Production of Oplot-T MBTs for Royal Thai Army almost complete

In March 2011, Thailand ordered 49 T-84 Oplot-T main battle tanks (Oplot-M with some Thai specifications) from Ukraine. The contract foresaw their delivery by 2014. However, due to ongoing military conflict in Ukraine, the Royal Thai Army has received only 31 units. An additional 5 were expected in November 2017 but their production has been delayed.

Production of Oplot T MBTs for Royal Thai Army almost complete
Royal Thai Army Oplot-T MBTs parading in Thailand (Picture source: YouTube)

In March 2011, the Royal Thai Army had placed an order for 49 T-84/Oplot-T MBTs from Ukroboronprom. State Administration of Industrial Security Ukraine. The tanks were to be manufactured at the Malyshev plant based in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to replace its fleet of aging American M41A3 Walker Bulldog light tanks, dating from the Vietnam war era. The Oplot-T is an Oplot-M (export version) with some minor modifications to meet local requirements, such as different radio, air conditioner and so on.

For the mainline Oplot-T production line for the Royal Thai Army in the Malyshev plant, there are at least two tanks. One of the vehicles that was completed was No.45. No.47 gun turret with KBA-3 tank gun and complete equipment. No.48 and No.50 turret guns waiting to be assembled. And the car body base No.48 Pending Assemblage No.48.

The Thai government had approved 7.155 billion baht ($227.7 Mn) to purchase the first 49 Oplot tanks to be assigned to several units: the 2nd Cavalry battalion (Royal Guard at Fort Chakrabongse, Prachinburi), the 4th Cavalry battalion (Royal Guard at Kiakkai, Bangkok), the 8th Cavalry battalion (Fort Suranari, Nakhon Ratchasima), and the 9th Cavalry battalion (Fort Ekathotsarot, Phitsanuloke).

According to a report from the Defense and Security 2017. the UkrOboronProm Ukraine confirmed that the delivery of the Oplot-T tanks to the Royal Thai Army would be completed by the amount promised within a year, by 2018. This was due to the impact that the Russian annexation Crimea and the armed support group in the Donbass region made to the war on security forces.

In April 2017, it was reported that following the delayed deliveries from this tank, the Royal Thai Army had declined the remainder of the sale and acquired the Chinese VT-4 main battle tank instead of the Ukrainian tank, due to the long-term delivery schedule. However, in November 2017, Thailand had received 31 of the T-84 Oplot-T tanks, with an additional five tanks heading to Thailand by ship and the final batch of the remaining 13 tanks already manufactured. While a total of up to 200 tanks may eventually be acquired, the Royal Thai Army has yet to make an official announcement confirming this.

As a reminder, the T-84 is a development of the Soviet T-80UD. It was first built in 1994 and entered service in the Ukranian army in 1999. Its high-performance opposed-piston engine makes it one of the fastest MBTs in the world, with a power-to-ratio of about 26 HP/tonne (19 Kw/t). Ten of them entered Ukrainian service in 2001.