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Main Battle Tank

T - 72 "Ural"

Urals [English]

 

The T-72 "Ural" Main Battle Tank

Entered service in 1973
Crew 3
Dimensions and weight
Total weight in combat order 41  t
Overall length  9 530 mm
Chassis length 6 860 mm
Overall width  3 460 mm
Overall height  2 190 mm
Armament
Main gun 2A26M2 125-mm Smoothbore Gun
Machine guns 1 x 7.62-mm, 1 x 12.7-mm
Traverse range  360 degrees
Elevation range -  5.30 to + 14 degrees
Maximum rate of fire 8 rounds/min.
Combat load
Main gun 39 rounds
Machine guns 2 000 x 7.62-mm, 300 x 12.7-mm cartridges
Maximum range of fire 9 400 m
Mobility
Engine power 780 hp.
Maximum road speed  60 km/h
Autonomy on roads  500 km
Maneuverability
Slope 60
Vertical step 0.85 m
Trench  2.8 m
Ford unprepared 1.2 m
Ford with preparation 5 m
   The T-72 is the most massive tank, produced at the last quarter of the XX age. Overall by Soviet Union, Czechoslovakian, Poland, Indian, Yugoslavian and Romanian plants there were built more than 30 000 of these main battle tanks. At the beginning of 1996 Russian Army maintained approximately 9 000 such main battle tanks of all modifications. In "Military Ordnance" Magazines opinion in 1998 the T-72 with a numerous modifications was among the 10 best main battle tanks of the world. 

   In 1968 the T-64A Main Battle Tank entered service with the Soviet Army. For that moment it was the most powerful main battle tank in the world considering main characteristics, such as fire power, armored protection and mobility. Even before it's adoption there was made a decision to produce it serially at Leningrad (St. Petersburg) city Kirovsk plant and in Nizhniy Tagil city "Uralvagonzavod" plant. However these both plants had strong tank design bureaus, that leaders were unformed very well about advantages and disadvantages both of the T-64A Main Battle Tank.

   Earlier, at the early beginning of 60-ties, L.Karaev, the head tank designer of the "Uralvagonzavod" plant, ordered to a group of designers  development of an experimental tank. It was the T-62 Medium Tank, completed with 115-mm main gun, and later even with 125-mm gun, featuring automatic reloading mechanism. Furthermore this experimental model reloading mechanism should have no disadvantages, that were noticed with the T-64. This autoloader had extract used case outside the tank, The T-72 "Ural" Main Battle Tank driving compartment hadn't be separated from the combat compartment and tank had to be fully electric (more fire-safe).

   On the 5-th of November 1967 in Nizhniy Tagil arrived S.Zverev - Minister of Defense Industry of the Soviet Union. He was shown built in initiative order T-62 Tank, completed with an automatic 125-mm main gun. Minister evaluated autoloader's advantages and offered to Karaev to test it on the T-64 Main Battle Tank. The head designer agreed, but with an exception, that experimental example will be powered with V-45 engine, instead of unreliable 5TDF. There was built an "Object 172" experimental example, which after tests and improvements entered service with the Soviet Army in 1973 as T-72 "Ural".

   The T-72 mainly resembles the T-64 arrangement and it's design looks quiet similar. Driving compartment is positioned at the front part of the hull, combat compartment is right behind it. Engine-transmission is arranged rear.

   Hull is welded from different thickness and armored plates. The front armor is inclined in 63 in elevation. Front armor is multi-layered combined from some layers of armor steel, filled with ceramic and fiberglass type materials. Such armor provided quiet high protection from the most widespread in 70-ties 105-mm armor-piercing projectiles. It is said that frontal hulls armor is equivalent to 500-600 mm thick armored steel plate.

   Steel hull's board plates protect from infantry fighting vehicles and helicopters small-bore guns, and also from mine and projectiles splinters. In a number of later modifications of the T-72, boards were covered with anti-cumulative screens.

   Turret is casted and features quiet low dimensions. It's frontal armor is approximately 280 mm thick and is also multi-layered as well as the hull, featuring high projectile resistance.

   Tank's crew consists from 3 members: commander, gunner and driver. Automatic loading mechanism replaced loader. Driver's working place is in driving compartment. During the battle he is sitting, notwithstanding on quiet high frontal armor inclination level. His seat is mounted in a specially deepened floor. Commander's and gunner's workspace is in the turret mounted combat compartment. Commanders seat is right from the main gun, while the gunner sits left from it. On the floor of the combat compartment there is mounted an automatic loading mechanism.

   Tank is completed with the D-81TM (2A26M2) 125-mm Smoothbore Gun of high ballistics. Main gun's length is 6 350 mm. It's inclination level in elevation is between -530' and +14. Ammunition load is similar to the T-64A. It is separately loaded and contains armor-piercing undercaliber, armor-piercing cumulative and high-explosion fragmentation projectiles. All projectiles use the same load with burning case.

   Main gun is reloaded automatically. Loading mechanism's design differs from the one, used with the T-64A. The T-72 is completed with electro-mechanic type loader. It is placed in the bottom of the combat compartment and allows to get from it to the driving compartment. Ammunition load consists from 39 rounds and 22 of them are placed in rotating carousel type combat load. Furthermore projectiles are places under the loads. This method allowed to decrease combat load's dimensions. Gun is inclined in standard inclination level before loading projectile. The T-72 "Ural-1" Main Battle Tank Automatic loading mechanism allowed to reach rate of fire in 8 rounds per minute. However gun can be reloaded manually. Rate of fire then is 1-2 rounds per minute.

