The T-72 Main Battle Tank

The T-72B3 is the most modern T-72 in Russian Army service as of 2013
The T-72B3 is the most modern T-72 in Russian Army service as of 2013

About The T-72 Main Battle Tank

Designed during the height of the Cold War, the T-72 is a Russian Main Battle Tank intended to be deployed amongst certain elements of the Russian Army as a cheaper alternative to the T-64 and later the T-80 Main Battle Tanks.

Out living the later named tanks, the T-72 in upgraded models are still in Russian Army service, the most recent being the T-72B3 (2013).

Exported T-72 models, which were “dumbed down” as well as those built under license still form the back-bone of many armoured corps and have gone through multiple operator upgrades resulting in new tanks.

The T-72 hull has been used in the development of combat support vehicles, self-propelled artillery and other fighting vehicles.

The T-72 Main Battle Tank Development

One of the early Object 172 Prototypes
One of the early Object 172 Prototypes

The Uralvagonzavod Factory had developed upgrades for the T-62 medium tank, namely an autoloader capable of handling 125mm ammunition and the 780hp V-45 diesel engine.

Uralvagonzavod were tasked with developing the new tank and produced the first prototype called Object 172 in 1968. Trials and ironing out of the final design including new suspension were completed by 1970.

Production start dates at Uralvagonzavod vary from publication to publication, some stating 1971 others 1973 as there were changes in the intimal batch.

T-72 Description

Firepower

The vehicle is equipped with a 125mm 2A46 series smoothbore main gun. It is capable of firing various rounds including firing anti-tank guided missiles, HEAT and APFSDS. It has received improved guns of the 2A46 series during its service life.

The autoloaders circular storage racks are located in the bottom of the turret. It has 1 rack for the physical round and a second rack for the charges. The autoloader mechanism loads the breach with both parts (1 after the other).

Protection

T 72BA with Kontakt-5 ERA
T 72BA with Kontakt-5 ERA

The T-72 generally has some form of composite armour across the front of its turret. Some models are fitted Explosive Reactive Armour.

Layout

The vehicle Commander sits on the right of the turret and the Gunner on the left side. The driver sits centre in the front of the hull. Most T-72 without ERA can see a large metal V across the front. This is used to divert ice and water from the drivers hatch when entering water.

Mobility

The engine and transmission are located in the rear of the vehicle. It has several fuel tanks dotted along the top of the vehicles right side and some in the hull front. Additional fuel drums can be mounted on the hull rear.

T-72 Russian Production Models

Note: The K in a designation is for a Commanders tank and V was sometimes for those fitted with ERA armour.

T-72 “Ural” (1973)

T-72 “Ural”
T-72 “Ural”

Original production model with coincidence rangefinder and searchlight. Its understood that the model had the IR searchlight mounted on the left of the main gun.

T-72K (1973)

T-72K and T-72A
T-72K and T-72A (Right)

Command version, fitted with additional radios, these change depending on the rank of commander

T-72A (1979)

T-72A Main Battle Tank
T-72A Main Battle Tank

First big upgrade. Frontal turret armour improved with composite and a TPD-K1 laser range finder installed. Armoured track skirts covering the upper part of the suspension were added. A new Fire Control System was installed and MB smoke grenade launchers mounted as a row across the turret front. There are further sub-marks for small armour changes.

T-72AK (1979)

Command version, fitted with additional radios, these change depending on the rank of commander

T-72AV (1985)

T-72AV Fitted with Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armour
T-72AV Fitted with Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armour

Fitted with Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armour aka ERA

T-72B (1985)

Т-72B
T-72B

Improvements in composite armour of front and top of the turret, hull front armour thickness increased, 1A40-1 fire control system installed, modifications made for the firing of laser-guided antitank missile (AT-11 Sniper) and a new 840hp V-84-1 engine was installed. Also noticeable is the smoke grenade launchers had been moved into a single bank on the left side of the turret

T-72BK (1987)

Command version, fitted with additional radios, these change depending on the rank of commander

T-72B1 (1985)

Designation for those T-72B without the modifications to fire AT-11 Sniper ATGM

T-72BA (1999/2000)

T-72BA
T-72BA

Fitted with Kontakt-5 ERA and improved mine protection to the drivers station, other small changes include the tracks of the recent T-90 tank (was recent at the time) and a new wind sensor at the rear of the turret.

