By User:Jno [CC BY-SA 1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

T-72 – History

History of T-72, a Soviet-built main battle tank, still used by the armed forces of Russia and of many other nations.

This post is about the history of the T‑72, a Main Battle Tank (MBT) produced in the Soviet Union since the 1970s; it is still used in Russia and in the former-USSR countries, as well as in several other nations around the world.


It takes origin from an evolution of the T‑62 tank, and it was conceived as a "cheap" alternative to the advanced and expensive T‑64 and T‑80. The first project dates back to 1967, whereas it took service in 1973; it replaced the older T54/55 and T-62, from which it inherits the small size and the low and receding silhouette.

It was assigned from the beginning to the second-line units of the Red Army, whereas T‑64 and T‑80 equipped instead first-line troops.

Technical description

Weapons and armor

The main armament is a smoothbore 125 mm (4.92") gun of the 2A46M series, capable also of launching 9M119 Svir' anti-tank guided missiles (AT‑11 Sniper in the NATO designation). An automated loading device replaces the loader, increasing the fire rate and reducing the crew; on the other hand, ammunition is stored unprotected inside the turret, with the risk of a catastrophic explosion in case of a direct hit.

The secondary armament consists in a coaxial 7.62 mm (0.3") PKT machine gun and in an anti-aircraft 12.7 mm (0.5") NSVT machine gun manned by the commander.

T-72's protection has increased over time with new versions. The first ones presented a traditional hardened steel armor, eventually improved by composite materials and, finally, by explosive reactive armor (ERA) appliqué modules. Moreover, as most post-war tanks, it also features a nuclear, bacteriological and chemical (NBC) protection.


The crew consists of 3 men: driver, commander and gunne. This reduces the size of the tank, thus becoming a harder target, and allows to assign crews to more vehicles with the same number of personnel. On the other hand, however, there is less comfort, since the crew has to operate in a cramped space.

The vehicle is powered by a V-12 diesel engine, with a maximum power output of 1130 hp. This allows a maximum speed of 75 km/h (47 mph), thanks also to the relatively low weight of 45 t. The autonomy is 460 km (290 mi), that can be extended to 700 km (430 mi) by using external detachable fuel drums.

Operating history

The T‑72 is still in service with the Russian Army in the reserve units, and is also used by several operators around the world. It fought in tenths of conflicts, achieving good performance when fighting against tanks of contemporary design (Iran-Iraq War, 1982 Lebanon War,...), but being outperformed in confrontations against more modern opponents (like in the First and Second Gulf War). About 25,000 T‑72s were built, with several variants. Moreover, from it descends the T‑90, a modern Russian MBT.

From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

T-72AV in service with the Russian Armed Forces

Image sources: 1, 2

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