A lot has already been written about the last place of Ukrainian tankers on the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018 tank biathlon in Germany. But the explanation of the reason for such a disastrous result on the part of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is the inexperience of crews ("Lenta.ru") I was very surprised.
The impressions of the direct participants of the biathlon, who were accused of being unprofessional, are always the most interesting, because this is the opinion of people from the “field” who sit directly in the car and evaluate it in a specific situation. Appeared video biathlon participants and their assessment tanks explained a lot.
I was interested in two points: what tanks did Ukraine present at biathlon and the reasons that prevented effective firing from the tank?
According to official reports, Oplot tanks were sent to biathlon in Germany. The photographs of the tanks clearly show that this is not the “Stronghold”! This tank is easily recognizable by the cylindrical panoramic sight towering above the commander's hatch. There are other tanks in the photographs that are not similar to the “Stronghold”. What are these tanks?
Tankers opened this secret. It turns out that these are really not “Strongholds”, they were made back in 2001 year! Perhaps these were the first modifications of the tank, which later became the “Stronghold”. There was never a “Oplot” tank in the Ukrainian army, they hardly produced the entire 49 units under the Thai contract and were sent to Thailand.
It turned out that four tanks were sent to biathlon from a single batch of ten tanks made for the Ukrainian army during the entire existence of Ukraine. More in the Ukrainian army did not receive. As I recall, there was a scandal that the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine refused to pay them. It is probably for this reason that six tanks from this lot were stored at the Malyshev plant, where there are no conditions for long-term storage of tanks.
Four tanks have disappeared somewhere. There are reliable versions that they have long been sold in the United States, because they really needed money. After years of 17, they remembered these tanks and decided to demonstrate them on German biathlon as a miracle of Ukrainian armored vehicles. Now this batch of tanks is called differently T-84, T-84U, the first version of the "Bastion". In fact, this is a further development of the Soviet T-80UD.
I was surprised by the approach of the Ukrainian military and industry to the preparation of tanks and crews for biathlon. Tankers describe in detail how they were “handed over” to these tanks at the Malyshev plant and how the crews were trained. After seventeen years of storage without proper conditions and without carrying out routine maintenance, the tanks decided to send to the biathlon. At the same time, they did not even bother to carry out acceptance tests and check the characteristics of the systems and components. After such a long storage without meeting the necessary conditions, many defects could appear on them, which was already the case in Germany.
The plant Malysheva did not care what will happen to these tanks. As tankers said, the plant was not “paid” for the training of the crew, probably they were also offended for the long-time non-payment of these tanks, and the plant did not train the crews. They are like beggars, all the time they were asked to do something on these tanks, and they were dismissed from them as if they were bothersome flies. With such an untested technique, without crew coherence, they were sent to biathlon.
According to their characteristics, the tanks presented on biathlon were at the level of the last Soviet tank T-80UD, as well as T-72 and T-90. On these tanks there was a perfect fire control system, which even today is inferior to very few people. With good training of tanks and crews, they had to show themselves well at the biathlon.
But the tanks were in poor condition and, in principle, even with good training, the crew could not claim a good result. Faults rained down one after another, starting with such “trifles” as leaks in the fuel system, inoperative sensors of the engine systems, sparking terminals on the batteries. Much more serious problems were with the fire control system.
The main reason for the failure of the biathlon was the inability to shoot from the tank due to the constant failures of the loading mechanism and the gun stabilizer. For many years, with my specialists, I was engaged in tank-based fire control systems and approximately imagine what could have happened there.
According to the crew, when the MSA was turned on, the cannon “shook” all the time in the tank, and they barely aimed it at the target. By indirect evidence, this is observed due to the high rigidity of the stabilizer due to the lack of configuration of this circuit or a defect in the control unit. They changed blocks, but this does not always help. In each tank, the control unit must be adjusted to the individual characteristics of the tank. Without this, the defect cannot be eliminated, and this should be handled by trained specialists. These are only available at the factory and in the repair battalions at the level, in my opinion, of the tank division. Tankers do not know how to do this and do not have the right to engage in such work.
After a long storage tanks could change the parameters of the gun and turret (moments of resistance). The stabilizer had to be reconfigured, and this was not done. It is highly probable that defects have appeared in the control units due to aging of the element base, especially as tank equipment in Ukraine is manufactured by non-specialized enterprises and without strict control of the element base used.
The second serious malfunction was the failure of the loading mechanism due to the blocking of further operations by the sensors during the loading cycle of the gun. The sensors should work this way, they ensure the safety of the tank and the crew, while the cannon is still being charged with a blank, and an explosive projectile with a sleeve. The cause of the blockages could be a sensor failure, which is unlikely, or unacceptably large backlashes and defects in the nodes of the loading mechanism, leading to a false positive or a failure of the sensor.
Apparently, the way it was. The tanks were stored for a long time and were not serviced. At the tank factory, the necessary technologists have already been lost, there are no specialists with relevant qualifications and there is no demanding military acceptance. Parts and components of the tank are made of "improvised" metal, which over time can lose its characteristics. Manufactured and assembled without technology, the nodes eventually cease to function. There are many such nodes in the loading mechanism, and with its super-dense layout, the tolerances on parts and assemblies are very tight. Therefore, any liberties with their manufacture can lead to serious consequences.
So tankers on biathlon had to be nervous. In a stressful situation, when it is impossible to make a shot, you will not only use obscenities to evaluate the equipment and those who made it, but also require the introduction of an additional crew member to load the gun.
The tank, exhibited by Ukraine on biathlon, is an analogue of the T-80UD tank with a small degree of modernization, several hundred of which were delivered under a contract in 1996 — 1998 to Pakistan. For twenty years of operation on this tank there were no special complaints, that is, the tank made on the Soviet backlog showed good characteristics. Later made almost the same tanks - of a completely different quality, and even in the conditions of the summer range they are practically incapable.
All of this suggests that the Ukrainian tank industry has degraded so much that not only did it produce ten tanks for its own army in a quarter of a century, because these tanks were of the lowest level in quality and only disgraced the country in international competitions.
In addition to the quality of the tanks, it is worth noting the preparation for participation in the biathlon. Degradation also occurs at the highest level of command of the army and defense industry. The preparation of tanks and crews for biathlon could not be carried out either at the technical or organizational level. The elementary logic prompted to carry out maintenance work for a long time stored tanks, debug them, test and conduct a full cycle of crew training. None of this has been done.
According to the stories of tankers, they were not needed by anyone, neither to their own command, nor to the Ukroboronprom structures responsible for the quality of the preparation of the equipment. With this approach and the corresponding result. This pitiable experience should always be borne in mind: there are no trifles in the preparation of serious events, and any business can be ruined without preparing it.