T-72B2 “Рогатка” (Slingshot) aka T-72BM (2006)

Russian T-72B2 Tank
Russian T-72B2 Tank

It is equipped with Relikt” 3rd generation ERA (superior to Kontakt-5) and “Nakidka” camouflage. It has a new fire control system with a thermal gunner’s sight and a new 125 mm 2A46M-5 main gun with a muzzle reference system. Mobility is also improved with the 1000hp V-92S2 diesel engine. This upgrade was not purchased by the Russian Army.

T-72B3 (2013)

The T-72B3 is the Russian Armies most advanced in service Tank
The T-72B3 is the Russian Armies most advanced in service Tank

Fitted with Kontakt-5 ERA, its quipped with a new fire control system, including a new Gunners thermal sight and new communication systems. The main gun has been modified to fire Refleks ATGM. Mobility has also been improved with a new 1130hp V-92S2F engine. Thus upgrade was implemented through a RESET process and is in Russian Army service.

T-72B3M (2014)

Special edition of T-72B3 made for the 2014 Tank biathlon
Special edition of T-72B3 made for the 2014 Tank biathlon

Special edition of T-72B3 made for the Tank biathlon. It is equipped with a panoramic commander sight, has increased engine power, an automatic transmission and a drive control system.

Russian T-72 Fighting Vehicles

T-90A and T-90S series

Russian T-90A Main Battle Tank
Russian T-90A Main Battle Tank

Currently the princible Main Battle Tank (T-90A) of the Russian Army (Link for page)

BMPT “Terminator”

bmpt1
The BMPT “Terminator”

Tank support vehicle, used in urban area’s to attack enemies in high elevated positions. Offered for export as The Russian intends to use the T-15 Infantry Fighting Vehicle. (Link for page)

BMPT-72 “Terminator 2”

The Russian BMPT-72 Terminator 2
The Russian BMPT-72 Terminator 2

Tank support vehicle, used in urban area’s to attack enemies in high elevated positions. Improved design over the original BMPT. Offered for export as The Russian intends to use the T-15. Uses a re-conditioned T-72 hull. (Link for page)

Russian Exported T-72 Production Models

Licensed manufacturers were: Poland and Czechoslovakia (T-72M and T-72M1)

T-72 (1975)

Export version of the original T-72

T-72M (1980)

The T-72M in former East Germany service
The T-72M in former East Germany service

Export version of the T-72A

T-72M1 (1982)

Former Finnish T-72M1. Click to enlarge
Former Finnish T-72M1. Click to enlarge

Modernization of the T-72M

T-72S (1987)

The T-72S
The T-72S

Export version of the T-72B

T-72 Modernization (curret)

T-72 Modernization
T-72 Modernization

Upgrade package currently offered by Uralvagonzavod

Operator upgraded Exported T-72 Tanks

Yugoslavia (Former) The M-84 Series

m84a2
The M-84A

Notes: upgraded such as “M-84A” (Link for page)

Ukraine T-72MP

The T-72MP
The T-72MP

Notes: Export package (Link for page)

Ukraine T-72AG

T-72AG
T-72AG

Notes: Export package (Link for page)

South Africa T-72 “Tiger” 

The T-72 "Tiger"
The T-72 “Tiger”

Notes: Modernization package from LIW includes two large sights installed on the front of the turret

Slovakia T-72M2

The T-72M2 Moderna Tank
The T-72M2 Moderna Tank

Notes: Prototype, was never purchased (Link for page)

Serbia M-2001

The M-2001
The M-2001

Notes: upgraded M-84 (Link for page)

Romania TR-125

The TR-125
The TR-125

Notes: Prototype (Link for page)

Poland PT-91 Twardy

The PT-91 Twardy
The PT-91 Twardy

Notes: In Polish service and has also been exported (Link for page)

Iraq “Lion of Babylon”

Lion of Babylon
Lion of Babylon

Notes: Locally assembled and modified T-72M

India T-72 Ajeya

The T-72 Ajeya
The T-72 Ajeya

Notes: Local upgrade of imported tanks (Link for page)

Czech Republic T-72M4 CZ

The T-72M4 CZ
The T-72M4 CZ

Notes: Upgrade package in Czech service (Link for page)

Croatia M-95 Degman

M-95 Degman
The M-95 Degman

Notes: M-84 Upgrade package (Link for page)

Croatia

M-84D
The M-84D

Notes: M-84 Upgrade package (Link for page)

T-72 Based Combat Engineer Vehicles

The MTU-72

The Russian MTU-72 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge
The Russian MTU-72 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge

The Russian MTU-72 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (Link for page)

The BREM-1

The Russian T-72 ARV Family aka BREM-1
The Russian T-72 ARV Family aka BREM-1

The Russian T-72 Armoured Recovery Vehicle Family aka BREM-1 (Link for page)