The T72 was, and still is, the main battle tank of the Russian Federation and has dominated nearly every enemy it has come in contact with for the past 40 years. The use of the T72 started with just the Soviet Army but over the years, it has been shipped to about a dozen other countries, including those countries belonging to the Warsaw Pact, and has even been illegally reproduced by several nations around the globe. You’d think for a 40 year old tank, it’d be out of production by now, but you’d be wrong. The T72 continues to serve the Russian Federation and other countries today and discontinuation of this tank doesn’t seem to be on the agenda any time soon. In this article, I’ll teach you a little about the T72 and how it has helped shape the world as we know it.
The T72 is relatively lightweight at 41 tons and is much smaller than modern Western tanks. Some of the roads in Soviet countries were actually built in such a way so that the T72 could easily pass through in formation but the NATO tanks could only pass through one at a time or not at all. The T72 is powered by a 780 hp V12 diesel engine and is designed to travel in up to 16 feet deep waters. The T72 isn’t water-tight, however, so the crew must carry rebreathers to survive underwater.
The T72’s main gun is a 125 mm 2A46 which is capable of firing anti-tank missiles, HEAT rounds, and APFSDS rounds at a maximum of 10,000 yards with a marginal error of about one meter. The gun is fitted with a pressure reserve drum that allows for smoke to quickly vacate the bore after the gun is fired. Theoretically, the barrel of the main gun is strong enough to crash through a 40 cm brick wall, but doing that would obviously damage the barrel and decrease accuracy of the gun for later use. Rumor has it that during the Cold War, the T72’s enormous recoil would actually damage the transmission and so the commander would have to order the phrase “Fire! Fire!” so that the first order would command the driver to let go of the clutch and the second order would command the gunner to fire. This tactic is still in use today to deliver better accuracy even though modern technology allows for recoil to not be a problem at all.
The T72 is completely protected from any nuclear, biological, or chemical attack that could possibly harm it or the crew. Everything on it is covered with an insulation made of boron and lead that blocks nearly all radiation from nuclear bombs and the effects of electromagnetic pulses and the tank is designed to have a tight pressure-sealed barrier that keeps all air-borne biological contaminations from getting near the crew by seeping in through cracks around the nuts and bolts. Clean air is supplied to the crew by a thorough filtration system that cleans out any toxins that are in the area. The main gun is fed ammunition by an autoloader so that the crew never even has to vacate the vehicle. The illegal versions of the T72 do not possess any of these extra benefits that the Russian model is equipped with.
One thing about the T72 that makes it unlike any other type of tank is that it carries its ammunition in the crew compartment. This is obviously extremely dangerous because if the tank is hit by a projectile and the explosion reaches the ammunition, the entire stockpile would ignite and almost certainly kill the crew and send the turret skyrocketing into the air. The amazing thing, however, is that when analysts from the United States and Germany examined the T72 after the fall of the Soviet Union, they discovered that the T72 seemed to be impenetrable by the most modern projectiles of the time. This forced Allied Forces to invent new and improved projectile units and to upgrade their own armor. So if you really think about it, the T72 is what really ushered in our entire system of tank production and capability.
Today, Russia has over 2,000 T72s in active service and another 3,000 on reserve. While it’s an old tank, most experts worldwide believe that the T72 can beat any tank in the world when it comes to head-to-head conflict. In modern times, however, the T72 has lost countless battles when confronted with Allied forces, but this might have more to do with air power and poor training on behalf of the T72 operators. Regardless, the T72 has dominated battlefield after battlefield in nearly two dozen wars over the past 40 years. Thanks to its many upgrades over that time, the T72 is able to stay on top of the game and provide its operators with success around every corner.
The T72 has been used for decades in nearly every war that Russia and the old Soviet countries partake in. Just last year it was used during the Russian/Georgian Conflict and it’s undoubtedly planned for many more missions in the upcoming years.
Hopefully by reading this article, you have learned something about the T72 and its importance to the Soviet Union and other countries during the Cold War. This is an awesome tank that trumped the battlefield in every area for more than 40 years. Surprisingly, it’s still in production but you can also find it today on display in many antique tank showcases and if you can fork up the money, you can even purchase one of these bad boys for your own personal amusement.