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Pakistan offers to transfer T-80UD tanks to Ukraine

Pakistan has reportedly offered to transfer 44 T-80UD main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine in exchange for aid from Western countries. This move is seen as a way of strengthening its defence ties with Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia since 2022.

The T-80UD is an improved version of the Soviet-made T-80 tank that was first introduced in 1987. It has a diesel engine instead of a gas turbine and features built-in explosive reactive armor and an improved fire control system. Pakistan purchased more than 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine in the 1990s and early 2000s, and has been maintaining them with the help of Ukrainian experts and spare parts.

Ukraine, on the other hand, has been facing a dire security situation since Russia invaded its eastern regions in 2022, following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine has been seeking to modernize its armed forces and acquire new weapons and equipment from its allies and partners. However, it has also faced challenges in securing adequate funding and supplies amid the ongoing conflict.

According to various media reports, Pakistan has been providing military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since the outbreak of the war. Pakistan has reportedly sent ammunition, artillery shells, fuses, primers, and other items to Ukraine via Poland and Germany. Pakistan has also expressed its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and condemned Russia’s aggression.

The offer to transfer 44 T-80UD tanks to Ukraine is seen as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity from Pakistan, as well as a way of securing financial assistance from Western countries that have been backing Ukraine’s cause. The West has reportedly assured Pakistan of aid in return for the supply of MBTs to Ukraine, which would help boost its defence capabilities against Russian forces.

However, the deal has not been officially confirmed or denied by either side. Some sources have suggested that it may face legal and technical hurdles, as Pakistan may need permission from Russia to transfer the tanks to a third country. Russia may not be willing to grant such permission, given its hostile relations with both Pakistan and Ukraine.

The deal may also raise some questions about Pakistan’s role and interests in the region, as it has been accused of supporting militant groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir that are seen as threats by India and other countries. Pakistan may also face pressure from China, its close ally and major creditor, which has been pursuing its own interests and influence in Central Asia and beyond.

The possible transfer of 44 T-80UD tanks from Pakistan to Ukraine is an interesting development that reflects the complex dynamics and challenges of the regional and global security environment. It also shows how Pakistan is trying to balance its relations with different actors and pursue its own interests amid a changing geopolitical landscape.

T-80UD main battle tank

The T-80U was one of the most advanced main battle tanks (MBTs) of the Soviet Union, featuring a powerful gas turbine engine, composite armor with explosive reactive armor (ERA) blocks, and a 125 mm smoothbore gun capable of firing laser-guided anti-tank missiles. However, the gas turbine engine also had some drawbacks, such as high fuel consumption, expensive production and maintenance, and dependence on Ukrainian spare parts. To overcome these problems, the Soviets developed a diesel-powered variant of the T-80U, called the T-80UD.

The T-80UD was introduced in 1985 and entered service with the Soviet Army in 1987. It was produced in Ukraine at the Malyshev plant, where around 500-800 tanks were built until 1991. The T-80UD shared most of the T-80U’s improvements, but had a different engine deck and some minor changes in the smoke-mortar array and turret stowage boxes. It retained the remotely-controlled commander’s machine gun and the fire control system with high first-round hit probability.

The T-80UD was powered by the 6TD diesel engine, which developed 1,000 hp and gave the tank a maximum road speed of 60 km/h and an operational range of 560 km. The diesel engine was much cheaper to produce and more fuel-efficient than the gas turbine, though it also reduced the tank’s mobility and acceleration. The T-80UD’s main armament was the same as the T-80U’s: a fully-stabilized 125 mm smoothbore gun with a carousel-type autoloader and 45 rounds of ammunition, including 9M119 Refleks (AT-11 Sniper) laser-guided anti-tank missiles. The tank also had a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun.

The T-80UD’s armor protection was similar to the T-80U’s, consisting of composite armor with built-in ERA blocks that could withstand hits from modern anti-tank weapons. The tank also had an NBC protection system and an automatic fire suppression system for increased survivability. The T-80UD had a crew of three: a driver, a gunner, and a commander.

The T-80UD was planned to become the main MBT of the Soviet Army, but its production was halted after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The tank remained in service with Russia and Ukraine, as well as some other countries that acquired it through exports or transfers. In the late 1990s, Ukraine sold 320 of its T-80UDs to Pakistan, which became one of the main operators of this tank. Some of these tanks were newly-made, while others were taken from Ukrainian Army inventory. After this deal, only about 50 T-80UDs remained in Ukrainian service.

In 2022-2023, Ukrainian T-80UDs saw action during Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, where they faced Russian T-90s and other armored vehicles. In 2023, Pakistan offered to deliver 44 T-80UDs back to Ukraine in exchange for Western financial support. Russia, on the other hand, planned to retire all its T-80 series tanks by 2015 due to expensive maintenance and lack of spare parts from Ukraine. It seems that most of the Russian T-80UDs are no longer in active service and are kept in storage instead.

The T-80UD is a variant of the T-80U that replaced its gas turbine engine with a diesel engine for better economy and reliability. It is still a formidable MBT with a powerful gun, advanced fire control system, and strong armor protection. However, it also suffers from some limitations in mobility and acceleration compared to its gas turbine counterpart. The T-80UD is one of the last products of the Soviet tank design school and represents a transitional stage between the Cold War era and the modern era of armored warfare.

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