T-72

T-72

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The T-72 is a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

-designed main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

 that entered production in 1970. It is developed directly from Obyekt-172, and shares parallel features with the T-64A. The T-72 is one of the most widely produced post-World War II tanks, second only to the T-54/55 family, and the basic design has also been further developed as the T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

.

Origin


The T-64
T-64
The T-64 is a Soviet main battle tank, introduced in the early 1960s. It was used solely by the Soviet Army in its front-line divisions and was a more advanced counterpart to the T-62...

 was perhaps the world's most advanced battle tank design when introduced, but early problems with its engine 5TDF (a diesel 'boxer', similar to the L60 of the Chieftains), the road wheels, and inaccuracy of its main gun prompted Soviet leadership to seek a low-tech alternative with similar performance, especially after the high unit costs and labour-intensive manufacture process of the T-64 became obvious. The tank was too expensive to equip all the Soviet tank armies, let alone Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 (WARPAC) allies.
An "economy" tank with the old design V-46 powerplant was developed from 1967 at the Uralvagonzavod
Uralvagonzavod
Uralvagonzavod is a Russian machine building company located in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. It is one of the largest scientific and industrial complexes in Russia and the largest main battle tank manufacturer in the world....

 Factory located in Nizhny Tagil
Nizhny Tagil
Nizhny Tagil is a city in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, situated east of the virtual border between Europe and Asia. Population: -History:...

. Chief engineer Leonid Kartsev created "Object 172", the initial design, but the prototype, marked "Object 172M", was refined and finished by Valeri Venediktov. Field trials lasted from 1971 to 1973 and upon acceptance the Chelyabinsk Tank factory immediately ceased T-55
T-55
The T-54 and T-55 tanks were a series of main battle tanks designed in the Soviet Union. The first T-54 prototype appeared in March 1945, just before the end of the Second World War. The T-54 entered full production in 1947 and became the main tank for armored units of the Soviet Army, armies of...

 and T-62
T-62
The T-62 is a Soviet main battle tank, a further development of the T-55. Its 115 mm gun was the first smoothbore tank gun in use.The T-62 was produced between 1961 and 1975. It became a standard tank in the Soviet arsenal, partly replacing the T-55, although that tank continued to be...

 production to retool for the new T-72 tank.

At least some technical documentation on the T-72 is known to have been passed to the CIA by the Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski
Ryszard Kuklinski
Ryszard Jerzy Kukliński was a Polish colonel, Cold War spy and whistleblower. He passed top secret Warsaw Pact documents to the CIA between 1971 and 1981...

 between 1971 and 1982.

Production history


The T-72 was the most common tank used by the Warsaw Pact from the 1970s to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was also exported to other countries, as well as Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Yugoslavia, as well as being copied elsewhere, both with and without licenses.

Licenced versions of the T-72 were made in Poland and Czechoslovakia, for WARPAC consumers. These tanks had better and more consistent quality of make but with inferior armour, lacking the resin-embedded ceramics layer inside the turret front and glacis armour, replaced with all steel. The Polish-made T-72G tanks also had thinner armour compared to Soviet Army standard (410 mm for turret). Before 1990, Soviet-made T-72 export versions were similarly downgraded for non-WARPAC customers (mostly the Arab countries). Many parts and tools are not interchangeable between the Russian, Polish and Czechoslovakian versions, which caused logistical problems.

The Yugoslavs upgraded the T-72 in the new and more advanced M-84
M-84
The M-84 is a Yugoslav 2nd generation main battle tank. The M-84 is in service in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kuwait, Slovenia and Serbia.-Development and production:...

, and sold hundreds of them around the world during the 1980s. The Iraqis called theirs the Lion of Babylon
Lion of Babylon tank
The Lion of Babylon or Asad Babil was an Iraqi-built version of the Soviet T-72 main battle tank, assembled in a factory established in the 1980s near Taji, north of Baghdad....

 (Asad Babil), though the Iraqis assembled theirs from "spare parts" sold to them by the Russians as a means of evading the UN-imposed weapons embargo. More modern derivatives include the Polish PT-91 Twardy
PT-91
The PT-91 Twardy is a Polish main battle tank. It is a development of the T-72M1 and first entered service in 1995...

 and Russian T-90. Several countries, including Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Ukraine, also offer modernization packages for older T-72s.

