Russian T-80BVM tanks able to fire depleted uranium shells

Russia’s T-80BV main battle tank has been upgraded to T-80BVM standard to feature the capability of firing depleted uranium shells, the Defense Ministry said in the bulletin ‘The Russian Army in Comparison’ published on 20 December.

Russian upgraded T 80BV tank able to fire depleted uranium shells
T-80 BVM (Picture source: Russian MoD)

The bulletin notes that the T-80BVM (the letter M stands for ‘modernized’) features "the improved weapons stabilizer and the loading mechanism for the 3BM59 Svinets-1 and 3BM60 Svinets-2 munitions." Open sources suggest that the Svinets-1 armor-piercing fin-stabilized sub-caliber projectile has the core made of tungsten carbide while the Svinets-2 features the uranium alloy core. According to various data, the Svinets-1 is capable of piercing 700-740 mm of the homogeneous armor at a distance of 2 km while the Svinets-2 can pierce 800-830 mm at the same distance.

The information that one of the shells has the depleted uranium core was confirmed to TASS by military expert, Editor-in-Chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland journal Viktor Murakhovsky. "It has the alloy of the depleted uranium and tungsten," he said, adding that the open sources mentioned it as "the Material B." The use of depleted uranium ammunition does not violate any international treaties, the expert said. Such munitions are stored outside of the arsenals of military units in the Russian Army and are referred to the category of special stockpiles, he added.

The US Army also has tank shells with the depleted uranium core, he said. In particular, the ammunition load of the Abrams tank can include M829A1 munitions capable of piercing from 650 mm to 700 mm of the homogenous armor at a distance of 2 km, according to various data. The armor-piercing shells with the tungsten/depleted uranium alloy are more efficient than steel due to their higher density.

Uralvagonzavod Corporation (UVZ) started the production of upgraded T-80BVM main battle tanks with gas turbine engines in 2018, the Zvezda broadcaster said. Russia ceased serial production of T-80 tanks in the second half of the 1990s. However, several thousand tanks of the T-80 family are still operational or kept at armor dumps. They are mostly T-80B and T-80BV tanks. The T-80BVM is a further upgrade of the T-80BV tank. It is furnished with the Sosna-U multi-channel gunner sight, the improved 125mm gun 2A46M-4, the upgraded gas turbine engine and the Relikt explosive-reactive armor. As the Defense Ministry’s press office reported, deliveries of T-80BVM tanks to the Russian Army started in 2018.


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