Cold War Soviet Medium Tanks Modern Russian Armor


Soviet Union/Russian Federation (1961-Present)
Medium Tank – 19,019 Built

The T-62 medium tank, known under the factory index of Object 166, formally entered service in the Soviet Army on 12 August 1961. The tank was designed and built at Factory No. 183 in Nizhniy Tagil, known as Uralvagonzavod. It was accepted into service as a direct reaction to the new American M60 tank, which had been dispatched to the 3rd Armored Division in the USAREUR (U.S Army in Europe) in December 1960. The T-62 was put into service on the basis of outgunning it, and indeed, it would not be entirely inaccurate to consider the T-62’s most prominent highlight to be its 115mm smoothbore gun. However, the T-62 did not simply pop up overnight as a stopgap solution to house a big gun. The design of the T-62 was an amalgamation of several existing concepts which had previously remained at the experimental stage, but nevertheless were already well established before the M60 was known in the USSR. In addition to the research work that had been accumulated since the start of a new Soviet medium tank programme in 1953, several more years were spent in shaping the T-62 into its final form between 1958 to 1960, when its military field tests concluded successfully. This all took place without direct knowledge of foreign tank developments and without any specific reference threats.

Roots of the T-62

Surviving Object 140 – Source: Т-62: Убийца Центурионов и Олифантов

The T-55 was the main tank from which most of the T-62’s primary characteristics were derived. However, Object 140 was the tank to which the T-62 owed its essential features, distinguishing it from the T-55. The Object 140 project was rooted in the development programme for a successor to the T-54, which began in 1953 with a meeting between the Ministry of Transport Machine Building and the three major tank design institutes of the USSR: The KhKBM design bureau of Factory No. 75 in Kharkov (KhPZ), headed by veteran Chief Designer Aleksander Morozov, who was responsible for the creation of the T-54; the VNII-100 Transmash design bureau of Factory No. 100 in Leningrad (LKZ), headed by Chief Designer Iosif Kotin; and the UKBTM design bureau of Factory No. 183 in Nizhniy Tagil (UVZ), headed by Chief Designer Leonid Kartsev. Proposals from the three design bureaus were studied and, after the elimination of VNII-100, only KhKBM and UKBTM remained. A draft resolution was then issued for the two organizations to begin pre-development research work.

In truth, UKBTM was never considered as a serious candidate and there was no good reason for its inclusion, other than to motivate Chief Designer Morozov with a competitor. Chief Designer Kartsev was well aware of the limited resources at UKBTM, which was suffering from a dearth of skilled personnel and inadequate facilities for experimental tank design work. However, the factory director had very good relations with the Minister for Transport Machine Building, Yu. E. Maksarev, who previously served as the director of Factory No. 183 from 1938-1941 in Kharkov, and then served as its wartime director from 1942-1946 in Uralvagonzavod. Thanks to the personal intervention of Maksarev, the proposal by Kartsev managed to enter the design competition.

T-54A tank photograph taken during a photoshoot for official records – Source: Т-54 и Т-55: Танк-солдат

The competition was not only open in the way that both factories participated with relatively few explicit instructions or assigned tasks, but also open in the nature of the work, allowing the two design bureaus to be highly exploratory in their approaches. In his memoirs, Chief Designer Kartsev claimed that the military-technical requirements were rather conservative, amounting to what was essentially a 10% improvement in combat characteristics over the T-54. The available information indicates that the Soviet leadership had no specific threat in mind when formulating these requirements, and that the T-54 had been taken as the representative sample of a “current” tank, from which improved technical characteristics were formulated to hopefully obtain a future tank that could outperform those of the hypothetical enemy. The two proposals from KhKBM and UKBTM were equally conservative in their design, both being conventionally laid out tanks that largely resembled modified T-54s, particularly the Object 430 proposal from Kharkov.

Object 430 at the Kubinka Tank Museum – Source: Serguei S. Dukachev

Only a modest improvement in protection was targeted, using the 100 mm gun of the T-54 and its ammunition as the reference threat to represent an enemy medium tank’s gun, in contrast to the 8.8 cm KwK 43 which had been used in the creation of the T-54. Meanwhile, the mobility characteristics would have been only slightly better than the T-54’s, ensured by a requirement to maintain the same 36-tonne combat weight of the T-54 paired with a prospective new 580 hp engine. Finally, the improvement in firepower was set by a new high-velocity 100 mm D-54 gun created by F. F. Petrov, the illustrious chief designer of Factory No. 9.

