Ever since the early 1970’s the T-72 tank is one of the most feared weapons in the west. The main reason behind that sentiment is that in the beginning it was far superior to all contemporary NATO tanks and over the years some 25.000 units were made. Naturally, it was steadily improved over the years and although it falls back now behind its adversaries its numbers still make it a force to reckon with.
During various wars of 1980’s it was dominating the battlefield but in 1991 and Gulf War it has proven to be an easy prey for M1A1 Abrams and other modern western tanks. Still it was the T-72M (also called Monkey) version of the tank and it is significantly weaker than the original model. In 1997 it was fitted with new ERA 5 reactive armor and that model was immune for the SABOT ammo of the western tanks. The further modifications have brought the t-72B3 version to life and that is a tank that still can take on any modern western armor.
The most obvious improvement of this tank is easily seen at the first glance. Namely, the new Relikt ERA is fitted instead the ERA 5 and it increased its toughness to the level where it is impervious to modern SABOT rounds from 120 mm guns of the NATO tanks. Also, it got the new fire control system that greatly increases the accuracy as well as the new thermal imaging system. It made it capable to tackle the opponents in any weather condition day or night. Finally, the exhibited units were equipped with Arena-E APS and that increases its survivability on the battlefield to the level where it can stand up to any western counterpart.
Besides the improved armor and targeting systems, it kept all the good features of its previous versions. It is still an extremely lightweight tank with wide tracks and that makes it ideal in almost any terrain. This is very important feature since the Russian soil in the west is notorious for its swamps and during WW2 the German Wehrmacht got to taste the full measure of pain caused by the soft terrain. Contemporary western tanks are also extremely heavy and this gives the T-72B3 an edge over its opponents.
The main 2A46 120 mm gun is improved in terms of accuracy and is able to use all the standard rounds. Naturally, the most modern Reflex AT missiles can be launched from the barrel and that gives T-72B3 the longer reach on the battlefield. Auto loader is standard equipment on all T-72 series and it is kept in this version as well. The standard 12.7 mm machine gun on the turret and the coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun are kept as well.
Orders and delivery
Since the Russian army has some 8.000 T-72s of various versions in its arsenal (most of them in reserve) it is decided that all of them will be converted to a t-72B3 standard. By the end of the 2013 some 270 units were delivered to the Western Military District and it shows that the Russian army counts seriously on these tanks. The speedy modernization of the remaining T-72s is still in progress and it is to be expected that it will be the backbone of the Russian armor regiments until the new Armata MBT is introduced (expected to enter service in period between 2016 and 2020).