The T-87 was a Soviet main battle tank, designed from 1982 to 1986 by the Uralvagonzavod corporation, and officially adopted as the main battle tank of the Soviet Union in 1987.
The T-87's turret is built around the 88mm gun, which is based upon the German anti-air gun of the same caliber, the FlaK-88. New gunpowder composition was applied for the newer 88mm rounds, as well as a significantly redesigned projectile. Although it sacrificed mass, the 88mm round allowed a far faster and therefore flatter trajectory, as well as a similar penetrating power. A variety of shells were produced for this main gun; additionally, alternative main guns were available to mount -- borrowing from American designs, the Type 70 Armor-Piercing Plasma cannon was the second most prolific of the main gun designs, just behind the government-issue 88mm.
The 88mm gun is equipped with a computerized autoloader; in the original version of the T-87, the autoloader is completely automatic -- this was revealed to be a flaw in logic, with the device gaining the nickname "the arm breaker" by the Polish tank crews who first utilized the vehicle. In the later variants, the fully automated autoloader was replaced by a semi-independent version, which requires gunner input to run.
The tank is also equipped with a turret-mounted DShK for anti-personnel and defensive use. The DShK is capable of being independently controlled in T-87M variants due to the Command Station system installed in those models, although it can still be operated manually in the event of a power failure.
Armor and countermeasuresEdit
The T-87 was largely built from the ground-up, and is related to the T-62 only in its basic design, both tanks having designs stemming from the T-34. Its armor definitions are much thicker than the T-34's. Additionally, Two 3-inch layers of reactive ceramic armor were applied to all portions of the tank to defeat anti-tank weapons and shells alike.
The T-87M, in the face of improving energy weaponry, also possessed a contained energy field underneath the ceramic armor (taking away, somewhat, from the effectiveness of the armor) to defeat most of the more common anti-tank energy weapons.
The Soviet main battle tank at the time of the Sino-Soviet war of the early 1980s was the aging T-62 tank which had been adopted two decades beforehand. Although roughly the same as its Chinese counterparts in terms of general design (indeed, the Chinese manufactured tanks which were clones of the T-62), the Soviets were heavily outmatched in terms of production capabilities; the Chinese were able to produce T-62 copies at a rate of 35:1 against the Soviets. Facing such odds, especially in Siberia where it was difficult to transport materiel in any case, slowing reinforcement and delivery of new T-62s, there could be no mistaking that the Soviets could be easily beaten, and as such it was thought that the best method of employing Soviet tanks was to disperse them among the front, using each as an emplacement, rather than as an actual tank. While somewhat effective at conserving tanks themselves, with a kill ratio of 13:1, the Soviets were still being pushed back; and in the open, the Soviet armor was just as mortal as the Chinese.
As such, in the aftermath of the war, it was decided that a new MBT was required to fill the role of fighting such a numerous enemy. Like the SVT-92, the thought process was to allow a single crew to dispatch enemies quickly and easily, before they could be engaged. Uralvagonzavod was approached midway through the development of what would become the T-87 by the Soviet armed forces in 1985. The corporation was commissioned, but their design had quite a bit of leeway, with the commission having vague terms.
Uralvagonzavod's leadership decided, simply, to continue with the current project and modify the design to suit the Soviet armed forces. To accomplish this would require firsts on a number of fronts; reactive ceramic armor plating above the base plating would give the tank the capability to shrug off enemy fire; the main gun was an improved FlaK-88, already a renowned weapon, with modifications designed to allow the usage of multiple ammunition types; the design itself was highly miniaturized and streamlined to give the tank a smaller sight picture; a nuclear generator was installed to allow the tank to operate on its own for long stretches of time; much of tank's operation was automated and computerized, to allow a smaller crew and to speed up operation.
The T-87M was a redesigned version of the T-87, developed following the T-87's usage in the Polish-Czechoslovak war of 1998. Automation of the main gun was reduced, with the autoloader only operating on a command by the gunner, rather than independently. Additionally, the cabin was extended somewhat to accomodate taller tank crewmen, and some newer accessories were fitted for the tank, most notably the Command Station system that allowed the commander/driver of the tank to communicate remotely with the gunner, and to operate parts of the tank that would otherwise require the tank commander to shift himself within the tank.
From its adoption until the Great War, the T-87 would remain the gold standard of tank designs, rivalled only by similar American tanks.
The T-87 first saw service, as with the SVT-92 during the Polish-Czechoslovak war of 1998. Ten T-87s were loaned to the Poles, and the tank quickly gained a positive reputation, with its ease of use and the sheer power of the 88mm gun inspiring awe in both the Polish and Czechoslovak forces. During that war the T-87 was pitted against the markedly inferior T-62M, a heavily modified and modernized T-62. While the Czech armor could go toe-to-toe with the similar Polish-made T-75, again a modified and modernized T-62, the T-62M's main gun did barely anything to the T-87, whereas the T-62M's armor was easily pierced by the 88mm gun. The primary issues with the T-87 uncovered during this were that it was very cramped -- only a select few could operate it due to the height limit -- and that the autoloader became known as the "arm breaker" due to its complete automation: if a gunner was not careful, his arm could get caught in the autoloader and crushed.
The improved T-87M was employed throughout the wars leading up to the Great War; it was first used in the field during the Second Sino-Soviet War, where it proved itself far superior against Chinese tanks, even in the face of overwhelming numerical odds. It was used again during the European Wars, alongside the older base variant of the T-87 that was already in use by the Polish armed forces. While the older variant of the T-87 was about on par with German and Hungarian armor by that point, the T-87M's several improvements gave it an edge over the competition, allowing the Soviets to again dominate the battlefield.
The Great War did not end the T-87's use. Whereas many other tanks still ran on diesel or other finite fuels at the time of the war, the T-87 possessed a nuclear reactor which had the potential of running for up to a century after the first reactor core was installed. This alone made it an appealing asset to survivor communities and those who would destroy them alike; even if the operator lacked ammunition, at the least the T-87 was an intimidating and safe mode of transportation.
Eventually, however, even the long-lasting nuclear reactors eventually were expended, and by the 2200s no movable T-87s remained; the computerized systems became redundant without power, and those that remained in use by survivor communities -- most notably in Kharkiv, where a prosperous nation had sprung up in the fairly intact city -- were mostly gutted, with the turret's remote targeting system being replaced by jury-rigged handcranks and the autoloader gutted to allow for manual operation.