T-72 Ural Main Battle Tank Of Soviet Union
T-72 Ural Main Battle Tank Of Soviet Union. The T-72 is a family of Soviet main battle tanks that first entered production in 1971. About 20,000 T-72 tanks have been built, and refurbishment has enabled many to remain in service for decades.
The T-72 Ural main battle tank was developed as a cheaper and more reliable, however less capable alternative to the T-64. It is a product of a traditional Soviet design philosophy. Its designers used proven components whenever possible, improved existing components where required, and designed new components only when it was necessary. The T-72 entered service with the Soviet army in 1973. A total of 17 831 of T-72 series tanks were produced in Soviet Union until 1990.
During the late 1990s Russian Army operated around 9 000 of these main battle tanks. Over 10 000 of these tanks were license-produced in Czechoslovakia, India, Romania and Yugoslavia. The T-72 was exported to around 30 countries.
The T-72 is protected by composite armor. Some sources claim that front armor of the T-72 is equivalent to 500-600 mm of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA). At the time of its introduction from arc of the T-72 could withstand any 105 mm munitions at ranges greater than 500 m. Mind though that contemporary Western tanks were armed with 105 mm guns. The front armor of the T-72 could not be penetrated by contemporary Dragon or TOW anti-tank guided missiles. Side armor provides protection against IFV and helicopter cannons. Later production models were fitted with side skirts. The T-72 has an NBC protection system. Interior is lined with anti-radiation liner, which also acts as a spall liner. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing equipment.
This main battle tank is completed with a 125 mm smoothbore gun. This gun fired rounds at a much higher muzzle velocity than Western 105 mm rifled guns. The gun is fitted with new carousel-type autoloader. Previous autoloader on the T-64 was unreliable and had a number of other drawbacks. Despite being more reliable, autoloader of the T-72 was slower than that, used on the T-64. Maximum rate of fire is up to 8 rounds per minute.
If required, the gun can be loaded manually at a rate of 1-2 rounds per minute. A total of 39 rounds are carried for the main gun. Effective range of fire with APFSDS round is about 2 000-3 000 meters day and 850-1 300 meters at night. Armor penetration is around 590-630 mm of rolled homogenous armor equivalency at 2 000 m range. Germans estimated that the Soviet T-72 could penetrate frontal armor of the early Leopard 2 tanks at a range of 1 500 meters and frontal armor of Leopard 1 tank at more than 3 000 meters.
Secondary armament consists of coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and 12.7 mm machine gun, mounted on top of the roof in the opened mount.
By Western standards this tank had poor night vision capability, which was a serious drawback.
Vehicle has a crew of three, including commander, gunner and driver.
The T-72 is powered by a V-46 diesel engine, developing 780 horsepower. It has improved suspension over its predecessor. It uses six larger roadwheels, similar to those of the T-55 and T-62 series tanks. This main battle tank is completed with a self-entrenching blade and can dig trench during 12-40 minutes, depending on the ground type. When not in use this self-entrenching blade provides additional protection for the front of the hull. Vehicle is fitted with a deep wading kit and can ford water obstacles up to 5 meters deep.
T-72 Ural Battle Tanks Variants
T-72 Ural-1 with improved armor protection.
T-72 Ural-K command tank with navigation equipment and additional communication equipment.
T-72A had a number of improvements, including improved gun and engine. This tank was fitted with a laser range finder. It could carry 44 rounds of onboard ammunition for the main gun. Side skirts were added. Also it was fitted with smoke grenade dischargers. The T-72A was adopted in 1979. It was produced between 1981 and 1985. A total of 5 264 of these tanks were delivered to the Soviet Army.
T-72AK command version of the T-72A.
T-72AV fitted with Kontakt-1 add-on explosive reactive armor. This armor offers additional protection against HEAT rounds.
T-72M export version of the T-72A with thinner armor and downgraded weapon systems. It was license-produced in Poland and Czechoslovakia.
T-72M1 another export version of the T-72A. Though the T-72M1 has thicker armor than the T-72M. This tank was license-produced in Poland and Czechoslovakia.
T-72B is an improved version of the T-72A with thicker turret armor. It is fitted with Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor for a higher level of protection. This add-on armor increases protection against HEAT rounds. A total of 227 containers with explosive reactive armor are fitted. This version appeared in 1985.
T-72BK command version of the T-72B. It appeared in 1987.
T-72S export version of the T-72B with downgraded NBC protection system. These tanks also lack anti-radiation lining. It has 115 containers with Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor instead on 227 as on Soviet tanks. Otherwise its armor protection is equivalent to that of the T-72M1. It appeared in 1987. In 1993 after cancelation of some export orders a number of these tanks were adopted by the Russian Army.
T-72B1 has no capability to launch anti-tank guided missiles.
T-72S1 export version of the T-72B1.
T-72BV is an upgraded version with Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor.
T-72BM is an upgraded version, fitted with Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor. This version appeared in 1989.
T-72BA is an upgraded version, fitted with Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor. A total of 227 containers with explosive reactive armor were fitted to the hull and turret. Later the T-72BA tanks were fitted with more advanced Kontakt-5 armor. So the T-72BA is often incorrectly identified as the T-72BV and T-72BM. Though this tank can be identified by a presence of a wind sensor. Since 2003 these tanks are fitted by a V-92S2 diesel, developing 1 000 hp. Older T-72B tanks were refurbished and upgraded to the T-72BA standard. Deliveries to the Russian Army commenced in 1999-2000. It could be seen as a low-cost upgrade to keep older tanks operational.
T-72B2 Rogatka. Upgraded version of the T-72B tanks. It is fitted with Relikt third generation explosive reactive armor, that is much more effective than the previous Kontakt-5. Upgraded tanks also have new main gun with muzzle reference system, upgraded fire control system and gunners thermal sight. It is powered by a V-92S2 engine, developing 1 000 hp. This tank was first revealed in 2006. Russian Army operates about 300 tanks upgraded to this standard.
T-72B3 is a recent upgrade. It can be seen as a low-cost alternative to the T-72B2 Rogatka upgrade. Refurbished and upgraded tanks are fitted with new fire control system and some other improvements. It has a hunter-killer capability. Later production models have a more powerful engine, developing 1 130 hp. It is reported that at least 150 of the Russian Army T-72 tanks were upgraded to this standard. First machines were delivered in 2013.
T-72B3M is a further upgrade with new gun, improved fire control system with panoramic commander’s sight and new engine. This version is sometimes unofficially referred as the T-72B4.
T-90 further development of the T-72. After collapse of the Soviet Union production of new main battle tanks was difficult due to disintegrated nature of Soviet military industry. A number of parts for the tanks were produced in former Soviet republics and their acquisition was troublesome. So the new tank was developed, which used a well-proven hull of the T-72 and turret with all weapon systems of the T-80U. Also it had a number of other improvements. It was adopted by the Russian Army in 1993. Low rate production commenced in 1994. The T-90 is the most modern tank currently in service with the Russian Army. It has been widely exported.
PT-91 Twardy improved Polish version of the T-72.
TR-125 Romanian version of the T-72.
M-84 former Yugoslavian version of the T-72.
Other variants are:
BREM-1 armored recovery vehicle.
MTU-72 armored bridgelayer.
IMR-2 combat engineering vehicle.
BMPT tank support combat vehicle.
BMO-T specialized heavy armored personnel carrier.
2S19 Msta-S 152 mm self-propelled howitzer. Chassis of this artillery system uses a number of components of the T-72 tank. However its armor is much thinner.