While Pakistan may have had no active role in the ongoing border row between India and China, all the three nuclear-powered nations have been enhancing their military arsenal as they gear for a possible military confrontation.
While New Delhi signed a massive deal with France to acquire Dassault Rafale jets, Pakistani Army received the Al Khalid-I, an upgrade on its predecessor, which was jointly developed by Pakistan and China during the 1990s.
With China and the US being the major suppliers of modern defence equipment to Islamabad, the military capabilities of Pakistan have been enhanced with state-of-the-art defence equipment and there is one military hardware that stands-out – the Russian-origin T-80 tanks – the most potent tanks of their times and still the envy of the world.
First brought under service in 1986 in the Soviet Union, the T-80 third-generation main battle tank (MBT) was designed by Soviet engineer Nikolay Popov, and was the second MBT in the world to be equipped with a gas turbine engine, and first to use it as a primary propulsion engine.
However, it was its improved variant, T-80UD, which was first introduced into the service in Pakistan Army in the 1990s as a result of India acquiring the T-90 MBT, with the Pakistani Army receiving a total of 320 tanks from Ukraine from the period between years 1997 and 2002.
Speculations have also been rife regarding a deal between Ukraine and Pakistan which will see the tanks being equipped with more features, with Ukraine’s largest state-owned defence contractor looking to upgrade the T-80s.
“Pakistan’s T-80UD tanks could be upgraded to the standards of the T-84 ‘Oplot-M’ MBT, a much-improved variant of the T-84 (which in turn is an improved version of the T-80), featuring a larger turret mounting sophisticated sensors and, among other things, a panoramic thermal-imaging system,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, while writing a piece for The Diplomat.
As the world moves to acquire new technology and retiring the older ones, many countries including Russia and Pakistan have opted to upgrade their old hardware like the T-80s which speaks volumes about the tank’s capability.
One of the key reasons why the almost two and a half-decade old tank is still in service is because of their capability to perform well in most climates, and that’s why they have been such a big hit in Russia. With Russia having sub-zero temperatures, the T-80s have reportedly fared a lot better due to their superior turbine engine in comparison to T-72s and even T-90s.
While other diesel tanks can take up to 45 minutes to start in temperatures of -30 degrees, gas turbine tanks like that of the T-80s enable the tanks to start within a minutes, providing the Pakistani Army with a considerable advantage in a potential battle.
The T-80 Main Battle Tank (MBT) was specifically designed to engage enemy armoured vehicles, troops, fortifications and low-flying helicopters regardless of the visibility factors of it being night or day in all-weather conditions.
The tanks are one of the most agile tanks, and probably the most nimble Soviet tanks ever produced boasting a very high weight-to-power ratio. Despite the T-80 being on the move or stationary, its advanced fire control system jointly with the 125mm 2A46M smoothbore main gun ensures target kill with the first-round.
The tanks feature composite armour and are fitted with built-in Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks, with the armour protection of the T-80U estimated to be equal to 900 mm against HEAT rounds and 1100 mm against projectiles.
The main battle tank is also fitted with automatic fire suppression and NBC protection systems. Moreover, the T-80s are also said to be much warmer and far more comfortable for the tank crew in extreme climates.
The T-80s, in a bid to attain improved survivability over the previous Soviet MBTs, feature a multi-layer armour with integrated Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA), to provide direct-hit and top-attack weapons protection. What also enhances their survivability, are the Low acoustic, visual, radar, and visual signatures.
According to statistics provided by Global Fire Power, Pakistan currently possesses 2,200 tanks in their armoury and ranks 12th in the world for the most tanks in the world, with MBTs like Al Khalid, Al Khalid I, Al Zarrar, T-80, Type 85, Type 69 and Type 59.