Russia mulls option to regain T-80U tanks and BMP-3 from Republic of Korea

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The Russian government is considering an option to acquire T-80U main battle tanks and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles from Republic of Korea.

The subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and the impoverishment of the new Russian Federation made it impossible for Moscow to repay the loans in cash.

The Russian Federation began supplying tanks, combat vehicles, military helicopters, and other defense equipment to the South Korean armed forces as partial payment of the $2 billion debt to the ROK that Russia inherited from the former Soviet Union.

Under their terms, Russia provided the ROK armed forces with Soviet-era T-80U main battle tanks, METIS-M anti-tank missiles, BMP infantry fighting vehicles, Kamov Ka-32 transport helicopters, and Murena-E hovercraft. Although South Korea had originally planned to purchase 80 tanks, the ROK ended up buying only 35 T-80U tanks. South Korea also received 70 BMP-3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles from Russia. The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) uses these Soviet-era weapons primarily to simulate a North Korean opposing force in training exercises. Ironically, the T-80U and BMP-3 are more advanced than their DPRK counterparts.

“Moscow is planning to regain the T-80U MBTs and BMP-3 IFVs delivered to Seoul in the 1990s towards state debt payments. The taking of the relevant decision dates back to 2005. We have recently conducted the technical assessment of the vehicles and drafted a proposal to the authorities of the ROK. The proposal was delivered to the South Korean side on September 3.

“Moscow intends to conduct a mutually profitable barter exchange, not to buy back T-80Us and BMP-3s,” the source said.

He added that the vehicles are in good technical condition, despite the active usage by the armed forces of ROK. “Hence, we are planning to get the T-80Us and BMP-3s to pieces in order to get spare parts for the organic vehicles of Russia’s Armed Forces. However, they can be overhauled and supplied to the prominent users of the T-80U MBTs and BMP-3 IFVs, for instance, to Cyprus,” the source emphasized.


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