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by Jacques Duquette

Updated 9-16-08

So where are we now?  1. There are more reference materials and aftermarket pieces to help build a more accurate T-80, no matter the sub-variant you may want to build.  2.  The production numbers for the T-80 series has gained a lot more depth and the story of the T-80 series has been bulked up.  However, this article should not be taken as the end-all and be-all of how to make a good T-80...this is not a real "tweaks list".  It is just a helpfull start to get the modeler moving!

To many of us modern Soviet/Russian armor builders, probably the biggest problem facing us in regards to the T-80 is getting accurate information.  Research is difficult at best, especially not being able to read Russian, and information has been slow to accrue.   However, through the course of my research, I discovered some shortcomings that I could not overcome, the largest being I did not have access to ANY of the real vehicles to either look at in person or to take my own measurements. I did, however, find out that there is a substantial model builder interest in making a accurate T-80, with a large amount of information coming from Dirk Caemerlynck, all of which is in Italics..   (Thanks Dirk!)


Here are several of the links I have either to "walkarounds" or detailed discussions:

Tanknet Soviet Tank Discussion.  Probably the best source of info in any one spot.

T-80 Series at Army Recon Webpage

Vasily Fofanov's Modern Russian Armour page.

Russian T-80 webpage

Harkonen's T-80 info on his BTVT   webpage

Possible copy of a Janes' type book with basic information.  (I believe the line drawings on this site are the ones from the Polygon book.)



Dragon Model Ltd.

3505 - T-80 w/ERA - this is SUPPOSED to be a standard production run T-80BV.

3506 - T-80 - this is SUPPOSED to be a standard production run T-80B.

3512 - T-80U SMT M1989 - This is actually a Soviet era  T-80UD with Kontact-5 ERA.


201 T-80UD - This vehicle is a early T-80UD with Kontact-1/3 ERA.


The Real Vehicle:

(Please remember that I am not trying to give a complete history of the tank, I just want to help the model builder get off on the right foot.)

Ob.219sp1 - First prototype with hull and turret as per T-64A (ob.434) but with gas turbine (SM-1000? ¹,³) instead of the 5TDF diesel engine. Development started in 1968 and the first tank was ready in 1969.

This is not really a T-80, but a pre-pre-cursor of the study of a gas turbine engine for use in a tank.  SInce the T-80 "grew" out of the T-64A, it is not

Ob.219sp2 = T-80 - Reworked turret but still with IR search light on left side of main gun and (initially) without NSVT. Powered by 1,000-hp engine GTD-1000T (initially SM-1000?³). Optical equipment consists of a night sight TPN-1-49-23 and a day sight TPD-2-49 with optical rangefinder (as per T-72 and T-64A).  Later, the TPD-2 was replaced by the TPD-K1 with laser range finder (as per T-72A). Build in series from 1976 till 1978. Main gun 2A46-1 or –2 with 40 rounds. Combat weight: 42 tonnes. Some sources state that this version was already equipped with the "Kobra" system¹ but this is obviously not the case.   However, some of the surviving T-80’s were later brought to T-80B standard by adding the "Kobra" system and improving the glacis armour. The T-64 style turret was retained.

    T-80 (plain vanilla) As stated in my sources, the T-80 originally started out as a project to incorporate several of the advances of the T-64 series into a cheaper design like the T-72, a sort of in-between tank in terms of ability, reliability, and price. I was able to find NO photographic reference, but the stated design had a turret very similar to the T-72 (It was actually more of a T-64 turret/hull with a new suspension). This vehicle was judged to be INFERIOR to the abilities of the current generation T-64 and had a very short production run.

Ob.219R = T-80B "Kobra" - Main production version with new road wheels, a modified turret with ceramic armour and several components from late T-64B’s: a new fire control system 1A33 consisting of a day sight 1G42 with laser range finder, TPN-3-49 night sight and 9K112-1 "Kobra" with radio-controlled anti-tank missile 9M112. Main gun: 2A46M-1 with 38 rounds, combat weight: 42.5 tonnes. Entered service in 1978. Early versions have a V-shaped wave deflector (as per T-80), a void under the "Kobra" control box GTN-12 and a T-64 type stowage box with slim snorkel tube at the rear of the turret.   From 1980 on, the tank received a more powerful engine GTD-1000TF 1,100-hp (SG-1000??³). Later examples have a stowage basket, a slightly reworked turret (1982), fixing points for a 3rd fuel drum on the engine deck (1983) and additional armour on the glacis plate (1984).

Ob.219RV = T-80BV - As per T-80B (late) but with reactive armour VDZ "Kontakt-1". Combat weight: 43.7 t. Entered service in 1984/85. All BV’s have a small mounting platform for the "Kobra" control box in front of the commander’s cupola, as have the late T-80B’s. T-80BV’s are newly built or modified T-80B’s.  More recently, the T-80BV was fitted with modified side skirts.

