becoming a marketable model for any other interested customer). The major difference in this version is the inclusion of a 120mm main gun over that of the original's 125mm caliber system as well as an all-new autoloader system. The main gun is, therefore, cleared to fire both NATO-standard projectiles as well as AT-11 "Sniper" anti-tank guided missile. The fire control system (FCS) and communications suites are all tailored to Turkish needs and side armor skirts are standard.
Operators (beyond Ukraine) are set to include Georgia (with twelve tanks ordered) and Thailand (with some 49 examples under order).
The T-84's first-actions were recorded in the 2014 Ukranian-Russian engagements as part of the ongoing War in Donbass.