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T-72A (M1 for export) Armour Test

Designed by the bureau of Nizhni Tagil at the Uralvagon KB, it has became one of the most succesful military export products of the former Soviet Union. When it entered production in 1972, it supposed a mayor challenge for western tank designers because of his outstanding combination of heavy armour, firepower and low production cost. Although early outclassed in fire control systems and sighting devices, it stood for a long time as a respectable rival for any western contemporary tank. GENERAL DATA:
Crew:3; Combat Weight: 44.5ton; Size: 6.9x4.8x2.2 m

Main:1 x 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun with autoloader (max. 8 rounds/min); 44 HE, HEAT & APDSFS stowed rounds; analog ballistic computer with TPD-K1 laser rangefinder, 2E28M 2 axis electro-hidraulic gun stabilization system supplement by an accelerometer(complexities of manual data input of ballistic corrections and inherent system limitations decrease the "fire on the move" capability), Luna L2AG IR searchlight (active) for night vision.
Secondary: 1 x 7.62mm coaxial and 1 x 12.7 AA MG

Powerpack: 780hp V-46-6 12 cyl. multi-fuel-diesel; Power/weight: 17.5hp/ton; Road speed:60 km/h; Ground pressure: 0.84 kg/cm2; Range: 500km.

T-72A Hull: 200 mm (180+17mm on T-72M1) laminated steel @ 30° equiv. to 400 mm RHA
Turret front has a cavity with a ceramic castable in between two 140 mm cast steel layers: 500 mm equiv. against kinetic proyectiles and 560 mm RHA against HEAT shapes charges.

T-72M1 at Haide

The bulk of the former East-German tanks were scrapped. The T-72 was no exception. They were brought to Haide and some of them suffered ballistic test before being disassembled for recovery and smelting.

Shooting Trials

Left: Turret hit by 120 mm DM53 APDSFS kinetic projectiles. Keep note of the star markings due to the stabilizing fins.

Right: Front showing multiple hits of DM33 APDSFS and DM12 HEAT rounds of 105 mm L7A3 gun. While HEAT rounds could penetrate the hull, only DM33 APDSFS projectiles could achieve some degree of penetration of the turret front when fired at less than 1500 m.
Detail: Note the 17mm appliqué armour plate on the glacis to boost protecction to T-72A standard.

Break through

Left: Turret hit by HEAT DM12 round. The gas stream is diverted by the keramic layer, breaking through the roof into the turret.
The turret front proved invulnerable against direct 105 mm HEAT strikes.

Right: Glacis showing two penetration holes due to a DM12 HEAT shaped charge and a DM33 APDSFS projectile fired from 2000m. The 17mm add-on armour blew off after being struck by the chemical warhead, leaving a big hole in comparison with the fine kinetic break through.

Comment: Although remarkably well armoured for a 40 ton tank, the principal design flaw is related to the tendency to set on fire once penetration ocurrs. The cramped interior, the hughe autoloader and the lack of compartmentalisation of ammunition favors the striking of propelant charges with catastrophic consecuences. Usually, the fire spreads quickly into the ammunition cassette, promoting a high order detonation and blowing the turret off after incinerating the tank interior.