In the line of fire: T-64 tank’s journey – specifications, models, and operations

Alexander Morozov created the Soviet T-64 tank in the 1960s, which included modern innovations like composite armour and a 125mm smoothbore cannon. Its governmental support ensured continued manufacture even in the face of rising production costs.

Beginning in the early 1960s, the T-64, a Soviet tank designed by Alexander Morozov and manufactured in Kharkiv, was a more advanced tank in terms of technology than the T-62. With its innovative features like the composite armour, a small engine and gearbox, and a 125-mm smoothbore gun with an autoloader that allowed the crew to be reduced to three, the T-64 took centre stage in tank divisions. At the same time, the T-62 played a supporting role in motorised rifle divisions. 

Though it was equipped with more sophisticated weapons, the T-64 was priced higher to produce than other tanks, especially when it came to building its complex powerpack, which required a greater amount of money and time. Alexander Alexandrovich Morozov, the Chief Designer, used his political clout in Moscow to guarantee the T-64’s ongoing manufacturing despite cost concerns. The T-64, the basis for the Soviet T-80 that was first deployed in 1976, is still in use in some countries or areas as of 2023 and is undergoing major factory overhauls and modernization operations in Ukraine.

 

Specifications:

With dimensions of 9.225 metres in length, 3.415 metres in width, and 2.172 metres in height (gun front), this massive tank weighs 38 tonnes (42 short tonnes; 37 long tonnes). Manned by a crew of three comprising a driver, commander, and gunner, its protective armour consists of glass-reinforced plastic sandwiched between steel layers, with later versions featuring ERA plates. With 370 mm to 440 mm against APFSDS and 500 mm to 575 mm against HEAT, the hull and turret offer significant protection. 

The tank is a formidable instrument, equipped with a powerful 125 mm smoothbore cannon (2A26(M/M-1) for T-64A, D-81T, aka 2A46), a 12.7 mm NSVT anti-aircraft machine gun, and a 7.62 mm PKMT coaxial machine gun. Stability is ensured by its torsion bar suspension, which produces 700 horsepower (522 kW) from its 5-cylinder diesel engine, giving the machine a power/weight ratio of 18.4 horsepower/tonne (13.7 kW/ton). The tank has an operational range of 500 km (310 mi), which can be extended to 700 km (430 mi) when external tanks are added. Its maximum speed, depending on the type, is 45 to 60 km/h (28–37 mph).

Variants:

Built on a modified T-64 chassis, the BMPV-64 is a heavy infantry fighting vehicle with a rear entry hatch. Equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun and a remote-controlled 30mm autocannon, its combat weight is a formidable 34.5 tonnes. The initial prototype was finished in 2005. A comparable version of the armoured personnel carrier is the BTRV-64. A modified version called the UMBP-64 is meant for specialised vehicles such as air defence, fire support, and ambulances. 

With a 5TDF-A/700 engine and a combat weight of 17.7 tonnes, the BMPT-K-64 variant, which is not tracked but has a redesigned suspension, is intended to carry three plus eight soldiers. Equipped with machine guns, ATGM launchers, grenade launchers, and autocannons, the BMPT-64 Strahz is a fire support vehicle. The T-64 engine and suspension, a big V-shaped hydraulic dozer blade, a soil ripper spike, and a crane are all features of the BAT-2, a quick combat engineering vehicle that was created to replace the BAT-M. 

The UMR-64 is a heavy APC/IFV design developed in Ukraine using leftover T-64s. The BMP-64E (Heavy IFV) and BTR-64E (Heavy APC), which have increased troop capacity and remote weapons systems, are examples of the alternatives that can be achieved by relocating the engine compartment forward, removing the turret, and installing various functional modules. It is related to the Kharkiv Armour Repair Plant (Zavod 311). As of early 2014, the project’s current state was unknown. 

Operations:

When the T-64 was first deployed in 1967, it was part of the 41st Guards Tank Division in the Kyiv Military District of the Soviet Union. During its induction, it experienced teething issues that required ongoing manufacturing help. Before the tank was formally admitted into the Soviet Army in 1967, it was kept a secret from the West for several years. The T-64A was first deployed in the Soviet Union’s western military districts in the 1970s, and it was progressively brought to the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany and the surrounding Warsaw Pact countries. Initially, NATO misidentified it as the T-72 due to its deployment in East Germany. When the Soviet Union withdrew from Germany, the tank was gradually replaced by newer variants while it was still in service with Soviet units in northern East Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In September 1990, the Soviet Union had 3,982 T-64s in service west of the Urals, with various models deployed, including the T-64A, T-64B, and T-64BV. The T-64 was not widely deployed in the Soviet–Afghan War because of its poor fit for mountain fighting, although it underwent limited testing in Afghanistan in January 1980. As the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, the Russian Ground Forces standardised their tank fleet with the T-72 and T-80, which resulted in the T-64s being either scrapped or put in reserve storage.

When the Transnistrian Army acquired eighteen T-64BV tanks in 1992, the T-64 saw its first combat action. Ukraine later used t-64s during the 2014 conflict that started in Donbas. Subsequently, Russia activated T-64s that it had kept in reserve and gave them to separatists who supported Russia in Eastern Ukraine. A little more than 100 T-64s were in service with the separatist armies by the beginning of 2022.

Both pro-Russian and Ukrainian separatist troops used T-64s during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In the early stages of the violence, Russian forces took 276 Ukrainian T-64s, which added to the Ukrainian Army’s losses by the end of 2022. The crews of T-64s have faced challenges, leading to shortages in 125 mm ammunition. T-64s have been employed as artillery, supporting infantry and utilizing attack helicopters and drones in their operations.

During the Angolan Civil War, UNITA forces received T-64s, which were of unclear origin, from sources outside of the former Soviet Union. A T-64 was destroyed in combat, while some were captured by MPLA forces. Furthermore, in mid-2017, during the Kamwina Nsapu uprising, patrols were conducted by the 25 T-64B1M tanks that were transferred to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Armed Forces in late 2016. T-64s have been used in numerous conflicts and geopolitical developments during its operational career, which predates its first deployment. From the rough terrain of Ukraine and Afghanistan’s hilly regions to the flat plains of Eastern Germany, the tank has proven its versatility in a variety of environments.