It seems that another round of rivalry between Russian tank plants begins. The Omsk design bureau of transport mechanical engineering recently announced its intention to modernize and repair the T-55 and T-60 tanks. As is known, almost 50 foreign armies have such tanks in their arsenals (Middle East, South America, Africa, Europe). Experts say that the armies of these countries have over 20,000 tanks. The CIS armies have a similar tank fleet (especially this concerns Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan).
The T-55 and T-60 are very reliable tanks. Modernization of these combat vehicles (new guns, laser range finders, night vision devices and thermal imaging systems) makes it possible to increase their fighting efficiency to the T-80 level. However, the Russian Army preferred the tank created on the basis of the T-72; not T-80 (it’s equipped with a gas-turbine engine). The new tank is equipped with the classical V-shaped engine, which Russia has been creating and modernizing since the creation of the famous T-34 tank. This year the Russian Army will receive 3 battalions of the T-90 tanks (91 combat vehicles).
This is just one regiment. Meanwhile, this decision will let Uralvagonzavod (Nizhny Tagil) survive. This enterprise will become the main supplier of the T-90 tanks to the Russian Army. In addition, Russia exports the T-90. India has already launched licensed production of the combat vehicle. What will happen to the T-80 and the Omsk enterprise?
This enterprise is not in a bad situation. The Omsk design bureau focuses on foreign clients. Igor Shumakov, chief designer of the enterprise, stated that the design bureau and the Omsktransmash plant have already signed several contracts with foreign clients and intend to continue aggressive advertising of its products and services.
The Omsk design bureau offers the T-80U tank, the T-80U Bars modification with the Arena active protection system, the T-80UK commander’s tank, and the T-80U Black Eagle modification along with tank simulators.
Designers and scientists of the Omsk design bureau created the TOS-1 heavy fire-throwers, the BMO-T combat vehicles of fire-throwers and the TZM transport-loaders. In addition, they have patents for unique engineering systems such as the TMM-6 heavy bridges, the MTU-72 and MTU-90 bridge construction vehicles, which can easily build bridges for heavy vehicles and tanks (the length of such bridges may reach hundreds of meters).
The Omsk design bureau intends to display its products at the VTTV-Omsk 2005 arms expo, which will be held June 7-11.
The organizational committee of the expo stated that representatives of 36 countries intend to visit the expo. Around 100 Russian enterprises will display their products.
In the meantime, it’s obvious that the Omsk design bureau of transport mechanical engineering is losing the rivalry with Uralvagonzavod. The design bureau does not have prospects in the tank sector because the Army will buy the T-90 tanks. To all appearances, the design bureau will have to focus on civil products. However, it’s not ruled out that the enterprise will modernize obsolete tanks.