T-72 Main Battle Tank

Last updated on February 19th, 2019 at 10:03 pm

The Soviet Union’s T-72 main battle tank has played a part in many conflicts around the world from the end of the twentieth century through the beginning of the twenty-first.

Originally, the T-72 main battle tank was designed to be a replacement for the T-62.

The T-72 entered service in 1973.  By this time the T-64 main battle tank, which was also based on the T-62, had been in service for many years.

The T-64 was very expensive to produce; the T-72 was designed to be cheaper to build, so that it could easily be mass-produced and supplied to all the other countries of the Warsaw Pact.

In general, the T-72 main battle tank looks very much like the T-64.
Iraqi T-72 main battle tank at a training exercise near Baghdad, Iraq
However, the hull and turret on the T-72 MBT are slightly different from the hull and turret on the T-64.

In addition, the two tanks have different suspensions. While the T-64 has six pairs of small road wheels, the T-72 has six pairs of large road wheels.

The T-72 has three track return rollers vs. four on the T-64.

On both tanks, the idler is at the front and the drive sprocket is at the rear.

The T-72 has the same armament as the T-64 – a 4.92 inch (125mm) smoothbore main gun, a 0.3 inch (7.62 mm) coaxial machine gun, and a 0.5 inch (12.7 mm) anti-aircraft gun.

The main gun on the T-72 has a stabilizer that enables the gun to shoot while the tank is moving.

A three-man crew operates the T-72 MBT. The crew consists of a driver, a commander and a gunner. Like the T-64, the T-72 main battle tank has an autoloader for the main gun so a human loader is not needed.

The driver sits in the front.  The commander and gunner sit in the turret – the commander on the left and the gunner on the right.

The engine and transmission are in the rear.

Auxiliary fuel tanks can be added to the rear of the tank to increase the T-72’s operational range.

Like the T-64, The T-72 MBT has composite armor.

The T-72 main battle tank has infrared night vision equipment and NBC protection.

Many variants of the T-72 have been developed. These include:

  • Model T-72A, introduced in 1979, which has smoke grenade launchers and a laser rangefinder
  • Model T72-AV, introduced in 1984, which has explosive reactive armor
  • Model T-72 B, introduced in 1985, which has thicker armor on the turret.

Model T-72M is an export version of Model T72-A. Model T-72S is an export version of the T-72B.

Other variants of the T-72 MBT include command versions, a bridgelayer, a mine clearer, a combat engineering vehicle and an armored recovery vehicle.

The T-72 main battle tank has been produced, under license, in Iran, Iraq, India, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the former Yugoslavia.

It is currently being used by many countries around the world, such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia, Myanmar, India, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and possibly, North Korea.

The Czech company PSP Bohemia offers an upgraded version of the T-72 main battle tank, which is known as the PSP T-72, for export. The PSP T-72 has explosive reactive armor and an improved fire control system.

Since its appearance in the 1970s, the T-72 main battle tank has seen combat many times. It has been used by

  • Syria during the 1982 war in Lebanon
  • Iran and Iraq during the Iran-Iraq wars of the 1980s
  • Iraq during the 1990/1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars
  • Yugoslavia, Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia during the 1991-2001 wars in the former Yugoslavia
  • Russia during the 1994-1996 and 1999 wars in Chechnya
  • Russia and Georgia during the 2008 South Ossetia War

It is believed that the T-72 main battle tank is being used by both Gadaffi’s forces and rebel forces during the 2011 uprising in Libya.

Soviet Union

T-72B Main Battle Tank

Active: T-72: 1973; T-72B: 1985
Crew: 3
Weight: 44 tons (44,500kg)
Length: 22ft 9in (7m), 30 ft 3 in (9.2m) with gun forward
Height: 7ft 9in (2.4m)
Width: 15ft 7in (4.8m)
Weapons: Main – 4.92 in (125 mm) smoothbore gun, Secondary – 1 x 0.3in (7.62mm) coaxial machine gun, 1 x. 0.5 in (12.7mm) anti-aircraft gun
Armor Classified
Engine: V-46 V-12 diesel, 840hp
Speed: 50 mph (80kph)
Range: 299 miles (480 km), can be increased to 342 miles (550 km) with auxiliary fuel tanks