The “Black Eagle” (“Object 640”) was the name of a promising Russian main battle tank, developed by by the KBTM design bureau in Omsk in the 1990s. This vehicle was never put into mass production, but the experience gained during its creation was later used in the production of the T-14 Armata.
Developed in the late 1990s to become the next generation of main battle tanks for the export market of the Russian Army, the Black Eagle T-80UM2 has been rated by military experts as the future of tank production. Unfortunately, because of the financial problems this tank was never put into mass production, but the researchs gained during its creation was later used in the manufacturing of the T-14 Armata. In the design of the “Black Eagle” a large number of innovative technical solutions were used and its layout was significantly different from all previously developed combat vehicles.
The Black Eagle was thought to have been developed by Omsktransmash and later Uralvagonzavod for the Russian Federation to replace the aging T-80 and T-72 main battle tanks. Very little information was ever released on either the prototype tanks or their equipment, features, or design. A production version of this tank has never been publicly demonstrated. In May 2010, the project was cancelled by the Russian government, and stated that none of the tanks would be bought, as the tank design was already obsolete.
A mock-up of the Black Eagle was first demonstrated at the VTTV arms exposition in Omsk, in September 1997. The works on tanks were done in a strictly secret atmosphere. Even during the show, the turret was covered with camouflage nets. The tank was demonstrated at a distance of 150 meters and only in strictly defined corners. The tactical and technical properties of the new tank were still a secret, but the developers claimed that it exceeded the fighting qualities of the latest Western tanks of the time. 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 “black eagle”, also known as the “Object 640”, was developed based on the T-80U chassis, therefore it is also known as T-80UM2. The T-80U itself is an improved variant of the T-80 tank, the body size of the T-80U is longer than the predecessor. Its composite armor is also very thick, up to 400 mm with explosive reaction armor.
Compared to the T-80U, the Black Eagle has 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 Black Eagle is completed with a very large brand new turret, box-shaped turret bustle instead of the traditional dome shape of previous Soviet and Russian main battle tanks.
The Black Eagle tank has a high degree of protection against variety of anti-tank weapons. Drivers position was moved towards the rear of the hull for better frontal protection. Turret roof has a multilayered armor to protect against top-attack threats. It also incorporates Drozd-2 or Arena active protection system and Shtora-6 and Shtora-8B visual protection systems. It is claimed that the Black Eagle is fitted with an air search radar, which notifies crew about enemy aircraft and helicopters located up to 16 km away.
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 main gun from 135mm to 152 mm. It would have a range of effective fire of up to 10 km. It could also have the capability to launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary projectiles. Secondary armament consists of 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and remotely controlled 12.7 mm machine gun mount.
“Object 640” was one of the favorite topics of the Western press publications of the time, the great characteristics were attributed to the tank. “Object 640” has been called the fourth generation tank, and sometimes the fifth generation. However, there was no official statement. Soon, the “Black Eagle” was gradually forgotten. In the early 2000s, it was announced that a new main battle tank, the T-95, would be created in Russia. Around the same time, the Omsk company, which failed to receive orders from the Russian defense ministry, went bankrupt.