Various versions of the T-72 have been in production for decades, and the specifications for its armour have changed considerably. Original T-72 tanks had homogeneous cast steel armour incorporating spaced armour technology and were moderately well protected by the standards of the early 1970s. In 1979, the Soviets began building T-72 modification with composite armour
Composite armour
Composite armour is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different material such as metals, plastics, ceramics or air. Most composite armour are lighter than their all-metal equivalent, but instead occupy a larger volume for the same resistance to penetration...

 similar to the T-64 composite armour, in the front of the turret and the front of the hull. Late in the 1980s, T-72 tanks in Soviet inventory (and many of those elsewhere in the world as well) were fitted with reactive armour
Reactive armour
Reactive armour is a type of vehicle armour that reacts in some way to the impact of a weapon to reduce the damage done to the vehicle being protected. It is most effective in protecting against shaped charges and specially hardened long rod penetrators...

 tiles.

Laser rangefinders appear in T-72 tanks since 1978; earlier examples were equipped with parallax optical rangefinders, which could not be used for distances under 1000 metres (1,093.6 yd). Some export versions of the T-72 lacked the laser rangefinder until 1985 or only the squadron and platoon commander tanks (version K) received them. After 1985, all newly made T-72s came with reactive armour as standard, the more powerful 840 bhp V-84 engine and an upgraded design main gun, which can fire guided anti-tank missiles from the barrel. With these developments the T-72 eventually became almost as powerful as the more expensive T-80
T-80
The T-80 is a main battle tank designed and manufactured in the former Soviet Union. A development of the T-64, it entered service in 1976 and was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine for main propulsion.the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 of 1971 used a gas turbine alongside...

 tank, but few of these late variants reached the economically ailing WARPAC allies and foreign customers before the Soviet bloc fell apart in 1990.

Since 2000, export vehicles have been offered with thermal imaging night-vision gear of French manufacture as well (though it may be more likely that they might simply use the locally manufactured 'Buran-Catherine' system, which incorporates a French thermal imager). Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 armour-piercing ammunition for the 125 mm gun has been manufactured in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 in the form of the BM-32 projectile since around 1978, though it has never been deployed, and is less penetrating than the later tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

 BM-42 and the newer BM-42M.

Models


Main models of the T-72, built in the Soviet Union and Russia. Command tanks have K added to their designation for komandirskiy, ‘command’, for example T-72K is the command version of the basic T-72. Versions with reactive armour have V added, for vzryvnoy, ‘explosive’.

T-72 Ural (1973)
Original version, armed with 125 mm smoothbore tank gun and optical coincidence rangefinder
Coincidence rangefinder
A coincidence rangefinder is a type of rangefinder that uses mechanical and optical principles to allow an operator to determine the distance to a visible object....

.

T-72A (1979)
Added laser rangefinder and electronic fire control, turret front and top being heavily reinforced with composite armour
Composite armour
Composite armour is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different material such as metals, plastics, ceramics or air. Most composite armour are lighter than their all-metal equivalent, but instead occupy a larger volume for the same resistance to penetration...

 (nicknamed Dolly Parton by US intelligence), provisions for mounting reactive armor, smoke grenade launchers, flipper armour mount on front mudguards, internal changes.

T-72M
Export "Monkey model
Monkey model
Monkey model was the unofficial designation given by the Soviet Military to versions military equipment of significantly inferior capability to the original designs and intended only for export....

" version, similar to T-72A but with thinner armour and downgraded weapon systems. Also built in Poland and former Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...


T-72B (1985)
New main gun, stabilizer, sights, and fire control, capable of firing 9M119 Svir guided missile, Super Dolly Parton armour including 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) of appliqué armour in the front of hull, improved 840-hp (626 kW) engine.

T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

 (1995)
Modernization of the T-72, incorporating technical features of the heavier, more complex T-80. Originally to have been named T-72BU.


The T-72 design has been further developed into the following new models: Lion of Babylon tank
Lion of Babylon tank
The Lion of Babylon or Asad Babil was an Iraqi-built version of the Soviet T-72 main battle tank, assembled in a factory established in the 1980s near Taji, north of Baghdad....

