Four distinct variations of T-80 Main Battle Tank equipment were observed. One version had fabric skirt armor over the tracks; another added side armor to cover the rear deck against overhead attack by aircraft or missiles.
A third variation carried appliqué armor and radiation shields mounted on the turret roof, as well as reactive armor on the turret front and eight smoke grenade launchers mounted on the turret's left side.
A fourth tank version was unofficially known to NATO as the "Dolly Parton" for the shape of its thicker mantlet armor. This last model also has attaching points for reactive armor.
It is estimated that with the addition of all supplementary armor, the T-80's weight rose to 49.6 tons. In all other respects, the T-80 is very much like the T-72, so much so that the two are often confused even by expert observers.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization estimated that one-third or more of all Soviet tanks in the Warsaw Pact in the late 1980s were of the T-64/T-72/T-80 MBT class and may have numbered as many as 32,000 at the end of 1987, although this estimate seems somewhat high.
At the end of 1988, the T-80 was known to be deployed with the 8th Guards Army and the 1st Guards Tank Army.
If the T-80 -- indeed the entire T-64/T-72/ T-80 series -- has an Achilles' heel, many Western tank experts believe it is the autoloading system for the 120mm main gun. Use of an autoloader has two major effects.
The first is the mechanical complexity of the autoloading system itself. The T-80 autoloader has a capacity of 24 rounds, eight of which are carried in a magazine or carousel.
The semicombustible cases are contained in the upper ring of the carousel; the warheads are carried in the lower ring and can be selected by the gunner. Any malfunction or damage to the system would render the tank useless in combat.
The other effect to be considered is crew fatigue. Fighting and driving constitute only a small part of the crew's duties. Routine maintenance by far consumes the largest share of a crew's time.
With only three crew members available for maintenance, hours are longer and rest shorter. Tank commanders are often called away to commanders' conferences, increasing the work load on the remaining crew members.
See the next page to find specifications for the T-80 Main Battle Tank.
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