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T72 Tank

The T-72, which entered production in 1971, was first seen in public in 1977. The T-72, introduced in the early 1970s, is not a further development of the T-64, but rather a parallel design chosen as a high-production tank complementing the T-64. The T-72 retains the low silhouette of the T-54/55/62 series, featuring a conventional layout with integrated fuel cells and stowage containers which give a streamlined appearance to the fenders. While the T-64 was deployed only in forward-deployed Soviet units, the T-72 was deployed within the USSR and exported to non-Soviet Warsaw Pact armies and several other countries. In addition to production in the USSR it has been built under license in Czechoslovakia, India, Poland and former Yugoslavia.


The T-72 medium tank is similar in general appearance to the T-64.

The T-72 has six large, die-cast, rubber-coated road wheels and three track return rollers. It has a 14-tooth drive sprocket and a single-pin track with rubber-bushed pins.

The gunner's IR searchlight is mounted to the right of the main gun. The 12.7-mm NSV anti-aircraft machine gun has a rotating mount, and there is no provision for firing it from within the tank. There are normally only a few small stowage boxes on the outside of the turret, and a single short snorkel is stowed on the left side of the turret.

The T-72 has a larger engine compartment than the T-64, and the radiator grill is near the rear of the hull.


The T-72 has greater mobility than the T-62. The V-12 diesel engine has an output of 780 hp. This engine appears to be remarkably smoke-free and smooth-running, having eliminated the excessive vibration which was said to cause high crew fatigue in the T-62. Although the engine is larger than that of the T-64, the heavier (41 mt) T-72 is believed to have approximately the same road speed as the T-64. The T-72B1 is powered by a multi-fuel V-12 piston air-cooled 840 hp engine that will run on three fuels: Diesel, Benzene or Kerosene. Two 200-liter auxiliary fuel drums can be fitted on the rear of the hull. The T-72 can be fitted with a snorkel for deep fording, and takes about 20 minutes to prepare for amphibious use.

The T-72 has better armor protection than the T-62, due to the use of layered armor and other features discussed above under T-64 capabilities. The advanced passive armour package of the T-72M and T-72M1 can sustain direct hits from the 105mm gun equipped M1 Abrams at up to 2,000 meter range. The later T-72Ms and T-72M1s are equipped with laser rangefinders ensuring high hit probabilities at ranges of 2,000 meters and below. The turret has conventional cast armor with a maximum thickness of 280-mm, the nose is about 80-mm thick and the glacis is 200-mm thick laminate armor. Besides the PAZ radiation detection system, the T-72 has an antiradiation liner (except on export models) and a collective NBC filtration and overpressure system.

The T-72 has the same integral smoke generating capability as earlier T-54/55/62, tanks, and variants have been observed with smoke grenade projectors mounted on the front of the turret.

The T-72 employs the same armament, ammunition, and integrated fire control as the T-64. The low, rounded turret mounts a 125mm smooth bore gun with a carousel automatic loader mounted on the floor and rear wall of the turret. The 125mm gun common to all the T-72 models is capable of penetrating the M1 Abrams armour at a range of up to 1,000 meters. The more recent BK-27 HEAT round offers a triple-shaped charge warhead and increased penetration against conventional armors and ERA. The BK-29 round, with a hard penetrator in the nose is designed for use against reactive armor, and as an MP round has fragmentation effects. If the BK-29 HEAT-MP is used, it may substitute for Frag-HE (as with NATO countries) or complement Frag-HE. With three round natures (APFSDS-T, HEAT-MP, ATGMs) in the autoloader vs four, more antitank rounds would available for the higher rate of fire.

The infra-red searchlight on the T-72 is mounted on the right side of the main armament, versus on the left on the earlier T-64. The 1K13-49 sight is both night sight and ATGM launch sight. However, it cannot be used for both functions simultaneously. A variety of thermal sights is available. They include the Russian Agava-2, French SAGEM-produced ALIS and Namut sight from Peleng. Thermal gunner night sights are available which permit night launch of ATGMs.