 (Iraq), M-84
M-84
The M-84 is a Yugoslav 2nd generation main battle tank. The M-84 is in service in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kuwait, Slovenia and Serbia.-Development and production:...

 (Yugoslavia), M-95 Degman
M-95 Degman
M-95 Degman is a prototype Croatian main battle tank, developed in the factory Đuro Đaković specijalna vozila d.d., located in Slavonski Brod, Croatia. It is also known as the RH-ALAN Degman. The Đuro Đaković factory is best known for its principal role in the production of M-84, a Yugoslav version...

 (Croatia), M-2001
M-2001
The M-84AS is a modernized version of the M-84 main battle tank produced by Yugoimport SDPR in Serbia. M-84AS is sometimes refeared to as M-84AB1 and M-2001.-Design:...

 (Serbia), PT-91 Twardy (Poland), T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

 (Russia), Tank EX (India), and TR-125
TR-125
The TR-125 main battle tank is the redesigned T-72 made in Romania with Romanian components only. Number 125 in the designation stands for the 125 mm A555 smoothbore tank gun...

 (Romania).

Operators and variants



The T-72 hull has been used as the basis for other heavy vehicle designs, including the following:
  • BMPT
    BMPT
    The BMPT "Ramka" is a new Russian armored vehicle designed to support tank and infantry operations, primarily in urban areas.This vehicle is sometimes nicknamed the "Terminator"...

    – Heavy convoy and close tank support vehicle.
  • TOS-1
    TOS-1
    TOS-1 is a Soviet 30-barrel or 24-barrel multiple rocket launcher and thermobaric weapon mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. TOS-1 was designed for defeating enemy personnel in fortifications, in open country, and in lightly armoured vehicles and transport...

    – Thermobaric rocket launcher
    Multiple rocket launcher
    A multiple rocket launcher is a type of unguided rocket artillery system. Like other rocket artillery, multiple rocket launchers are less accurate and have a much lower rate of fire than batteries of traditional artillery guns...

    , with 30-tube launcher in place of the turret.
  • BREM-1 (Bronirovannaya Remonto-Evakuatsionnaya Mashina) – Armoured recovery vehicle
    Armoured recovery vehicle
    An armoured recovery vehicle is a type of armoured fighting vehicle used to repair battle- or mine-damaged as well as broken-down armoured vehicles during combat, or to tow them out of the danger zone for more extensive repairs...

     with a 12-tonne crane, 25-tonne winch, dozer blade, towing equipment, and tools.
  • IMR-2 (Inzhenernaya Mashina Razgrashdeniya) – Combat engineering vehicle
    Combat engineering vehicle
    Military engineering vehicles are vehicles built for the construction work or for the transportation of combat engineers on the battlefield. These vehicles can range from civilian equipment to purpose built military vehicles....

     with an 11-tonne telescoping crane and pincers, configurable dozer blade/plough, and mine-clearing system.
  • MTU-72 (Tankovyy Mostoukladchik) – Armoured bridge layer, capable of laying a 50 tonne capacity bridge spanning 18 m (60 ft) in three minutes.

Design characteristics



The T-72 shares many design features with other tank designs of Soviet origin. Some of these are viewed as deficiencies in a straight comparison to NATO tanks, but most are a product of the way these tanks were envisioned to be employed, based on the Soviets' practical experiences in World War II. Although it depends less on electricity than some Western main battle tanks, it nonetheless still needs electrical power for operation and movement.

Weight


The T-72 is extremely lightweight, at forty-one tonnes, and very small compared to Western main battle tanks. Some of the roads and bridges in former Warsaw Pact countries were designed such that T-72s can travel along in formation, but NATO tanks could not pass at all, or just one-by-one, significantly reducing their mobility. The basic T-72 is relatively underpowered, with a 780 hp supercharged version of the basic 500 hp V-12 diesel engine
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

 block originally designed for the WWII
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

. The tracks run on large-diameter road wheels, which allows for easy identification of the T-72 and descendants (the T-64/80 family has relatively small road wheels). Ride comfort is reported as poor compared to Western tanks equipped with hydrodynamic suspension.

