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Rare russian T-80UE-1 in Spotlight as it Shows Up in Ukraine, Only Battalion of Such Tanks Existed

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T-80UE-1 main battle tank / Open-source illustrative photo
T-80UE-1 main battle tank / Open-source illustrative photo

Despite having good specs on paper, the list of the tank's known feats is quite questionable: unable to hit the target and often abandoned on the battlefield

Video of a russian T-80UE-1 tank allegedly deployed in Ukraine as part of the 4th Tank Division of the 1st Tank Army of russia, has caught attention of both russian and Western media. While the russians praise the already traditional anti-drone cages on top of the turret, Army Recognition focused on the "advanced technological features" and rarity of this vehicle.

In particular, the journalists point out this tank's modernized fire control system, compared to peers of the same lineage, integrated Plisa infrared sight similar to the one installed on T-90, and the 2A46M-4 cannon with an improved ammo loading mechanism that supports a broader variety of ammunition, including the BOPS kinetic penetrators.

Read more: How Ukrainian Forces Use M1 Abrams Tanks Near Avdiivka, Insights from Soldier and Analyst
russian T-90UE-1 in an unidentified location, presumably in Ukraine / Defense Express / Rare russian T-80UE-1 in Spotlight as it Shows Up in Ukraine, Only Battalion of Such Tanks Existed
russian T-90UE-1 in an unidentified location, presumably in Ukraine / Still image of a video published in social media

Though all these capabilities did not make the rarity stand out as much as the T-90. In fact, Defense Express notes, this combat unit has been seen on Ukrainian battlegrounds earlier, in spring 2022. At the time, there was only one battalion (usually, 31 tanks) equipped with T-80UE-1's; soon enough, at least four were captured by Ukrainian forces and put to good use against their former owners.

Captured russian T-90UE-1 in service with Ukr 93rd Mechanized Brigade / Defense Express / Rare russian T-80UE-1 in Spotlight as it Shows Up in Ukraine, Only Battalion of Such Tanks Existed
Captured russian T-90UE-1 in service with the Ukrainian 93rd Mechanized Brigade, identified by NIP Tysk / Still image credit: antonsamarin98 on TikTok

Still, the T-80UE-1 deserves attention but in a different light. The tanks of this type were essentially an attempt by the russian defense industry to modernize the T-80BV back in the 2000s, but the resulting vehicle turned out to be too expensive for the russian federation, so the idea to launch mass production was quickly abandoned. To exemplify, the T-80UE-1 tank was adopted by the russian armed forces in 2005, but the batch produced at the time was only a few dozen units.

Before the beginning of russian invasion of Ukraine and its first real combat experience, this tank was only noticed once, and that episode was rather uncomplimentary of the praised capabilities of T-80UE-1. During the tank biathlon in 2020, this MBT managed to hit the target on the third attempt, that is, from a stationary position in comfortable proving ground conditions.

T-80UE-1 main battle tank, archive photo / Defense Express / Rare russian T-80UE-1 in Spotlight as it Shows Up in Ukraine, Only Battalion of Such Tanks Existed
T-80UE-1 main battle tank, archive photo / Open-source illustrative photo

Earlier Defense Express reported that despite admitting their T-14 Armata is not for actual combat engagements, russia prepared a production plan for this tank, largely considered the most advanced among those designed by the russian engineers. They are planning to produce 29 vehicles a year, while the russian army itself only has about 20 T-14 from an experimental batch.

Read more: Despite Admitting T-14 Armata is Not for War, russia Prepared a Production Plan