Newer forms of armor, specifically Ceramic-K, were being developed at the same time as the Ob.219 studies and these newer armors were incorporated into the vehicle production run with a redesign of the T-80 turret, making the T-80B, along with new roadwheels and FCS systems. The turret still shows it's T-64A "heritage" though. DML's kits 3505 and 3506 are meant to represent the T-80B and -BV, but the models are from the late 1980's when DML was just starting out and which seems to be heavily, if not entirely based on Steve Zaloga’s 1988 drawings of the T-80BV.   (Note: These T-80BV drawings are from the same series of drawings supplied to the Dept. of Defense and used for vehicle recognition classes. This same series of line drawings had the BMP-2 with the incorrect placement of periscopes and the “canted” upper rear hull infantry doors. The DML BMP-2 was supposedly based on these drawings as well.)

Below is a T-80B turret.   Note the casting of the turret, especially compared to the DML kit turret.

Image1.jpg (34379 bytes)

Next, a photo of a T-80BV that has been stripped down, from BTVT.  Notice the shape of the turret vs. the shape in the DML kits.  The DML kit turret is too pointed at the rear, and also too small.

t-80_mod_doB4.jpg (146854 bytes)  Click to enlarge.

Ob.630 = T-80BK/BVK - The T-80BK is a command version with additional radio R-130, a telescopic antenna, a generator, but with less 125mm rounds and without the "Kobra" system: in front of the commander’s station there’s a small box. A second antenna base is located next to the day sight 1G42 front left.

T-80B_early_RUS_02.JPG (28519 bytes)

(And as a side note, a comment from Dirk on the picture above):   Here's another interesting image of two different T-80B versions. The one in front (550) is a very early version: it is still equiped with the rear stowage box and small snorkel from the T-64. It has however an additional sheet of armour on the glacis plate (added from 1984 onwards). The second vehicle is the standard production type, note the different stowage configuration on the right side of the turret behind the small stowage box, including a big snorkel adapter (early models have spare track links on the right turret side).


T-80B_RUS_25.JPG (56970 bytes)

The only picture I found of a late T-80B (post 1983) with the actual 3rd fuel drum mounted. Seems like the crew has converted the fuel drum into some sort of stowage container. Also note the container for the 125mm propellant charge behind the left fuel drum supports.

Ob.219A / T-80U - And here is where information gets nice an fuzzy.  This variant, also known as the "Bereza" (Birch Tree), caused quite a uproar within the Soviet Tank Industry in the 1980's.

Leningrad and Kharkov were both assigned to work on Ob.219A, the succesor to the T-80B series, with Leningrad as the senoir parner by Marshal Ustinov who was pushing hard for tank design unification and use of turbine engines.  Kharkov chaffed under this arrangement for various reasons.  They were producing the T-64 and wanted to produce a diesel version of the T-80U (more on this below) rather than work with the gas turbine engines.  Several times they suggested diesel engined variants they wanted to produce, and were constantly waiting for another opportunity to bring up using a diesel engine for the power pack.  Part of their resoning was cost, and it was well deserved as the diesel engine cost 1/10 of a gas turbine ans was far more fuel efficient (however, it took a LOT more design work to get the diesel engine up to the power output desired, so there were good reasons NOT to use one as well.)

Production seems to have been, as of right now, the following:

Leningrad : 10 pre-production vehicles meant to test production equipment and some vehicle equipment outfitting.  Several, if not all, of these vehicles can be found in museums and collections and can lead to ID problems for modellers.

Kharkov : 45 T-80U tanks, probably with the Commanders Remotely Operated AAMG.   Some of them, possibly all of them, were initially fitted with K-1 ERA.  This is the version that has sometimes been refered to as the T-80A (even in some Russian literature as the Ob. 219A 'Alder').  These vehicles were probably rebuilt in some way to either resemble other T-80U's OR were scrapped in the early 1990's as part of the Conventional Armed Forces Reduction Treaty.

Omsk/Leningrad : 55 T-80U with gas turbine and K-1 ERA.  These also have been noted as being Ob.219A or T-80A.

Now, several things happened. 

Marshal Ustinov died in 1984, crippling his idea of tank design unification.   Design work began on Ob.219AC, which incorperated K-5 ERA into the design, Laser Guided Missile capability, and the 1A45 Fire Control System as well as other improvements.   Kharkov succesfully lobbied their design, Ob.478B,  of the diesel powered T-80U which they wanted to call the T-84 but which ended up being called the T-80UD.   Tank production ceased in Leningrad but continued at Omsk.

