Will Ukraine make a tank revolution?

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Will Ukraine make a tank revolution?
Will Ukraine make a tank revolution?

The new Ukrainian tank "Tirex" caused a kind of sensation. Let's see if this machine can revolutionize tank building.

tank "Tirex"

About the situation in general

Tank building is one of the few areas that Ukraine could be proud of. Indeed, there are only a few countries that are capable of developing a main battle tank from scratch. But since the collapse of the USSR, the situation in the industry has been getting worse every year, and even the conflict in Donbass did not prompt the country's leadership to take serious measures. Thailand's order for a new Ukrainian tank BM "Oplot" in this situation came in handy. However, since 2009, the Kharkov plant named after I. Malysheva (tank manufacturer) was able to build only ten such combat vehicles. For an enterprise that produced thousands of tanks during the Soviet years, this is, to put it mildly, not enough.

As for the Ukrainian army, for the entire time of the war in Donbass, it did not receive a single new-built tank. The tankers were given a small batch of old Soviet MBTs that had undergone modernization. In general, the main hopes of Ukraine were connected with the latter. Of particular interest was the T-64BM "Bulat" - a variant of the modernization of the T-64. This is, in fact, an economical alternative to Oplot, which somewhat expanded the capabilities of the old Soviet technology.

However, it did not grow together here either: if initially they wanted to upgrade 400 T-64s to the level of "Bulat", then in the end they limited themselves to only 85 combat vehicles, some of which were then lost in the Donbass. And the National Guard also received the T-64B1M / BM1M, which they previously wanted to send to Africa. This is an even simpler upgrade option than Bulat, although even the latter received conflicting reviews from experts.


The birth of "Tirex"

As it has already become clear, the new "Tirex" was born in the conditions of the total collapse of the military-industrial complex and chronic underfunding. Strictly speaking, the state has no direct relation to its appearance. Tirex was created by the engineering group of the Azov regiment. This regiment appeared as a volunteer association, and then became part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. With all this, it would not be entirely correct to consider the tank an artifact of enthusiasts. The project was worked on by experienced engineers who previously worked at the famous plant. Malysheva.

Now the first information about the new tank has already appeared, on the basis of which some conclusions can be drawn.

Characteristics of the Tirex tank:

Base model: T-64

Combat weight: 39 tons

Crew: 3 people

Tower: uninhabited with remote control

Armament: 125-mm cannon (probably), machine guns

Dynamic protection: blocks "Knife" and "Doublet"


Immediately after the demonstration, the Tirex's resemblance to the Russian T-14 based on the Armata was revealed. Like the new Russian tank, the Tirex has an uninhabited remote-controlled turret, and all three crew members are in a special armored capsule in front of the MBT. In general, until recently, only Russians have implemented this scheme in practice. It is assumed that it will dramatically increase the survival rate of the crew, because the defeat of the tank turret now does not mean the death of people there. Some even rushed to attribute the T-14 and Tirex to the "new generation" of tanks, although the division of MBT into generations (as opposed to, say, jet fighters) is rather arbitrary.

The scheme with an uninhabited tower was not invented by Ukrainians or Russians. Back in the 80s, similar developments were carried out in European countries and the United States. True, then the experts did not find any special advantages in such a solution and they simply forgot about the development.

In general, it is not entirely correct to draw an analogy between the T-14 and the Tirex. The Russian tank is based on the completely new Armata platform, while the Ukrainian one is built on the basis of the old Soviet T-64.The latter began to be produced back in the late 60s and forever using its base, alas, will not work. So the modernization potential of the T-14 is initially much higher than that of the Ukrainian vehicle.


Nevertheless, the Tirex project is a landmark for Ukraine. For the first time in the history of the country, it was possible to create a truly innovative tank, which, although it uses the T-64 base, is still not one of its countless modifications. So "Tirex" with some reservations can still be called a "new" MBT.

And here a completely natural question arises: what can this give Ukraine in practice? It is argued that in terms of combat effectiveness, the tank is comparable to the "Oplot", and in terms of the cost-effectiveness ratio, it will be much more profitable than the "Bulat". In other words, it will be comparable in combat power with the latest modifications of the Russian T-90, but at the same time lose to the T-14 and the best Western tanks. The developers claim that they will be able to make 20 such vehicles a month using the T-64 (fortunately, Ukraine inherited many such MBTs from the USSR). However, these plans seem overly optimistic. Still, for the mass production of new tanks, not only "donors" are needed, but also appropriate funding. And with this the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has big problems.

However, the difficulties do not frighten the creators of the tank. "As soon as we get a" donor "for the first copy, in 6 months we will be able to roll out our tank for testing," said the head of the Azov engineering group, Bogdan Zvarich. The zeal of engineers deserves respect, especially taking into account the fact that in parallel with the creation of "Tirex" a new infantry fighting vehicle "Azovochka" is being developed. And recently the BMPT "Azovets" was presented.


There will be no revolution

The Tirex tank is an interesting project that can be remembered as a desperate example of providing the army with everything it needs in difficult times. But he will not make a revolution in tank building, and it's not even about the MBT itself. It's just that this requires not only the machine itself, but also a deep systematic approach. In modern warfare, a tank is not just a separate combat unit, but part of an information-command system, within which all vehicles are integrated into a single network. In practice, the Americans have implemented this quite well; Russian developers are also working on something similar. But Ukraine, obviously, will find it difficult to implement this approach.

However, in Azov itself they do not give up: specialists are trying to implement an automated control system for the tactical echelon. It is built on the architecture of open systems using secure communication channels that are resistant to enemy electronic warfare. The system, of course, is not the most "advanced", but it can give "Tirex" some advantage over "Bulat" and "Oplot", which do not have such abilities at all.

Another problem is weapons. It will be difficult to increase the efficiency of the T-64 tank if it does not receive a new weapon and uses old shells. The development of new weapons from scratch is possible, but this will require enormous efforts from Ukraine. Cooperation with foreign companies is possible, but it is hampered by corruption, bureaucracy and a banal lack of funds.

If we talk about the concept as a whole, then it seems more strange than good or bad. The developers' thesis about the "tank of the transition period" is surprising. Indeed, in fact, both "Bulat" and "Oplot" are also a "transitional link". Therefore, it is not clear why create another tank similar in its capabilities. Wouldn't it be better to focus on existing machines or invest in a fundamentally new project? By the way, they could be the Ukrainian Futurized main battle tank, the concept of which was presented relatively recently. This is a kind of Ukrainian T-14, created from scratch. However, since the presentation, no information about the new development has been reported. And it’s hardly worth waiting for them at all.


It is important that "Tirex" exists only on paper, and it is hard to say when the production model will be presented.It is also not entirely clear whether the Ministry of Defense, which seems to have expressed its readiness to cooperate, will purchase these tanks, even if they turn out to be cheaper than the new BM "Oplot". In general, experts unanimously declare that tanks are not the most important thing for the Ukrainian army now. Much more important are heavy infantry fighting vehicles and new / modernized armored personnel carriers, which are chronically in short supply. Finally, the situation in the Ukrainian military-industrial complex and in the country as a whole is difficult to predict. Now no one can say with certainty what awaits Ukraine in six months or a year. And even more so, will there be a place for a new tank in the future?

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