The final six of 49 Ukrainian Oplot T-84 main battle tanks were delivered to the Royal Thai Army.
An anonymous source cited by the Bangkok post said that the final batch of the 49 tanks was handed over on July 29th. They are now in Prachin Buri, with the 2nd Infrantry Division. The source also claimed that tests would begin in early September.
The source also said that in April 2018 an army delegation inspected the final batch of battle tanks, in addition to 1st Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Kukiat Srinaka, who also did an inspection.
The Oplot T-84 main battle tanks were ordered back in 2011 by Thailand and cost $240 million.
The delivery of the battle tanks was initially supposed to be finalized by 2015. The first batch was delivered in early 2014. However, the production saw repeated delays due to an economic crisis in Ukraine after the coup in 2014 and the following civil war.
Thailand initially purchased the Oplot T-84 battle tanks to replace its US M-41s, which it bought from the US in 1957. Due to the delay in delivery, Thailand also signed a contract to buy 28 Chinese VT-4 battle tanks, seeking to boost the supplies in 2017.
On March 27th, Ukrainian state-owned defense holding Ukroboronprom announced that the contract for the supply of the T-84 battle tanks has successfully ended. The final batch was tested in the presence of Thai Military officers and were to be sent to Thailand promptly.
The T-84 is an upgrade of the Soviet T-80UD. First built in 1994, it entered into service in the Ukrainian army in 1999. It has a high-performance engine, which makes it one of the fastest main battle tanks in the world. The main weapons of the T-84 include one 125mm KBA-3 smoothbore gun fitted with a thermal sleeve and fume extractor. This is fed by an automatic loader which is similar to that installed in the T-64 in that the separate loading ammunition is stowed vertically whereas that of the T-72 and T-80 is stowed horizontally.
When the contract for the Chinese VT-4s was announced, Thailand reportedly attempted to cancel the order for the remaining T-84s. The T-84 reportedly had numerous problems.
In 2016, a Thai media publication reported that the Oplot T-84 battle tank has very limited battery life and needs frequent changes, after tests during the rainy season. The publication also claimed that the Ukrainian side is attempting to provide a higher level of service, which possibly also resulted in delays.
In early 2017, when it was announced that Thailand signed a contract for Chinese VT-4s, Sputnik News cited military analyst Vladislav Shurigin. He explained that the T-84’s technical characteristics did not match those of the actually produced tanks. According to him “the armor on the Oplot has proven to be of much poorer quality [than the design characteristics indicate]. The vehicles are not robust, and face constant breakdowns.” He also further commented that “the tactical and technical characteristics of the tanks do not coincide with the declared characteristics, because Ukraine faces a deficit in the special mechanisms used for guidance systems. Kiev simply does not have them, and is not capable of producing them today. Accordingly, [guidance] parameters are downscaled, and precise guidance to the target becomes almost impossible.” According to him the tanks amounted to little more than “useless crap.”
On June 18th, 2018, the National Interested reported the results of an annual tactical exercise in Germany’s Grafenwoehr Training Area. Since 2016, European and US countries have gathered there to test their tanks in various exercises. In the 2018 competition Ukraine’s T-84 placed in eighth, last place.
The National Interest provided information on various problems with the T-84.
Due to faulty charging mechanisms that send power to the autoloader, the T-84 autoloader did not load shells properly in all four tanks that were present, said Capt. Roman Bagaev, a company commander in the 14th Mechanized Brigade, cited by Novynarnia. Another issue is the shakiness of the 125 mm cannon due to faulty fire-control systems.
However, despite the problems according to the National Interest, the Ukrainian crews involved in the exercise liked their T-84s much more compared to the T64, which is the most numerous tanks in the Ukrainian military.