The T-72 is designed to cross rivers up to 5 m (16.4 ft) deep submerged using a small diameter snorkel
Vehicle snorkel
A vehicle snorkel is the land-based equivalent of the submarine snorkel which allowed submarines to use diesel engines while submerged. Snorkels, when used by vehicles with air-breathing internal combustion engines, allow limited deep fording capability for river crossing or amphibious landing...

 assembled on-site. The crew is individually supplied with a simple rebreather
Rebreather
A rebreather is a type of breathing set that provides a breathing gas containing oxygen and recycled exhaled gas. This recycling reduces the volume of breathing gas used, making a rebreather lighter and more compact than an open-circuit breathing set for the same duration in environments where...

 chest-pack apparatus for emergency situations. If the engine stops underwater, it must be restarted within six seconds, or the T-72's engine compartment becomes flooded due to pressure loss. The snorkeling procedure is considered dangerous but is important for maintaining operational mobility.

Nuclear, biological, and chemical protection


The T-72 has a comprehensive nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection system. The inside of both hull and turret is lined with a synthetic fabric made of boron
Boron
Boron is the chemical element with atomic number 5 and the chemical symbol B. Boron is a metalloid. Because boron is not produced by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in both the solar system and the Earth's crust. However, boron is concentrated on Earth by the...

 compound, meant to reduce the penetrating radiation from neutron bomb
Neutron bomb
A neutron bomb or enhanced radiation weapon or weapon of reinforced radiation is a type of thermonuclear weapon designed specifically to release a large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation rather than explosive energy...

 explosions. The crew is supplied clean air via an extensive air filter system. A slight over-pressure prevents entry of contamination via bearings and joints. Use of an autoloader
Autoloader
An autoloader or auto-loader is a mechanical aid or replacement for the personnel that load ordnance into crew-served weapons, such as tanks and artillery...

 for the main gun allows for more efficient forced smoke removal compared to traditional manually-loaded ("pig-loader") tank guns, so NBC isolation of the fighting compartment can, in theory, be maintained indefinitely. Exported T-72s do not have the internal lining that is standard on Russian T-72s, which consists of a layer of synthetic material, containing lead, that provides some degree of protection against the effects of neutron radiation and electromagnetic pulses.

Interior


Like all Soviet-legacy tanks, the T-72's design has traded off interior space in return for a very small silhouette and efficient use of armour, to the point of replacing the fourth crewman with a mechanical loader. The smaller complement increases the crew's mental and physical exhaustion. The small interior also demands the use of shorter crewmen, with the maximum height set at 1.6 m (5 ft 4 in) in the Soviet Army (similar height restrictions exist in other Soviet-era armored vehicles). The basic T-72 design has extremely small periscope viewports, even by the constrained standards of battle tanks and the driver's field of vision is significantly reduced when his hatch is closed. The steering system is a traditional dual-tiller layout instead of the steering wheel or steering yoke common in modern Western tanks. This set-up requires the near-constant use of both hands, which complicates employment of the seven speed manual gearbox.

Armour



Armour protection of the T-72 was strengthened with each succeeding generation. The original T-72 turret is made from conventional cast armour. It is believed the maximum thickness is 280 mm (11 in), the nose is about 80 mm (3 in) and the glacis of the new laminated armour is 200 mm (8 in) thick, which when inclined gives about 500–600 mm (20–24 in) thickness along the line of sight. Late model T-72s feature composite armour
Composite armour
Composite armour is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different material such as metals, plastics, ceramics or air. Most composite armour are lighter than their all-metal equivalent, but instead occupy a larger volume for the same resistance to penetration...

 protection.

The T-72A featured a new turret with thicker but nearly vertical frontal armour. Due to its appearance, it was unofficially nicknamed "Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress and philanthropist, best known for her work in country music. Dolly Parton has appeared in movies like 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and Straight Talk...

" armour by the US Army. The cast steel turret included a cavity filled with kvartz or sand.

The T-72M (export version of the Soviet T-72A) featured a different armour protection compared to the T-72A: it had a different composite insert in the turret cavity which granted it less protection against HEAT
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

 and armour-piercing (AP) munitions. The modernised T-72M1 featured an additional 16 mm (0.63 in) of armour on the glacis plate, which produced an increase of 32 mm (1.3 in) horizontally against both HEAT and AP. It also featured a newer composite armour in the turret with pelletised filler agent.

