Korea received 35 T-80Us through the ‘1st/2nd Bulgom Project’ in 1996 and 2002~2006 to repay Russia’s debt to Korea during the Soviet era. T-80U surprised military insiders because they had stronger performance than the K1 and Patton series tanks operated by the Korean Army. After the research on the T-80U was completed, it had been operated by the 80th Tank Battalion (also called the Bulgom Battalion) of the 3rd Armored Brigade since 2004, and is currently transferred to the Professional Opposing Force Regiment due to difficulties in maintenance and is serving as an opposing force.
There are a few differences from the T-80U already present in the USSR TT. First of all, the APFSDS used by the Korean T-80Us is only 3BM32. And the Korean T-80Us don’t have a thermal sight. Lastly, the Soviet ones use iron tracks, while the Korean ones use rubber tracks developed in Korea. Although the radio and crew helmets have been changed to Korean ones, the performance of the tank in the game is not affected.
In 1990, the Korean government established diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union and decided to provide a $3 billion economic cooperation loan at the request of the Soviet Union. However, on December 26, the Soviet Union collapsed and loans ceased. In order for Russia to be recognized as the successor country of the Soviet Union, it had to fulfill its obligations under the treaty signed during the Soviet era. Russia, which was in a bad economic situation at the time, offered to repay Korea with weapons, and Korea had no choice but to accept it, and the ‘Bulgom Project’ began. During the first Bulgom project, Korea received weapons such as the T-80U, BMP-3 and Metis-M from Russia. Among them, the 33 T-80Us were delivered as it was without any special work, which had not been delivered because Russia could not pay the price. And in the 2nd Bulgom project, which was carried out from 2002 to 2006, additional equipment including two T-80Us was brought in. Many people (me too) knew both tanks as the T-80UK, but they are actually the T-80U (Thanks to SaabGripen for providing the information). If you look at the documentation, such as Minutes of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, 『The 10th Korea-Russia Defense Academic Conference』, it says T-80U. I also tried to find Russian sources, but for unknown reasons, I could not access Russian government sites, such as the Russian Ministry of Defense homepage.
In 2004, six years after South Korea received the T-80U, it was deployed to the 80th Tank Battalion under the 3rd Armored Division. However, in the 2010s, opinions began to emerge that he should be retired. Because Korea only operated 35 T-80U, respectively, it was difficult to supply parts and, accordingly, maintenance costs were high. However, the tank’s crew were satisfied with the tank. The noise was designed to spread to the rear of the engine room, so it was not very noisy, and thanks to the excellent suspension, the terrain breakthrough was excellent. And it is said that during the 20 years of operating the tank, the track never fell off while driving. In addition, rivers with a depth of 5m can be crossed without the installation of a pontoon bridge, which was very useful in the eastern front with many small rivers. However, the increasing maintenance cost and difficulty in supplying parts could not be ignored, and eventually all T-80Us were handed over to the Professional Opposing Force Regiment.
Suspension: Torsion Bar
Engine: GTD-1250 Gas Turbine Engine (1250hp)
Max. Speed: 80km/h
Crew: 3 (Commandet, Gunner, Driver)
Main Armament: 125mm 2A46M-1
Gunner Day Sighting Device: Irtysh
Gunner Night Sighting Device: BURAN-PA
Commander Day Sight Device: PNK-4S
Commander Night Sighting Device: TKN-4S
Night Vision: Yes/Yes
Thermal Vision: None/None
대외학술활동시리즈 2020-73『한-러 군사협력 30주년 주요 성과와 과제』- 한국국방연구원 유영철 책임연구위원, 안보전략연구센터 국제전략연구실 (16.12.2020)
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