At this point, this is a tank that needs almost no introduction. “BM Oplot” (Object 478DU-9) is currently the commercial name (aka “T-84M”) of the ultimate evolution of a long line of MBTs designed and produced in Kharkov. It’s the last derivative of the good old T-64, and a direct descendant and deep modification of the T-80UD. BM Oplot was designed in the first decade of the new millenium and until the appearance of T-90MS in 2013, it was undisputedly the best and most modern tank developed on the basis of older soviet tanks, taking their performance and capabilities very close to the most modern of western contemporary armor.
Even before the dissolution of the USSR, the Kharkov factory and bureau team were working on continuing development of their T-64 platform. As the T-64B finished its production run by 1984-85, the factory got permission to continue working by producing the then cutting edge T-80U. However, since they produced both tanks and tank engines, they decided to produce a modified T-80U with a opposed piston diesel engine, an advanced version of the 5TDF, designated 6TDF with horsepower comparable to the T-80U´s original turbine engine. The novel T-80UD was produced in very limited numbers and only from 1989. As the 1990s begun, the USSR dissolver and the Ukrainian military industry found themselves competing against their former comrades for the export market. With this objective, they set on modernizing the T-80UD with every single technological toy and technology they had from the soviet times and few years afterwards they begun incorporating western derived elements (most notably, thermal sights) to increase the tank´s capabilities even further. An entire new, welded turret was developed for the tank, along with new ERA and many many other improvements. The tank was modified to the point that it was basically a new tank and was appropriately named “T-84”. During the 90s developments and improvements continued and eventually led to the T-84M, but more commonly known as “BM-Oplot”. Since the progresive worsening of relations between Ukraine and Russia, the production of BM Oplot became ever more difficult given that many components had to be imported from the latter. In addition, the tank was so expensive that Ukraine´s own army couldn´t buy it in any significant numbers. However, the tank secured a sale to Thailand, which has now up to 50 BM Oplots in service. In later years at least 2 additional BM Oplots were manufactured, one for Ukroboronprom´s advertising activities and another one bought and shipped to the US. With the current crisis in Ukraine, the destruction of the KhTZ (aka the Malyshev plant in Kharkov/Kharkiv) early in 2022 and the announced reform of the military industrial sector, the future of BM Oplot is up in the air.
Specifications and capabilities:
BM Oplot is a very well protected tank. We can divide its protection in 3 levels. Active protection, ERA and base armor. It should be noted that BM Oplot does have a separated ammo rack in the turret bustle, however it can only carry 6 rounds, while many others (apart from the 28 in the autoloader) still have to be placed inside the crew compartment.
In terms of active protection, BM Oplot has a very similar (if not the same) as T-90A´s Shtora, called Varta. It works just the same, it includes laser warning, the typical dazzlers (but mounted in a way they don´t make holes between armor), among other components. But its basically Shtora. For the moment, we´ve never seen any BM Oplot equipped with the Zazlon hard kill APS.
One of the most distinguishing aspects of BM Oplot is its use of Duplet ERA, which covers the tank from the front and the sides. The way it works is unique. It relies on shaped charges to cut or degrade incoming projectiles. Compared to Nozh, it adds a little bit more protection vs KE but much more importantly, it is effective against tandem HEAT warheads.
The question whould be how to properly model Duplet ingame in terms of effectiveness. Currently, ERA performance in WT is represented as a fixed figure in steel effectiveness, which I think is the better way to go for simplicity sake. Since Kontakt 5´s effectiveness vs APFSDS is commonly represented as “20 percent reduction in penetration”, it would be logical to model Duplet as 3 times more effective than K5. In fixed numbers, this means that while Kontakt performs as 120mm of steel vs KE, Duplet should be modeled as 360mm vs APFSDS. However, such phenomenal protection performance comes at a cost, since Duplet is relatively heavy and voluminous (matter on which we´ll go back below). Below are images of the Duplet UFP module, for reference:
According to Tarasenko, Oplot doesn´t use the same BTK-1 steel as previous T-80U: “In the design of new turrets, it was planned to use new electroslag remelting high-strength armor steels (SK-2Sh, SK-3Sh) superior to the armored steel of increased hardness of the existing brands (BTK-1 and BTK-1SH). … For the new post USSR tank production a new grades of steels were implemented into production . The production of increased hardness steel was concentrated in Ukraine ’s “Azovsteel” foundry. A set of research and experimental works on the development and industrial implementation of high-strength armored steel with use of electroslag remelting of SK-2Sh and SK-3Sh brands started . … Hulls from the new grades of steel SK-2Sh and SK-3Sh were manufactured on the “Malyshev Plant”. Turrets on “Azovmash” plant . … After testing in industrial conditions, these technologies are proposed for introduction into mass production. … In the front parts of the turret, the face plates are made of medium hardness steel, and the rear plates are made of hardened steel of the SK-3Sh grade, which provides good manufacturability of these parts, their satisfactory weldability and meeting the requirements for the protection and survivability . … The tests showed the increased levels of anti-ballistic protection of welded-turret structures from armor-piercing subcaliber projectiles by at least 15% and from the shaped charge projectiles - not less than 13% with respect to the cast turret of T-80UD. An effective cellular type “special armor” installed in turret cavities.”