Several T-72 models featured explosive reactive armour (ERA), which increased protection primarily against HEAT type weapons. Certain late-model T-72 tanks featured heavy ERA to help defeat modern HEAT and AP against which they were insufficiently protected.

Late model T-72s, such as the T-72B, featured improved turret armour, visibly bulging the turret front—nicknamed "Super-Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress and philanthropist, best known for her work in country music. Dolly Parton has appeared in movies like 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and Straight Talk...

" armour by Western intelligence. The turret armour of the T-72B was the thickest and most effective of all Soviet tanks; it was even thicker than the frontal armour of the T-80B. The T-72B used a new "reflecting-plate armor" (bronya sotrazhayushchimi listami), in which the frontal cavity of the cast turret was filled with a laminate of alternating steel and non-metallic (rubber) layers. The glacis was also fitted with 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) of appliqué armour. The late production versions of the T-72B/B1 and T-72A variants also featured an anti-radiation layer on the hull roof.

Early model T-72s did not feature side skirts; instead the original base model featured gill or flipper-type armour panels on either side of the forward part of the hull. When the T-72A was introduced in 1979, it was the first model to feature the plastic side skirts covering the upper part of the suspension, with separate panels protecting the side of the fuel and stowage panniers.

The July 1997 issue of Jane's International Defence Review
Jane's International Defence Review
Jane's International Defence Review is a monthly magazine reporting on military news and technology.The IDR is one of a number of military-related publications named after Fred T. Jane, an Englishman who first published Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships in 1898. It is a unit of Jane's...

 confirmed that after the collapse of the USSR, US and German analysts had a chance to examine Soviet-made T-72 tanks equipped with Kontakt-5 ERA, and they proved impenetrable to most modern US and German tank projectiles; this sparked the development of more modern Western tank ammunition, such as the M829A2 and M829A3. Russian tank designers responded with newer types of Heavy Reactive Armour, including Relikt and Kaktus.

Estimated protection level


The following table shows the estimated protection level of different T-72 models in rolled homogeneous armour
Rolled homogeneous armour
Rolled homogeneous armour is a type of steel which is used to armour vehicles.-Composition:Armoured steel must be hard yet impervious to shock in order to resist high velocity metal projectiles. Steel with these characteristics is produced by processing cast steel billets of appropriate size and...

 equivalency. I.e. The composite armour of the turret of a T-72B offers as much protection against an APFSDS round as a 520 millimetres (20.5 in) thick armour steel layer.
Model Turret vs APFSDS Turret vs HEAT Hull vs APFSDS Hull vs HEAT
T-72 'Ural' 380 mm 490 mm 335 mm 450 mm
T-72M 380 mm 490 mm 335 mm 450 mm
T-72M1 420 mm 490 mm 400 mm 490 mm
T-72B 520 mm 950 mm 530 mm 900 mm

Gun


The T-72 is equipped with the 125 mm 2A46 series main gun, a significantly larger calibre than the standard 105 mm gun found in contemporary Western MBT
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

s, and still slightly larger than the 120 mm/L44 found in many modern Western MBTs. However, its armour penetration is not as great. As is typical of Soviet tanks, the gun is capable of firing anti-tank guided missiles, as well as standard main gun ammunition, including HEAT and APFSDS
Kinetic energy penetrator
A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target....

 rounds.

The main gun of the T-72 has a mean error of one metre (39 in) at a range of 1800 m (1,968.5 yd). Its maximum firing distance is 9100 m (9,951.9 yd), due to limited positive elevation. The limit of aimed fire is 4000 m (4,374.5 yd) (with the gun-launched anti-tank guided missile
Anti-tank guided missile
An anti-tank missile , anti-tank guided missile , anti-tank guided weapon or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored military vehicles....

, which is rarely used outside the former USSR). The T-72's main gun is fitted with an integral pressure reserve drum, which assists in rapid smoke evacuation from the bore after firing. The 125 millimeter gun barrel is certified strong enough to ram the tank through forty centimeters of iron-reinforced brick wall, though doing so will negatively affect the gun's accuracy when subsequently fired. Rumours in NATO armies of the late Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 claimed that the tremendous recoil of the huge 125 mm gun could damage the fully mechanical transmission of the T-72. The tank commander reputedly had to order firing by repeating his command, when the T-72 is on the move: "Fire! Fire!" The first shout supposedly allowed the driver to disengage the clutch to prevent wrecking the transmission when the gunner fired the cannon on the second order. In reality, this still-common tactic substantively improves the tank's firing accuracy and has nothing to do with recoil or mechanical damage to anything.

