We hear a lot about the T-14 Armata and the T-90, some of Russia's latest designs. But neither of these tanks, historically, has served as the backbone of the Russian Army. Let's face facts: Most of the T-90 production has been for export — India is arguably the world's biggest operator of the T-90 — and the T-14 is still, technically, in development. That means that the most modern tank that the Russians can operate in significant numbers is still the T-80.
This late-Soviet-era tank was produced in multiple locations, some of which are in what is now Russia and others in what is now Ukraine. Russia has around 4,500 of these tanks on hand, either in active service or in reserve. Russia may have more T-72s currently, but, frankly, the T-72 is an overhyped piece of junk.
A Soviet T-80 main battle tank on maneuvers. (DOD photo)
The T-80 is a much-improved version of the T-64. The T-80 has a top speed of 43 miles per hour and can go 273 miles on a single tank of gas. It also has a crew of three, like most Soviet tanks, but uses an auto-loader as opposed to a 19-year-old grunt to feed the gun.
It's armed with a pair of anti-tank missiles, the AT-8 Songster and the AT-11 Sniper, that can be fired from its 125mm gun. The tank also has a 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. This all sounds good, but this is virtually the same gun that couldn't penetrate an Abrams at 400 yards. The usual load is 36 rounds for the gun and five AT-8s.
A Soviet T-80 tank with reactive armor. The tank performed poorly in the First Chechen War. (DOD photo)
The T-80 saw action in the First Chechen War — but woefully underperformed. As many as 200 tanks were lost in the city of Grozny alone. That didn't stop the tank from being exported, however, especially as former Soviet republics fell into a cash crunch (South Korea even bought some).
Learn more about the mainstay of Russia's task force in the video below: