New Ukrainian main battle tank to give new life to old Soviet T-64 and T-72 tank hulls

Drawings of new Ukrainian main battle tank "T-Rex" (Image: gazeta.ua)

Drawings of new Ukrainian main battle tank "T-Rex" (Image: gazeta.ua) 

2017/01/18 - 08:38 • Analysis & Opinion, Military analysis, Ukraine

Article by: Olena Kapnik

Ukrainian company Arey Engineering Group developed a new main battle tank design codenamed T-Rex (Ukrainian: “Тірекс”), which is to be produced domestically. It met all technical requirements of the country’s defense ministry and is planned to enter service within a year. The manufacturers are convinced this new design will rival T-14 Armata, Russia’s next-generation tank.

“The tank has a conceptually new system of fire control and a high level of personnel protection. Its many features include high maneuverability, 360-degree vision, and a high-bandwidth counteraction analytics system. The design has the full range of solutions needed today for this level of technology,” – Arey‘s chief designer Sergei Stepanov says.

The tank has an unmanned turret, tracked armored body and chassis. The crew of three is seated in an armored capsule in the front of the hull, similar to Armata. From there, they control the tank and manage the cannon and machine-gun fire from the turret, which becomes a weapons module. Just as Armata, the tank is armed with a 125-millimeter cannon with remotely-controlled automatic loader and machine guns. The technology is designed for simultaneous near-distance anti-infantry and far-distance anti-tank fights in day or night conditions.

According to the tank’s designers, its combat characteristics exceed those of the two other advanced Ukrainian tanks: Oplot and Bulat. T-Rex will reuse hulls from the fleet of thousands of T-64 and T-72 tanks Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union.

“This design is transitional. It allows us to re-use Ukraine’s existing fleet of tanks and to obtain a new level of technology in a short time and with minimal cost. It will not be below world standards,” – said the expert.

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Translated by: A. N.
Source: Gazeta.UA

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  • Robert

    I suspect the greatest advantage of the Ukrainian T-Rex over the Russian armata is that it won’t require a tow truck escort. :)

    • Alex George

      Yes, that was embarrassing.

      It really looks like the Ukrainians had the same basic design as the Russian Armata, and have been working on it independently since the final falling out.

      I tihnk they would do a lot betteer just re-equipping with Oplots.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        The problem with the T-84 is that it takes far more time to manufacture a new one than to upgrade a T-64 or T-72. There’s also the matter of cost- two to three T-64s or T-72s can be upgraded for the price of one T-84.
        It’s better to have three upgraded T-64s or T-72s available quickly than one T-84 next year under the current circumstances. And remember the old Chinese proverb: “Even the mightiest serpent can be overcome by a swarm of ants”. The current Ukrainian policy of upgrading their considerable reserve stock of T-64s and T-72 and selling new production T-84s to Thailand to earn hard currency makes sense in my opinion.

        • Quartermaster

          Yes. A wise move. They can slowly re-equip later.

          The Ukrainians also need to take a Swiss attitude to the country’s defense. Every able bodied male becomes a member of the armed forces when he gets around 16 years old. I don’t know what kind of school calendar they have, but a 16 year old kid can undergo training during the summers here in the US as my son did for the Army Reserve. The trick is to make the country so heavily armed that it is indigestible.

          • Alex George

            Good point.

            I like what they have done so far, but there is more to be done. Despite the pressure of the constant Russian aggression, they have managed it so that every soldier on the Donbas front line is a volunteer contact soldier. They still do drafts of conscripts, but they don’t get sent to the front line.

            So that’s a good way to build up the reserve of trained military men and women. But I agree, the next thing to work on would be national service for all youths.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      The flagship of the Dwarfstanian navy, the “Admiral Kuznetsov”, requires a tug as part of its escort screen. So nothing new with Dwarfstan’s prestige armament requiring a tow service.

  • Turtler

    Well, it’s a start, especially for a country that just so absolutely lacks AFVs, so it’ll probably be a vast improvement over what Ukraine has now (and nothing that kills Putin’s henchmen can be that bad). But it is still well below the cutting edge not just in the West and China, but probably also Russia as well. And it is sitting right on the border with the largest tank fleet in the World in the hands of a tyrant that has invaded the country, which sits on generally excellent tank country.

    So Ukraine has to get a lot better Very Fast. This might see off the Polonium Dwarf’s mercenaries, but for all of our sakes I hope Putin doesn’t try to go 2008 Georgia before the process is done.

    Visual representation of the Ukrainian government “breathing new life” into the T-64 and T-72 hulls:

    http://i.imgur.com/WTDnnwE.gif

    • Tony

      “especially for a country that just so absolutely lacks AFVs”
      No, Ukraine has about 2800 tanks and 8000 AFVs, that’s more tanks than France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Poland combined.
      http://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-listing-europe.asp

      Quality is the issue. For that matter, what’s wrong with T-64 hull? Performance has a lot more to do with armor and systems than hulls. Replace the turret, put modern armor layers, use modern electronics, upgrade the engine, etc and it’s a whole new beast, the metal skeleton underneath makes little difference IMO. It’s not like modern steel is that much better than steel from 40 years ago so how else have hull designs changed?