   The main gun is operated by the TPD-2-49 monocular stereoscopic sight-rangefinder. This sight is used in 1 000 - 4 000 meter range and it's average bias is 3 - 5 % of the range. Ballistic computer is combined with this sight and it considerate such data as projectile type, air temperature, relative humidity and side wind influence, counting ballistic trajectory and aiming angles. At night there is used the TPN-1-49-23 night sight, which is intended for firing up to 800 meter range. It from covered positions and trenches in 9 400 meter range. The T-72 "Ural" has a straight range of fire with an undercaliber armor-piercing projectile in 2 100 meters. Maximum range of fire with this and cumulative projectiles is 4 000 meters, and 5 000 meters firing high-explosion fragmentation projectile.

   Tank is fitted with the 2E28M armament stabilization system allows sighted fire while the tank is moving.

   All crew members use any and night observation devices. Night vision devices are active and infrared flashlights are placed at the front part of the turret, right side from the main gun, and the other one is in front of commander's hatch.

   Additional armament consists from the PKT Coaxial 7.62-mm Machine Gun and NSVT "Utios" 12.7-mm Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun, mounted on the commander's turret. The NSVT mount is opened. It is completed with K10-T Colimator Sight and provides range of fire into ground targets in 2 000 meters and up to 1 500 meters firing into air targets. Comparing with the PZU-5 mount with the T-64 Main Battle Tank, it features greater inclination angles and is more comfortable firing into air targets. The NSVT "Utios" design was so successful, that it it was mounted on the last versions of the T-64 and on the T-80 Main Battle Tanks. However experience of the WWII shows that tank commander, firing from the opened mount can be injured or defeated.

   The T-72 "Ural" is powered with the V-46 12-cylinder multi-fuel diesel engine. It is a further development of the V-45 engine, turbocharged up to 780 hp. Tank features two 7-gear planetary gearboxes, furthermore vehicle is turned by reducing gear of the required side.

   Chassis is completed with 6 double rubbered wheels, less influencing on fluent run. Wheel discs were casted from a high-rigidity aluminum alloy. Suspension is individual, torsion. First, second and sixth wheels from the each side are completed with hydraulic absorbers. Wheels dynamic step is 285 millimeters. 

   There are also three supporting rolls with internal absorption,  from the each side of the hull. Driving sprocket is placed rear. Track is all-steel, with a rubber-metallic hThe T-72 "Ural" Main Battle Tank in service with Hungarian armyinges. Track design is similar to improved tracks on the T-55 and T-62 Main Battle Tanks.

   Moving on road the T-72 reaches a maximum speed in 60 km/h. It's cross-country performances was very high for that period main battle tanks and is still very high today. It manages 30 slopes, 0.85 meter height vertical step, 2.8 meter wide trench. Main battle tank fords 1.2 meter depth water obstacles without preparation, and up to 5 meter depth with preparation. Underwater driving equipment allows to drive under water in 1 kilometer range.

   The T-72 "Ural" is completed with perfect protection from the mass destruction weapons. High protection effect is reached with automatic pressurization of tank compartments and creating there excess pressure with filtered air. At the same moment system turns on light and sound alarm if radioactive or chemical contamination is overboard.

   Fire prevention equipment also works automatically. Fire inside the tank is extinguished by spraying special materials near the burning area. Main battle tank is completed with three 2-liter capacity extinguishers, shooting system and nine thermal sensors.

   Tank is also completed with entrenching equipment, mounted on the lower part of the frontal armor. Such device in working order helps to dig 10 - 12 meter length and 4.5 meter wide trenches by oneself in 12 - 40 minutes depending from the ground type. It's preparation time is 1 - 2 minutes and in reverse - 3 - 5 minutes. Furthermore folded entrenchment blade provides additional protection. The T-72 "Ural" is completed with thermo smoke equipment. Crew use R-123M radiostation and internal communication devices. Main battle tank is also fitted with the GPK-59 navigation device.

    The T-72 "Ural" Main Battle Tank became a base for the later improved main battle tanks:

   - The T-72 "Ural-1" featured improved armored protection and other position of the night sight searchlight;

   - The T-72 "Ural-K" was a command version with additional R-130M short band radio station, navigation equipment and AB-1 charging device;

   - Export variant of the T-72 was produced since 1975. It featured other design armor layout on the front part of the turret. It's thickness is 400 - 410 millimeters and frontal hull's armor is 205 millimeters thick. Furthermore this main battle tank featured other nuclear, biological, chemical protection system and ammunition complement;

   - The T-72A was the further development of the T-72 "Ural".

   On the T-72 "Ural" there were also built later armored vehicles:

   - The BREM-1 Armored Recovery Vehicle;

   - The MTU-72 Bridge Layer, covering 18 meter length obstacle with bridge;

   - The IMR-2 Engineering Vehicle;

   - The 2S19 "Msta-S" 152-mm Self-Propelled Howitzer.

Advantages

   The main advantage of the T-72 "Ural" are an automatic loading mechanism, providing great rate of fire. Powerful main gun and high armor-piercing performance. Low total weight in combat order. Powerful and reliable multi-fuel engine. T-72 is easy in design and maintenance. High cross-country performance. Underwater driving equipment and entrenchment blade.

Disadvantages

   Weak armor protection for a modern main battle tank. Poor fire control system. Opened anti-aircraft mount.


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