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T-72 Main Battle Tank (Russia)Initial T-72 production began in 1971 and continued longer than any Soviet tank since the T-55. This has given rise to a larger number of variants than other Soviet tanks, which is accentuated by the fact that a number of countries, including India (Ajeya), Rumania (TR-125), Poland (PT-91), Iraq (Assad Babil), the former Czechoslovakia (T-72M or T-72G) and Yugoslavia (M-84) built them under license, and many more have them in service. The T-72 was designed as a low-cost alternative to the T-64 where the designers took a lower risk evolutionary approach rather than a high-risk revolutionary one. The Vagonka KB (konstruktorskoye biuro - Design Bureau) which was located at the Uralvagon plant in Nizhni Tagil in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains designed the T-72.It is interesting to note then that only forward deployed Soviet forces fielded the T-64 which was the more capable tank, while the T-72 lent itself better to rapid production to satisfy the demands of the Soviet Army as well as the Warsaw Pact and political allies and so achieved a measure of export success. The first upgraded production model was the T-72A, which entered production in 1978 and had the TPD-K1 laser rangefinder, metal side skirts and new laminate frontal turret armour. The thickened armour on the turret front gave rise to the unofficial US Army nickname, the 'Dolly Parton'. With the T-80 and T-80B entering production in 1976 and 1981 respectively, an effort was made to bring the T-72 up to that standard. A new laminate armour package was developed and as this increased the vehicle weight by three tons, an uprated diesel was added as well and new six-spoke wheels, the vehicle being known as the T-72B (and by the US Army as the 'Super Dolly Parton'). The T-72B can also fire the AT-11 Sniper missile, and so the upgraded version without the missile is known as the T-72B1. In the early 1980s the T-72 was also fitted with explosive reactive armour, which is designed to defeat HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) rounds, like those typically fired by infantry. The Soviets also started fitting the Shtora 1 electro-optical jammer, which is a system that attempts to confuse the trackers on wire-guided anti-tank missile systems, and has been fitted to the T-80U. This version of the T-72 is known as the T-72BM and was the last in production at the time of the break up of the Soviet Union. Many of the former Warsaw Pact countries are now starting to upgrade their T-72 tanks, particularly Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary who have joined NATO.
(T-72 B1) Hull length: 6.95m. Hull width: 4.75m (with skirts). Height: 2.37m. Crew: 3. Weight: 44,500kg (combat) Ground Clearance: 0.47m. Ground pressure: 0.84kg/sq.cm Max speed: 80km/h. Max range (internal fuel): 480km on road. Armament: 125mm smoothbore main gun, 1 x 7.62mm MG coaxial, 1 x 12.7mm anti-aircraft MG.BIBLIOGRAPHY
Gelbart, Marsh. 'Czech T-72s look to get on track for NATO' in Jane's Intelligence Review, April 1999, pp. 28 - 31/
Foss, Christopher. 'Czech Republic moves on T-72 upgrade' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 28 June 2000, p. 27.
Foss, Christopher. 'Upgraded T-72 Revealed' in Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, March 1990, pp. 119 - 124.
Zaloga, Steven. T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974 - 1993, 1993, 1st Edition, Osprey Publishing, London, New Vanguard Series No. 6.
Zaloga, Steven. 'T-72 Variants: The Improved T-72M Series' in Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, July 1989, pp. 306 - 317.
Zaloga, Steven. 'T-72 Variants: T-72A to T-72G' in Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, June 1989, pp. 272 - 277.