      • Turtler

        “No, Ukraine has about 2800 tanks and 8000 AFVs, that’s more tanks than
        France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Poland combined.”

        Very true, but there are a couple problems.

        A: The fact that is a paper strength. Euromaidan has covered the kind of residual corruption and inefficiencies in the Ukrainian military before and given how machines and parts tend to be a magnet for that sort of stuff even in more effective militaries, I would expect it. I can be reasonably sure that when the French say they have X Tanks, they have X tanks in more or less working order (or on track to be that again).

        And- more importantly-

        B: It is a respectable overall number compared to the world as a whole. But Ukraine is a nation in Central/Eastern Eurasia dominated by tank terrain. And when you compare its’ list of tanks and AFVs to the number fielded by nations like that (Russia, India, israel, and the like) the figures are reaaallly not that good. Especially compared to the obvious OPFOR, Russia, who has a mind numbing number of those things.

        It’s a cruel joke of geography and it isn’t fair, but unfortunately I do think Ukraine has to field a far, far larger force of AFVs than it already has just to break even in the kind of situation it has. The British might be able to scoot through with several hundred tanksin a major war, but Ukraine really can’t.

        “Quality is the issue.”

        Agreed, and that’s the other issue I figured. The problem is that while I doubt Russia’s tank forces will ever rank at the top of the list, they have been actively investing in it for years and years. So Ukrainians will likely face a numerically and mechanically superior force.

        Those *are* odds you can beat, don’t get me wrong (more on that later), but they are not the kind of odds that you want to risk.

        “For that matter, what’s wrong with T-64 hull? Performance has a lot more to do with armor and systems than hulls. ”

        Glad you asked. And yes, I agree, preformance has more to do with what you put on the frame than the fame itself, and I would say the people you put in it are even more important yet. After all, the Israelis managed to pimp out these old M4 Shermans and use them to biotch slap some of the finest Soviet armor well into the seventies. So it can be done.

        The problem is that cases like that are pretty damn rare, and the Israelis largely accomplished it due to the spectacular training and leadership they poured into the IDF for decades. The kind of investment that Ukraine is just starting to make. And the fact is, the hull basically tells you your limitations.

        And the T-64 hull has some pretty big limitations. Starting with the fact that it is so damn small (relatively speaking). Like most things, that is a plus and a minus, and since it’s smaller that means it is harder to hit in the conventional “Point cannon and shoot” form of killing tanks, and it means you can use less power to maintain the same speed as-say- the Challenger.

        But it also means that you cannot fit as much stuff on it as possible. Something has to give, and whether that’s the degree of armor, the power in the engine, or the number of electronics for things like artillery spotting, night vision, and the like. Something has to give, because it isn’t like you can put everything you can on an Abrams that weighs about twice as much.

        That coupled with how the decisive factor in tank combat HEAVILY
        leans on “See first, Shoot First”- that those who spot the enemy and can
        launch the first effective attack are highly likely to be the winners-
        means that the T-Rex will likely be significantly inconvenienced
        compared to the MBTs of today.

        Correspondingly, it also isn’t that durable compared to competing designs, not just today but even at the time (where its’ frame was noootably inferior to the Centurion and Patton in that regards). This would be a secondary problem because if you get the point where a frame is taking damage you probably have far bigger problems at hand, but it is still a more or less unfixable design flaw.

        In addition, IIRC there is a significant problem updating the T-64 bodies to incorporate more modern suspensions, which is a bit of a Pita if true. Though I’m not sure about that.

        So yeah, it’s a start, but it still puts Ukraine at about a decade behind the cutting edge, which is a really bad place to be if you have to be in the line of fire against something like the Russian tank fleet..

        • Tony

          Interesting, thanks. To accommodate different roles, I think it would be good to have a few heavier hulls but overall it should come down to cost effectiveness.
          Trying to compete with Russia in terms of number of tanks or even quality would likely be unsuccessful given current advantage and GDP difference.
          Perhaps a better approach would be cost effective tank counters. An anti-tank ditch with sensors and MLRS on standby to repel breech attempts would be expensive but perhaps more realistic.

          Here is a cheap idea, develop a small remote control car that can deliver an upward facing anti armor charge under the tank, replace with cluster munitions for clearing infantry.

          • Turtler

            “Interesting, thanks. To accommodate different roles, I think it would be
            good to have a few heavier hulls but overall it should come down to
            cost effectiveness.”

            A fair point, but there are many, many other kinds of cost than simply monetary. And in particular Ukraine has to husband its’ manpower.

            “Trying to compete with Russia in terms of number of tanks or even
            quality would likely be unsuccessful given current advantage and GDP
            difference.”

            I think this might depend on how we figure quality; after all the apartheid SADF fielded many AFVs that were better than what the USSR churned out even when isolated by both enemies and would-be allies.

            “Perhaps a better approach would be cost effective tank counters. An
            anti-tank ditch with sensors and MLRS on standby to repel breech
            attempts would be expensive but perhaps more realistic.”

            That makes sense, though part of the problem I see is the Ukrainian terrain, especially in light of Russian air superiority if a full on war.