Kharkov : Produced about 150 T-80UD, with 30-40 being sent to Russia.   There were a small number of T-80UD, possibly less than 10, produced with K-1 ERA before switching to K-5 ERA (this is the version SKIF kit 201 is based on.)  With the fall of the Soviet Union, the remaining stock of about 110 was absorbed by the Ukrainian Army or the Kharkov Plant.  Many were reworked into a new export design called the T-84 (early - which had the older cast turrets) and sold to Pakistan.  As of 2008 Russia still had ~12 T-80UD still in service but are due to be replaced with T-90 tanks.

Omsk : Produced about 350 T-80U tanks.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, all production ceased.  Many of the T-80U were eventually given away to South Korea as payment for debt owed them by Russia.  Russia/Omsk also sold some T-80U to Cyprus.  Large numbers of T-80U were scrapped and there are ~ 100 left in service as of 2008.  They are expected to be replaced in 2009 by T-90 tanks.  This is the tank that DML kit 3512 is based on.

Below is a Ob.219AK - commanders vehicle (2 antenna).

Image2.jpg (22936 bytes)

For the engine deck of the T-80UD, here is a look at the pre-production version, photo from BTVT:

t-80ud-turm3.jpg (98960 bytes)  Click to enlarge.

As can be seen, there are no reinforcement bars and the main deck screen goes all the way to the left side.  However, I have not been able to find any photos of a vehicle like this in military service so I deduce that the vehicle was a pre-production version.   The second deck configuration can be seen in the photo below.

T-80UD.  The engine deck is the give-away for this variant and is accurate for even a T-84. See photo below:

Image3.jpg (51181 bytes)

The DML kit 3512 seems to be based on one DoD topside photo, found in Concords book on the T-64 and T-80, in which the photo is labeled for a SMT M1989. The main difference is that in this photo the Kontact-5 ERA applied to the turret top seems to be in two distinct lines just behind the mantlet, as seen in the picture below.

Image4.jpg (66799 bytes)

However, this arrangement is not standard, or at least not nearly as common as a turret with only one row of Kontact-5 ERA with a long sloping section in front of the ERA to the mantlet.

SIDENOTE:  Here is another set of designators I have seen for the T-80 series, mainly from Eastern Europe Model builders.

     T-80U m85 - Ob.219AC (main T-80U production from Omsk)

     T-80U m93/94 - small changes made to the T-80U.  This version is just before a Thermal Imager was incorperated and the ubiquitous IR searchlight was removed

     T-80UD m85 - Ob.478B with K-1 ERA

     T-80UDK m85 - Ob.478B command version with K-1 ERA

     T-80UD m88 - Ob.478B with K-5 ERA -  Main production version

     T-80UD m91 - There are two versions split between the Russian version (basically the m88 version with small exterior changes) and the Pakistani version which is labelled T-84 (early).


T-80B/BV from DML:  The two kits DML did, 3505 and 3506, seem to capture the general shape of the early T-80B/BV, but show their age badly.  They have issues with:

  • Overall Dimensions - The hull is too short, too narrow and too compact.
  • Main Gun barrel is severly overscale - it is closer to 152mm caliber
  • ERA (kit 3505) - the Kontact -1 and -3 ERA is simplified in detail and how it is mounted
  • Roadwheels (too large, flat, and shallow)
  • Track (too wide and no hollow guidehorns)
  • Upper/lower hull fit (large gaps, only a problem if you want it to be)
  • Upper hull details - many details soft, simplified, or missing.
  • Fuel barrels and fuel lines
  • Turret shape - it seem to be too pointed to the rear (narrows too quickly and severly), missing some of the general details and overall texture (too smooth...)  As many have stated, building a "accurate" T-80B/BV from a DML kit will require a fair amount of work, money, or both.

Now I really like to promote building a model Out Of the Box.  To this end I have tried my best to help show where I believe DML received their information from when designing their T-80 kits. It appears to me that a representation of a  T-80BV can be built from the DML kit 3505 T-80 w/ERA right out of the box, although the Eduard PE set for this kit will still help immensly.  However, the tank will look "odd" probably from the hull dimensions and turret shape.  (I built kit 3506 and it looks "odd" to me anyhow.)  Other additions that would help would be SP Designs 213 Correct T-80 Final Drive and Sprockets, 214 Correct T-80 track (also Master CLub T-80 tracks but you will need SP Designs kit 213 with them), and 093 correct T-80 Roadwheels (for DML kit).  A Model Point barrel (or spare Mini Arm or SP Designs barrel) would help a lot as well.  AVOID the Barrel Depot barrel, it is a copy of the DML barrel.

