T-72 Tank: unveiling the formidable specifications, models, and operations

The tank was initially displayed to the public on November 7, 1977, during a military march in the well-known Red Square, despite having been constructed in the Soviet Union as early as 1967. 

The T-72 is a primary combat tank manufactured by Uralvagonzavod, one of Russia’s top industrial and scientific complexes. It was first deployed in 1972 to aid the Soviet Army. The tank was initially displayed to the public on November 7, 1977, during a military march in the well-known Red Square, despite having been constructed in the Soviet Union as early as 1967. 

Only thirty finished tanks were delivered in 1973 as a result of difficulties encountered during the switch from T-64 to T-72 production. The number of tanks completed during the 1974 battles was closer to 150, although official records stated that only 220 of the 440 vehicles needed had been completed. Following facility improvements and a significant tooling investment, the T-72 mass production commenced.

Notably, the Russian T-90 (introduced in 1992) and the Chinese Type 99 are two modified versions that originated from the T-72 family. Numerous T-72 models are still receiving updates and alterations as a result of the ongoing development and production activities.

The Soviet Union developed the T-72 tank in response to its strategic requirement for widespread armoured operations in Europe, with a preference for surprise strikes. For the duration of the Cold War, the Soviet armoured divisions relied heavily on the T-72, which had replaced the T-55. Due to its manufacture and use in several nations, such as Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Syria, Cuba, Bulgaria, and India, its relevance went beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union. 

The production of 20,000 T-72 tanks by 1990 was incredible, confirming the tank’s position as a primary battle tank that is known and used globally. From the 1970s until the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, the T-72 was the most common tank in the Warsaw Pact. Interestingly, license-produced T-72s in Czechoslovakia and Poland, meant for Warsaw Pact allies, emphasised improved construction and dependability over the quality of the all-steel armour, whereas the Soviet version sported resin-embedded ceramics for enhanced armour. 

Polish-built tanks such as the T-72G had less armour than Soviet tanks. Before 1990, export versions were made for customers outside the Warsaw Pact, which presented logistical difficulties because of incompatibilities with parts and tools.

The highly developed M-84, a step up from the T-72, was heavily exported by Yugoslavia in the 1980s. Iraq produced the “Lion of Babylon” (Asad Babil) tank by replicating the T-72 using Soviet kits in an attempt to get under the UN arms prohibition. This complex web of T-72 modifications and adaptations highlighted both the weapon’s worldwide influence and the nuanced dynamics of Cold War-era military advancements.

Specifications:

Weighing 41.5 tonnes (45.7 short tonnes) in its basic configuration, the T-72 tank is a formidable armoured vehicle. The T-72B, a slightly larger variant, weighs 44.5 tonnes (49.1 short tonnes). The tank’s length measures 9.53 metres (31 feet 3 inches) when the cannon is positioned front and 6.95 metres (22 feet 10 inches) when the hull is extended. The measurements are 3.59 metres (11 feet 9 inches) in width and 2.23 metres (7 feet 4 inches) in height. The T-72 tank is powered by a potent V12 liquid-cooled, four-stroke, multifuel diesel engine that produces an incredible 840 horsepower. Its hydraulic servo-control system-equipped planetary gearbox effectively transmits its power.

The tank’s running gear ensures stability and manoeuvrability in a variety of terrains with an RMSH track that is dependable and a torsion bar suspension system that is enhanced by hydraulic shock absorbers. With a top speed of 60 km/h on the road and 35 km/h on dry earth roads, the T-72 demonstrates an excellent balance between speed and agility. When powered by its main tank, the tank can travel over 500 kilometres on roadways, exhibiting its durability and operating skills. Operated by a proficient trio consisting of the commander, gunner, and driver, the T-72 demonstrates a formidable blend of firepower, mobility, and tactical ability in combat.

Models:

Over the years, the T-72, which started as the original version, saw several variations and changes. The T-72AK was the T-72A commander’s model, equipped with improved communication systems. Known as the “Monkey model,” the T-72M was an export variant with weaker ammunition and less armour that was manufactured in the former Czech Republic and Poland. 

The T-72M1M’s upgraded predecessor, the T-72M1, had greater armour on the turret and glacis plate; however, the T-72M1M was intended to bring the tank’s capabilities closer to those of a fourth generation. An improved T-72A with explosive reactive armour was called the T-72AV. The T-72B was able to launch guided missiles as a result of its updated main gun, stabiliser, and engine. 

The T-72S was a T-72B export version that included laser-guided missiles and a unique ammunition range. The T-72B3 had a redesigned main cannon, fire control, and Relikt ERA, while the T-72BM had second-generation explosive reactive armour, which was an improvement over the T-72B. With a turret-mounted panoramic sight and a 125-mm smoothbore cannon, the T-72B3M is the most recent upgraded model.

Operations:

The T-72 tank has been widely deployed in many different regions, showcasing its versatility in numerous terrains and geopolitical settings. The T-72 has been widely used in Eastern Europe and Russia, particularly Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet states. It has been a mainstay in this area due to its efficiency in navigating the diverse terrain, which includes forests and plains. Shifting next to the Middle East, countries like Yemen, Iran, Iraq, and Syria have T-72 tanks on hand to help them over the difficult desert terrain. 

In these kinds of circumstances, the T-72’s mobility and firepower come in handy. The T-72 is also used in Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan, and Uganda, among other countries in Africa. Its adaptability enables it to function well in a variety of environments, from jungles to deserts. India’s substantial T-72 tank deployment in South Asia is indicative of the tank’s adaptability to the region’s diverse topography, which includes plains, mountains, and deserts. The Caucasus area employs T-72s in nations such as Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, where the rugged topography necessitates armoured vehicles fit for difficult terrain.