“Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”
– Russian President Nikita Kruschev, in a 1961 speech at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Moscow
Nothing causes more consternation among western military planners, strategists and theorists than the knowledge that a new Russian main battle tank could be on the drawing board. Conjuring up images of vast armadas of Russian tanks rolling through the Fulda Gap and fanning our across NATO’s heartland, the western nations always sit up and take notice of a new Russian tank supposedly in development and let out a collective sigh of relief when rumors and warmongering talk are put to rest.
Such was the case in the 1980s, when news was circulating that the Russians were at it again and planning an all-new tank that incorporated some of the latest improvements and technologies learned from the battlefield. The Black Eagle tank (Object 640), was a presumed prototype main battle tank produced in the Russian Federation. It was thought to have been developed by the KBTM design bureau in Omsk in the late 1990s. A production version of this tank has never been publicly demonstrated. The Black Eagle has been cancelled, with all production and development halted.
The company that was developing the tank, Omsk Transmash, has gone bankrupt, and its designs and projects have been absorbed into Uralvagonzavod and state owned services. Uralvagonzavod was developing the T-95 in competition to the Black Eagle, and now owns the rights to both projects, but the Russian government has withdrawn all support and funding for the project.
Development started during the 1980s, when the design bureau of the Leningrad Kirov Plant (LKZ) developed a new design based on the stretched T-80U chassis. Later, when the bureau closed, the documentation was transferred to KBTM in Omsk.
A mock-up of the Black Eagle was first demonstrated at the VTTV arms exposition in Omsk, in September 1997, making a single brief pass, far from the reviewing stands. The tank appeared to be a standard T-80U hull, topped by a very large turret and gun, obscured by camouflage netting and canvas. The turret later turned out to be a crude mock-up.
An early prototype was shown at an arms exposition in Siberia, in June 1999. This tank had an elongated hull with seven pairs of road wheels instead of the T-80’s six, and a turret still mostly obscured by camouflage netting.
The tank was based on a lengthened T-80U hull, with an extra pair of road wheels and a brand new turret. It appeared to have had very thick front armour and new-generation Kaktus explosive reactive armour on the hull and turret. The turret had a very large, box-shaped turret bustle instead of the traditional dome shape of previous Soviet and Russian main battle tanks. According to Russian reports, the Black Eagle design had abandoned the carousel-style autoloader in the fighting compartment for an autoloader mounted in the large western-style turret bustle, which incorporates a blow-out armoured ammunition compartment for crew safety, like the U.S. M1 Abrams, the German Leopard 2, British Challenger 2, French Leclerc and several other modern western tanks. The prototype had a 125 mm tank gun, but it was stated that it may have accommodated a larger 152 mm gun (compared to the 120 and 125 mm-calibre guns of main battle tanks in service). There was debate about whether the Black Eagle would incorporate the Drozd or Arena Active Protection System.
Modelcollect’s 1:72 scale look at the infamous Black Eagle tank (AS72043) is now in stock and ready for shipping.