T-80UD from DML: 

  • Overall Dimensions - The hull is too short, too narrow, and too compact.
  • Main Gun barrel is severly overscale - it is closer to 152mm caliber
  • ERA  - the Kontact-5 ERA is simplified in detail and how it is mounted
  • Roadwheels (too large, flat, and shallow)
  • Track (too wide and no hollow guidehorns)
  • Upper/lower hull fit (large gaps, only a problem if you want it to be)
  • Upper hull details - many details are soft, simplified, or missing.
  • Fuel barrels and fuel lines
  • Turret shape - comparing it to line drawings by S. Zaloga in Concord’s T-80U book shows that the turret is a about ¼” too short and it is too rounded on the rear edges. The DML turret also differs in that there is only one line of ERA above the mantlet in the drawings vs the two rows of ERA on the turret.

Essentially the same advice for this kit as listed above with kits 3505 and 3506 but with the correct Eduard PE set.

SKIF’s T-80UD “Bereza”:  This kit is a much better starting point - it's overall dimensions are much more accurate.  However, it also has some problems:

  • Turret - While it has the correct length, it tapers too narrowly to the rear of the turret too quickly, being about 1/8” too narrow on both sides of the rear. Many missing details as well.
  • Soft details overall - The detail level really makes this kit look toy-like unless it is reworked.
  • Rear engine deck on the SKIF T-80UD is for a pre-production vehicle. The major difference is the large screened area without any “delineating reinforcement bars” across it and the connection with the two left side screens - they should be seperate.  DML got the engine deck MOSTLY right in their T-80UD kit (it is slightly undersized due to the dimension problems of the general kit.)
  • Fuel tanks - wrong dimensions and simplified detail
  • Tracks - poor vinyl and solid guide horns
  • Roadwheels - missing steel rims and detail is soft

The SKIF kit, as noted, is the best kit to START from but it needs more help than the DML kits.  If built out of the box it will have a distinct toy-like appearance that is unappealing.  There are a lot of conversion and upgrade parts from SP Designs including a new upper hull, new hollow turrets, tracks, raodwheels, sprockets, etc...

Model kit help: 

Now, here are some resources to help you fix up those kits.  They will require money, time, patience, and advanced skills to use but the end result COULD be a stunning T-80 miniature.

  • Eduard Photo-etch:  There are 4 sets available, 3 for each DML kit and 1 for the SKIF kit.  The PE for the SKIF kit has the non-standard engine deck grill that matches the "incorrect" kit piece.  Parts from different PE sets can be cross-used on other kits, but there may be "issues" due to which kit the PE set was designed for.  Widely available online.
  • SP Designs - There are MANY detail sets and conversions offered:   T-80 Tracks, Roadwheels, Replacement Upper Hull, Turrets, and complete conversions for multiple variants, mainly for the SKIF kit.  Please see Sergeant at Arms Models for the complete range of parts and details.  Just to be fair, I run SAAM - be aware.  :)

  • MR Models - They have three sets: Roadwheels, Early T-80 details and T-80U details.  These are meant for the DML kits.  Available online through several dealers.

  • Barrel Depot - they make one turned metal barrel to replace the plastic one in the DML kits.  It is a direct copy of the ovesized DML part and is NOT CORRECT to use unless you just want to replace the plastic DML barrel.  Available wherever Barrel Depot stuff is sold.

  • Model Point - They make replacement main gun barrels (accurate), smoke mortar tube replacements (loaded and empty), radio antenna bases, and nicely done resin ERA bricks.  Available at Model Point US (no affiliation) and several other online stores. 

  • Miniarm - No specific T-80 conversions yet, but they have some very nicely done ERA in thier T-72 conversions.  Look at the Miniarm Website for more info.

  • Master Club - Very nice click together resin tracks BUT they require the SP Designs 213 sprockets as they will ONLY work on DML sprockets.  Roadwheels are nice, but designed only for DML kits and a bit off in detail. 



First, all images have been BLATANTLY RIPPED OFF from the internet, meaning I do not know who to attribute the various pictures too.  All I can say for certain is that I DO NOT have any copyrights on them so please contact me if you have issue with them on this webpage.

"T-64 and T-80" by Steven Zaloga published in 1992 by Concord   ISBN 962-361-031-9

"Russia's T-80U Main Battle Tank" by Steven Zaloga and David Markov Published in 2000 by Concord  ISBN 962-361-656-2

"Tank T-80" published in 1993 by Polygon  ISBN 5-88541-006-2

"Soviet/Russian Armor and Artillery Design Practices: 1945 to Present" by Hull, Markov, Zaloga

        Published in 1999 by Darlington Productions ISBN 1-892848-01-5


º Obozrenie otechestvennoj bronyetankovoj tekhniki (1905-1995) by A.V.Karpenko. 1996

¹ T-64 and T-80 by Steven Zaloga. Concord 1992

² Secret Kubinka by Fraser Gray. 1998

³ Jane’s Armour & Artillery 1999-2000

4 T-80, Luchij v mirye tank. Tornado Riga 2000


Photography © Minnesota Military Figure Society unless noted