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UK Bovington Tank Museum mobilizes its Historic Arsenal to Produce Tank Tracks for Ukraine.

| Defense News Army 2024

Based on a report from the BBC on March 6, 2024, the British Tank Museum located in Bovington, Dorset, collaborated with Cook Defence Systems, a UK-based company, following a directive from the Ministry of Defence. The project involved the utilization of partial Soviet-era blueprints and materials obtained from Ukraine, alongside the museum's existing track samples, to facilitate the production of replacement tracks.
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T80 waiting in front of Malyshev factory, Karkhov Oblast (Picture source: Ukrinform)

The Bovington Tank Museum has revealed it was called upon to help reverse-engineer Soviet-era tank tracks for a defense firm supplying components to Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine caused much destruction and damage to vehicles, but although very developed during the Cold War, the production of armored vehicles stopped or reorganized after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In Ukraine alone, the Malyshev plant, Kharkiv oblast, remained operational.

The Malyshev Factory is known for the production of the T-64, T-80, and the Oplot-M main battle tanks. The Factory, as a key facility in Ukraine's defense production network, has been struck by Russian missiles on multiple occasions since the conflict's escalation in February 2022. Specifically, the factory was targeted in March 2022, December 2022, and February 2023. These attacks are indicative of the ongoing challenges faced by Ukraine's defense industry amidst the current geopolitical tensions.

On a British Ministry of Defence request Cook Defense system, which has been a manufacturer of tracks for British armored fighting vehicles since 1941, including the UK's Challenger 2 tank, calls Bovington Tank Museum to supply their own tracks and reverse engineering them.

William Cook Defence has been the recipient of numerous contracts to supply spare parts for up to 500 Ukrainian-operated military vehicles ( mainly MT-LB, BMP and T-72). Along with tracks for the Soviet-era tanks, the company was also tasked with supplying them for the tanks Britain donated to the Ukrainian forces, such as the Challenger 2.

According to the museum press release, several issues had to be navigated while reverse engineering the tank tracks. A new steel alloy needed to be produced, so the pieces would match the original Soviet specifications, while welded and forged components needed to be redesigned for the modern manufacturing process.

Speaking in the press release, David Willey, curator at the Tank Museum, said: “The Tank Museum’s collections are used for many purposes. The Museum tells the story of the Royal Armoured Corps story to the public, teaching soldiers, and helping ‘corporate memory’ on the subject is also a core function. When we can help industry and our allies, of course we should. We are very pleased to hear the reproduced track is now arriving in Ukraine.”

Defense News March 2024

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