Designations T-72S (export), SMT M1988
Date of Introduction 1985
Current Using Countries (all models of T-72)
BulgariaCroatiaCzech Republic
YugoslaviaUnited States (in displays)
Crew 3
Combat Weight (mt) 44.5
Chassis Length Overall (m) 6.91
Height Overall (m) 2.19
Width Overall (m) 3.58
Ground Pressure (kg/cm 2 ) 0.90
Automotive Performance
Engine Type 840-hp Diesel
Cruising Range (km) 500/ 900 with external tanks
Speed (km/h)
Max Road 60
Max Off-Road 45
Average Cross-Country 35
Max Swim N/A
Fording Depths (m) 1.2 Unprepared/5.0 with snorkel
Radio R-173 and R-134
Armor, Turret Front (mm) 520/950 against HEAT
Applique Armor (mm) Side of hull over track skirt, turret top
Explosive Reactive Armor (mm) Kontakt or Kontakt-5 ERA
Active Protective System Arena available
Mineclearing Equipment Roller-plow set, and plows available
Self-Entrenching Blade Yes
NBC Protection System Yes
Smoke Equipment Smoke grenade launchers (8x 81-mm left side of turret), and 32 grenades. Vehicle engine exhaust smoke system.
Main Armament
Caliber, Type, Name 125-mm smoothbore gun 2A46M/ D-81TM
Rate of Fire (rd/min) 4-6/2 in manual mode
Loader Type Autoloader (separate loading) and manual
Ready/Stowed Rounds 22/23
Elevation () -6 to +14
Fire on Move Yes, up to 25 km/h. Depending on the road and distance to the target, most crews may halt before firing.
Auxiliary Weapon
Caliber, Type, Name 7.62-mm (7.62x 54R) Machinegun PKT
Mount Type Turret coax
Maximum Aimed Range (m) 2,000
Max Effective Range (m)
Day 1,000
Night 800
Fire on Move Yes
Rate of Fire (rd/min) 250 practical, 600 cyclic in 2-10 round bursts
Caliber, Type, Name 12.7-mm (12.7x108) AA MG NSVT
Mount Type Turret top
Maximum Aimed Range (m) 2,000
Max Effective Range (m)
Day 1,500/1,000 antiaircraft
Night N/A
Fire on Move Yes
Rate of Fire (rd/min) 200 practical, 600 cyclic in bursts
ATGM Launcher
Name 2A46M
Launch Method Gun-launched
Guidance SACLOS, Laser beam rider
Command Link Encoded infrared laser beam
Launcher Dismountable No
FCS Name 1A40-1
Main Gun Stabilization 2E42-2, 2-plane
Rangefinder TPD-K1M laser rangefinder
Infrared Searchlight Yes
Sights w/Magnification
Day TPD-K1, 8
Field of View () 9
Acquisition Range (m) 3,000 with LRF, 5,000 without
ATGM/Night 1K13-495 5.6x (8x ATGM)
Field of View () 6, 40 min (5 ATGM)
Acquisition Range (m) INA
Commander Fire Main Gun No
Caliber, Type, Name
125-mm APFSDS-T, BM-42M
Maximum Aimed Range (m) 3,000
Max Effective Range (m)
Day 2,000-3,000
Night 850-1,300
Armor Penetration (mm) 590-630 at 2,000 meters
125-mm Frag-HE-T, OF-26
Maximum Aimed Range (m) 5,000
Max Effective Range (m)
Night 850-1,300
Armor Penetration (mm) INA
125-mm HEAT-MP, BK-29M
Maximum Aimed Range (m) 3,000
Max Effective Range (m)
Night 850-1300
Armor Penetration (mm) 650-750
125-mm HEAT, BK-27
Maximum Aimed Range (m) 3,000
Max Effective Range (m)
Night 850-1,300
Armor Penetration (mm) 700-800
Other Ammunition Types Giat 125G1 APFSDS-T, Russian BM-42
and BM-32 APFSDS-T. Note The Russians may have a version of the BM-42M with a DU penetrator.
Antitank Guided Missiles
Name AT-11/SVIR
Warhead Type Shaped charge (HEAT)
Armor Penetration (mm ) 700 behind ERA/800 conventional
Range (m) 4,000
Warhead Type Tandem Shaped charge (HEAT)
Armor Penetration (mm ) 800 behind ERA /870 conventional
Range (m) 4,000

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Sunday, January 16, 2000 7:50:52 AM