Ukrainian President Zelenskyy requests South Korea to provide tanks and armored vehicles
On April 11, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested South Korea to provide military equipment and weapons in the fight against the Russian troops in Ukraine. South Korea's armed forces operate Russian-made T-80U MBTs (Main Battle Tanks) and BMP-3 tracked armored IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) which can be used by Ukrainian soldiers without specific training.
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Russian-made T-80U main battle tank of the South Korean Army. (Picture source Facebook account Korea Defense Blog)
South Korea has already donated non-lethal equipment to Ukraine, such as helmets, blankets, combat rations, and medical kits. The Ukrainian government has officially requested lethal equipment and weapons from South Korea, but so far the Korean government has not responded positively to Ukraine's request.
During a video conference that was held on Monday, April 11, 2022, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said his country needed more help, including weapons, if it is to survive the war. Citing Zelenskyy, South Korea has armored vehicles, anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and anti-ship weapons that can be very useful for Ukraine in its fight against Russian armed forces deployed in Ukraine.
In fact, according to the military balance 2021, South Korea has Russian-made T-80U main battle tanks and BMP-3 tracked armored IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) that could be transferred to Ukraine from the current South Korean inventory without reducing the combat readiness of the South Korean armed forces.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute`s (SIPRI) arms transfers database, Russia delivered to the Republic of Korea 43 T-80U MBTs and 67 BMP-3 IFVs in 1995-2006. In 2016, Russia has requested South Korea to regain T-80U main battle tanks (MBT) and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) supplied to the Republic of Korea.
On April 5, 2022, Army Recognition reported that the United States has asked the Cyprus government if it would be possible to transfer Russian-made weapons and combat vehicles in services with the Cyprus armed forces including TOR-M1 and S-300 air defense missile systems, T-80U main battle tank, BMP-3 tracked armored IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) and Mi-35 attack helicopter.
The T-80U is an improved version of the Soviet-made T-80 MBT (Main Battle Tank) equipped with a modernized turret, Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor, improved gun sight, and 9M119 Svir missile system.
The main armament of the T-80U consists of one a 125mm 2A46M-1 automatic smoothbore gun with a thermal sleeve, which can fire between 6 and 8 rounds per minute. The tank is equipped is fitted with an automatic loading system with 28 rounds ready to fire. A total of 45 rounds of 125mm caliber are carried into the tank. The main gun can fire the 9M119 Refleks (US/NATO designation AT-11 `Sniper') semi-automatic laser beam-riding missile out to a maximum range of 5,000 m.
The BMP-3 is a Russian-made tracked amphibious infantry fighting vehicle, a successor to the BMP-1 and BMP-2, which entered service with the Soviet army in 1990. The main armament of the BMP-3 consists of one 100mm 2A70 semi-automatic rifled gun/missile launcher, which is stabilized in two axes and can fire either 3UOF HE-FRAG rounds or 3UBK10 anti-tank guided missiles.
Russian-made BMP-3 tracked armored IFV Infantry Fighting Vehicle of the South Korean Army. (Picture source Facebook account Korea Defense Blog)