As for the possible composition of the base armor, here are the best estimates i could find so far (if better information comes up in the future, i´ll update this post):
Front hull armor
One of the main drawbacks of Duplet ERA is the sheer volume it occupies. To make room for it, the engineers behind the tank had to come up with a more compact base armor, with less layers than previous designs. Its only a 3 layer array (you might be confused by the layer between the Duplet tiles, however that is only a spacer, perhaps made up of rubber or other soft material, not a ballistic steel plate.)
The UFP base armor composition is the following:
50mm SK-2Sh HHS Steel
5mm Air Gap
50mm SK-3Sh HHS Steel
With current WT modifiers (which don´t account for the improvement of SK-2/3Sh over previous BTK-1 HHS), the UFP base armor should perform as 330mm vs KE. I don´t exclude that it may actually be higher, but this is what we can get so far.
Front turret armor
BM Oplot turret is a further development of the layout used on T-80U, but made entirely welded instead of cast, which should enhance is effectiveness vs APFSDS and HEAT warheads. Also, the use of superior HHS models should enhance its protection further. The general layout is the same though, 2 big cavities separated by a thick steel plate. As argued by Tarasenko above, the front plate is of medium hardness while the back plate is SK-3Sh HHS and the steel layers in between are of the even higher hardness SK-2Sh steel. Inside each of the cavities, NERA of the “cellular type” (T-80U) is used.
I made 2 different estimations based on this schematic, because of its low image quality. In any case, we are talking about a turret armor made up of 15 different layers (imagine counting all of those).
60mm medium hardness Steel
60mm SK-2Sh HHS Steel
76mm SK-2Sh HHS Steel
60mm SK-2Sh HHS Steel
20mm SK-2Sh HHS Steel
100mm SK-3Sh HHS Steel
Given the low quality of the image, the estimations aren´t conclusive by themselves. However, i´ll point that using current WT modifiers (which don´t account for the superior HHS plates used in relation to BTK-1), the armor would be modeled somewhere between 500-600mm vs APFSDS. Given the time period of the development of this turret, dimensions and steel technology used I believe its very safe to assume that the front turret armor is just as effective as T-90A´s, hence, around 600mm effective vs KE.
Adding the effectiveness of Duplet represented as 360mm vs KE, BM Oplot ingame should have a turret armor of at least 960mm and a UFP performing as 690mm. So, a very well protected tank, especially in the turret.
The heavy protection of the tank resulted in an increase in weight up to 51 metric tons. So it became necessary to equip the tank with a more poweful diesel engine. The chosen engine was the 6TD-2, which at size and weight comparable to T-64´s 5TDF delivered 1200hp, resulting in a weight to power ratio of 23.5 hp/t. Not as excellent as previous turbine powered T-80s, but still very good. However, 6TD-2 has a neat trick up its sleeve. Not only, the gear control is automated, resulting in the replacement of the tillers by a steering wheel, it can also neutral turn and also features a gear reverser, resulting in 7 forward gears and 4 reverse gears which provide up to 35 km/h. This way, BM Oplot solves one of the main tactical drawbacks of soviet derived tanks.
In terms of firepower the tank features its most important upgrades in the FCS department. For the gunner, it couples the 1G46-M with a modern PTT-2 thermal sight.
In addition, BM Oplot was the first ever soviet derived tank to be equipped with a full blown CITV, the PNK-6. The thermal cammera is derived from the Catherine-FC.
In terms of ammo availability, BM Oplot can fire the usual 125mm rounds (up to BM42). However there are a couple of unique ammo for the tank.
Firstly, a more advanced GLATGM thats a laser beamrider and has a tandem warhead with 750mm of penetration behind ERA.
Finally, Ukraine tried to develop a more modern APFSDS, named BM44-U1. Thing is, the project failed and never went past the mockup stage. However we have some data of the round and kinda its intended performance as well. I would leave to Gj to decide about the round depending on balance.
Well this is it for now. What do you guys think?