The Ukrainian tank program T-84 Oplot continues to see delays.
Ukraine’s military will not receive any T-84 Oplot main battle tanks in the near future, the Ukrainian publication Defense Express reported on April 27, 2019. According to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Sergei Zgurets, a reserve fund of up to UAH100 million ($3.79 million) intended to be used for the procurement of the T-84s was instead repurposed to support the development of the Neptune, an anti-shipping missile complex.
Zgurets noted that, at present, the Kharkiv Morozov Machine-Building Design Bureau is working on improving the design of the T-84, with an emphasis on reducing Russian-origin components in the vehicle.
With an eye to the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has heavily focused on repairing and upgrading old armor, such as the T-64 tank, rather than introduce new systems into service. While Ukraine has dramatically increased its defense expenditures in the wake of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the start of insurgency in the east, the budget is not sufficiently large enough to support the T-84 program. Ukraine has exported the tank to one customer, Thailand, but not in the sort of volumes that could help drive the price of the tank downward to a more affordable level.
The Neptune missile, which Zgurets said received repurposed Oplot reserve funding, has grown more important as Ukraine grapples with an increasingly powerful Russian naval presence in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. Last year, in November, several Ukrainian vessels and their crew were captured after a standoff in the Kerch Strait. Kiev accuses Moscow of preventing maritime traffic into the Sea of Azov, resulting in what Ukraine characterizes as a blockade on the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol.
Ukraine aims to begin serial production of the Neptune soon. The country showed off a test-firing of the missile complex – which is said to have a range of 300 kilometers – in April of this year.