The vast majority of T-72s do not have FLIR thermal imaging sights, though all T-72s (even those exported to the Third World
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

) possess the characteristic (and inferior) 'Luna' IR
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 illuminator. Thermal imaging sights are extremely expensive, and the new Russian FLIR system, the 'Buran-Catherine Thermal Imaging Suite' was only introduced recently on the T-80UM tank. Most T-72s found outside the former Soviet Union do not have laser rangefinders. T-72 built for export have a downgraded fire-control system.

Autoloader


The T-72's autoloader design is not based on the faster, but more complicated autoloader in the USSR's domestic-use-only T-64 tank series (the T-72's is horizontally auto-fed, the T-64's uses vertical actuators). The autoloader must crank the gun up three degrees above the horizontal in order to depress the breech end of the gun and line it up with the new shell. While autoloading, the gunner can still aim because he has a vertically independent sight. With a laser rangefinder and a ballistic computer, final aiming takes at least another three to five seconds, but aiming is pipelined into the last steps of auto-loading so it proceeds concurrently. The average rate of fire for this type of carousel automatic loader is quoted to be 8 rounds per minute. The use of the autoloader allows the elimination of the extra loader crewmember, decreasing the size of the tank.

Service


The Russian Federation has over 5,000 T-72 tanks in use, including around 2,000 in active service and 3,000 in reserves. The T-72 has been used by over 40 countries worldwide.

On the three occasions when users of T-72s have met Western armies that possessed modern main battle tanks —Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 in 1982 (against the Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Merkava
Merkava
The Merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1974 and was first introduced in 1978. Four main versions of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War...

 and the US made M60
M60 Patton
The 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank, M60, also known unofficially as the M60 Patton, is a first-generation main battle tank introduced in December 1960. It was widely used by the U.S. and its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today...

), Iraq in 1991 (against the U.S. M1 Abrams, M60A1s and the British Challenger 1), and again Iraq in 2003— the T-72 showed little to no success. After clashes in Lebanon in 1982, both the Israelis and the Syrians claimed their main tanks' superiority. In both the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 and the Iraq War, the Iraqi tank units were heavily defeated, although this might have more to do with poor Iraqi crew training and full Allied air supremacy than with any deficiencies of the T-72 itself. Furthermore, while facing the most modern Western tanks, the versions the Iraqi army fielded were out of date at the time. The Iraqi T-72s were less-capable export versions
Monkey model
Monkey model was the unofficial designation given by the Soviet Military to versions military equipment of significantly inferior capability to the original designs and intended only for export....

 that had not been significantly upgraded, and were firing inferior ammunition (often with steel penetrators and half-charges of propellant).

In January 2009, it was reported that the Iraqi government is negotiating a deal to purchase up to 2,000 T-72 tanks. The T-72s are to be rebuilt and modernized.

In September 2009 it was announced that Venezuela is planning to purchase 92 Russian T-72 tanks. The first T-72s destined to Venezuela arrived at the port of Puerto Cabello May 25, 2011.

Combat history




  • 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War (Iraq) (Iran)
  • 1982 Lebanon
    1982 Lebanon War
    The 1982 Lebanon War , , called Operation Peace for Galilee by Israel, and later known in Israel as the Lebanon War and First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon...

     (Syria)
  • 1983– Sri Lankan Civil War
    Sri Lankan civil war
    The Sri Lankan Civil War was a conflict fought on the island of Sri Lanka. Beginning on July 23, 1983, there was an on-and-off insurgency against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , a separatist militant organization which fought to create an independent Tamil state named Tamil...

     (India)
  • 1986-1989 South African Border War
    South African Border War
    The South African Border War, commonly referred to as the Angolan Bush War in South Africa, was a conflict that took place from 1966 to 1989 in South-West Africa and Angola between South Africa and its allied forces on the one side and the Angolan government, South-West Africa People's...