            Sure, on some level I believe that if Russia goes all out, Ukraine just has to play a poor hand as best as it can and desperately hope for Western help ASAP. But I am not sure that can be relied on and ultimately I figure you should plan for the worst. Plan to be Poland in 1920, so if you find yourself in that situation try and deal with it.

            “Here is a cheap idea, develop a small remote control car that can
            deliver an upward facing anti armor charge under the tank, replace with
            cluster munitions for clearing infantry.”

            All very good ideas. The former thing that comes to mind is that it might require more resources to get through than a tank (because a lot of the times making something smaller using heavy machinery is hard.)

            But still, they are good ideas. And I imagine they wouldn’t be useless in the current war either…

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            What you’re suggestig is a modern version of the German Goliath remote controlled weapon:

        • Alex George

          The same issues apply to the Russian tank fleet.

          • Turtler

            Indeed, but they have more tanks and AFVs than Ukraine and no other ongoing war that is likely to see them be used except Syria. So they can afford to basically trade these vehicles and their equipment at something like 2-1 figures against the Ukrainians and could still win handily.

          • Alex George

            Trading tanks at any ratio is meaningless, divorced from the context of a battle. The Russians managed to lose tanks at a high rate even against Ukrainian volunteers with very poor anti-tank equipment.

            Could that change in a future encounter? Sure, but since we have no idea what shape that may take, its speculative.

            Also, “trading tanks” in itself assumes a certain kind of encounter, which I think it is doubtful would occur in this conflict anyway.

      • Quartermaster

        With the increase in using scrap steel in steel manufacture, steel chemistry has been changing and quality of armor plate may well have suffered as a result.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      There are several hundred T-64s and T-72 in storage in various depots all over the Ukraine (including Kharkiv and Kyiv), though they do need reconditioning before being fit for service again. This is being done,and although the result may not be quite as modern as a T-84, it is a cheap alternative- two to three T-64s or T-72s can be upgraded for the price of one new T-84. At the moment this makes sense as several T-64s can outmatch one T-84.
      The so-called DNR and LNR have T-72s so they don’t have an advantage.

      • Turtler

        Agreed on the whole, and well said. Though I do have to raise one big issue:

        “The so-called DNR and LNR have T-72s so they don’t have an advantage.”

        They do have the advantage of basically being the Russian army slumming under false “colors.” We know a lot of their personnel and equipment comes straight from the Russian Armed Forces and they have even received military support from uniformed Russian military on occasion (like the artillery bombardments from over the border).

        Anybody want to guess if sooner or later, Putin might kick a T-84 or the like their way?

        • Alex George

          Unlikely. Soviet and now Russian doctrine dictates that the best equipment is always held in reserve. Even if somebody invaded Russia, the best stuff would not appear until after the initial engagements .

          • Turtler

            Indeed, that is why I specified the T-84. Not the best equipment anymore (at least if the agitprop from the Kremlin is even remotely true regarding the T-90) and so not on reserve, but powerful enough that it could be a major problem for whatever vehicles the henchmen of the Polonium Dwarf are likely to face.

            And the more new tanks that get produced, the more likely I think it is that they will send some of the second hand stuff to support their mis-dressed troops. And that could be damn bad.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            The dwarf’s budget problems mean that he can’t afford many Armatas or much other modern stuff. There was also a report last year that the Armata’s manufacturer was facing bankruptcy.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          The dwarf doesn’t have T-84s. The T-84 is a Ukrainian upgrade of the T-80. None have been sold to Dwarfstan, or captured in the Donbas or Crimea.

          • Turtler

            ……….Wow. I cannot really believe that I forgot that. Well, that is what i get for staying up too late.

            Well said.

  • Murf

    Looks interesting but I am not a fan of unmanned remote turrets. THE most important factor in armored warfare is shooting first. To do that the TC (tank commander) has to be able to acquire the target. Seeing the terrain with their own eyes is superior to using cameras which like all things fail at the worst possible moment.
    For that reason I am not a fan of auto loaders.
    I have seen one that could sit radio watch.

    • WisconsinUSA

      i don’t know murf,seems like the tanks opponent may be out of eyesight of your turret commander. with todays technology it’s a whole new ballgame.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        True, but all that automated equipment can fail. Then what? Being able to load, aim and fire the gun by hand and track a target with the Mk. I eyeball means the tank is still capable of combat, even if no longer at its rated capabilities.

        • Quartermaster

          I used to be a Tanker (19E in Army speak) and the US did not adopt autoloaders because they were known to fail frequently in Russian service. One of the slots in an M1A1 is loader. I’ve never been in an M1 so I don’t know how fast the loader can reload, but in my TNARNG unit one crew had 4 rounds in the air before the first impacted on target 2000 meters away.
          Needless to say, such efforts can’t be maintained over time, but an autoloader can’t come even close to such a rate even in play.
          I think you can probably get higher performance from cameras than the Mk 1 Eyeball and you could easily shift between spectra other than visible light. The problem I see is that any electronic system fails, but the envelope for that Mk 1 Eyeball can be terminally damaged as well. It may well be a wash.