     (Cuba)
  • 1988–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War
    Nagorno-Karabakh War
    The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that took place from February 1988 to May 1994, in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan...

     (Armenia and Azerbaijan)
  • 1988–1993 Georgian Civil War
    Georgian Civil War
    The Georgian Civil War consisted of inter-ethnic and intranational conflicts in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia , as well as the violent military coup d'etat of December 21, 1991 - January 6, 1992 against the first democratically elected President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and his...

    • 1991–1992 War in South Ossetia
    • 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia
  • 1990–1991 First Persian Gulf War (Iraq, Kuwait)
  • 1990–2002 Sierra Leone Civil War
    Sierra Leone Civil War
    The Sierra Leone Civil War began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front , with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia , intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government...

     (Executive Outcomes
    Executive Outcomes
    Executive Outcomes was a private military company founded in South Africa by former Lieutenant-Colonel of the South African Defence Force Eeben Barlow in 1989. It later became part of the South African-based holding company Strategic Resource Corporation....

    )
  • 1991–2001 Yugoslav Wars
    Yugoslav wars
    The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars, fought throughout the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks on the other; but also...

     (Yugoslavia)
    • 1991 Ten-Day War
      Ten-Day War
      The Ten-Day War or the Slovenian Independence War was a military conflict between the Slovenian Territorial Defence and the Yugoslav People's Army in 1991 following Slovenia's declaration of independence.-Background:...

       (Yugoslavia)
    • 1991–1995 Croatian War of Independence
      Croatian War of Independence
      The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between forces loyal to the government of Croatia—which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia —and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People's Army and local Serb forces, with the JNA ending its combat...

       (Yugoslavia, Krajina Serbs, Croatia and Republika Srpska)
    • 1998 Kosovo
      Kosovo
      Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

       (Yugoslavia)
    • 2001 Macedonia
      2001 Macedonia conflict
      The insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia was an armed conflict which began when the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army militant group attacked the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia at the beginning of January 2001...

       (Macedonia)
  • 1994 Rwanda Civil War (Uganda)
  • 1994–1996 First Chechen War
    First Chechen War
    The First Chechen War, also known as the War in Chechnya, was a conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, fought from December 1994 to August 1996...

     (Russia, Chechnya (limited))
  • 1999– Second Chechen War
    Second Chechen War
    The Second Chechen War, in a later phase better known as the War in the North Caucasus, was launched by the Russian Federation starting 26 August 1999, in response to the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade ....

     (Russia)
  • 2001 Western Sahara War
    Western Sahara War
    The Western Sahara War was an armed conflict primarily between the Polisario Front and Morocco, the conflict erupted after the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the Madrid Accords by which it gave administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania...

     (Morocco)
  • 2003 Invasion of Iraq
    2003 invasion of Iraq
    The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

     (Iraq)
  • 2008 War in South Ossetia
    2008 South Ossetia war
    The 2008 South Ossetia War or Russo-Georgian War was an armed conflict in August 2008 between Georgia on one side, and Russia and separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other....

     (Russia and Georgia)
  • 2011 2011 Libyan Civil War
    2011 Libyan civil war
    The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

     (Gaddafi Regime and Anti-Gadaffi forces
    National Transitional Council
    The National Transitional Council of Libya , sometimes known as the Transitional National Council, the Interim National Council, or the Libyan National Council,...

    )

See also



  • Comparable AFVs: Chieftain tank
    Chieftain tank
    The FV 4201 Chieftain was the main battle tank of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of the most advanced tanks of its era, and at the time of its introduction in 1966 had the most powerful main gun and heaviest armour of any tank in the world...

    , Leopard 1, M60
    M60 Patton
    The 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank, M60, also known unofficially as the M60 Patton, is a first-generation main battle tank introduced in December 1960. It was widely used by the U.S. and its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today...

     main battle tank
  • Related lists: List of tanks, List of Soviet tanks
  • 125mm Smoothbore Rounds
  • AT-8 Songster
    AT-8 Songster
    The 9K112 Kobra SACLOS is a radio-command guided anti-tank missile system of the Soviet Union. It is fired from the 125 mm main guns of the T-64 and T-80 series of tanks. It is known in the west under its NATO reporting name, AT-8 Songster....



External links