Parallel to the new medium tank programme, the option of simply upgrading the existing T-54 with the new gun was also explored by UVZ with the Object 141. It was nothing more than a T-54 with the D-54 in a turret with a new wedge-type trunnion design integral to the D-54, complete with a single-plane stabilizer.

Object 141 built in metal, showing the characteristic bulges at the gun embrasure for the trunnions and the small, circular sight embrasure due to the telescopic sight being moved much closer forward – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

As a result of the government’s rather modest demands, the projects from Nizhniy Tagil and Kharkov shared a great deal in common. By the time the programme had moved to the technical stage in 1955, both the Object 140 and the Object 430 turned out to have only modestly improved armor and new, but only slightly more powerful engines. Rather than pursue a grand leap in technical capability, both factories took the programme as an opportunity to refine existing tank design conventions. Both placed a strong emphasis on designing structural elements to improve crew working conditions while preserving a low tank silhouette and emphasizing the efficient use of armor mass. Both tanks featured an exceptionally wide turret ring to facilitate the loader’s task of handling the long 100 mm cartridges, and were also designed to include a cartridge casing ejector to relieve the loader’s workload and reduce propellant fume concentration levels in the fighting compartment. Both tanks had curved hull sides of variable thickness, forming sponsons that would meet up with the wide turret ring and thereby increase the tank’s internal volume with a minimal weight gain, and both tanks used very round, almost hemispherical, turrets to provide a larger internal volume and better protection with a minimal weight gain. New non-structural elements that could be found in both tanks included redesigned seats, the introduction of a dedicated crew heater, and a change in the position of the crew compartment ventilation intake to the rear, which was more favourable in terms of air quality due to reduced dust ingestion.

In 1955, UVZ ceased work on the Object 141 and began development on the Object 139 as a continuation of the same theme, although it was a more extensive effort. It was fitted with the same fire control system and gun as the Object 140, consisting of a TPS1 independently stabilized periscopic sight and the D-54TS, which was a D-54 equipped with the “Molniya” two-plane stabilizer. Object 139 differed only in that it lacked a backup telescopic sight, which was present in the Object 140 and in the T-10A and T-10B heavy tanks, where it had been implemented in serial production due to reliability issues with the TPS1 early in its career. Owing to the excess weight of the new gun relative to the D10-TS, the hull sides were thinned down from 80 mm to 70 mm to maintain a combat weight of 36 tonnes.

A clear view of the sights on the turret of a surviving Object 139 – Source: FirearmCentral Wiki

One Object 140 was built in late May 1957 for factory trials, and then another was built after the trials in late August 1957 with design corrections. During the process of assembling these tanks and carrying out their subsequent tests, Kartsev learned of the production, operability, and maintenance issues baked into the fundamental design of the powertrain and the hull, which could not provide reasonable access to the powertrain and was not suitable for mass production, as only the Izhora metalworking plant was capable of rolling variable thickness plates and pressing them into the desired curved shape to form the hull sides.

The foundations for the T-62 can be said to have been laid in the second half of 1957 in the midst of these events, when at the suggestion of Marshal Poluboyarov, the Head of the Armored Forces of the Soviet Army, Kartsev launched the Object 142 project as a private factory initiative. Object 142 was an adaptation of Object 140 that had its suspension and automotive components unified with the T-54B while retaining the Object 140 hull except for the rear, which was reverted to the T-54 design. One prototype was built in the first half of 1958.

Object 142 some years after its initial creation, shown with a D-54TS fitted with a slotted muzzle brake which only appeared after 1959 – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

However, all of this tinkering ultimately led nowhere. Owing to the core issues with the hull, the powertrain, and its integration in Object 140, Kartsev made the personal decision to formally request the termination of UVZ participation in the medium tank competition and withdraw the Object 140 project in March 1958. His request was granted, and on 6 July 1958, work on Object 140 was officially discontinued by a decree issued by the Council of Ministers of the USSR. At the same time, Object 139 was also discontinued owing to the inability of contractors to supply the necessary quantity of sights and stabilizers to support mass production, leaving UVZ with the Object 142 and the Object 150 missile tank as its only ongoing design projects.

After these failures, some success was found in the Object 142, which passed factory tests in the fall of 1958. However, likely due to the fact that it used the problematic curved sides of the Object 140 hull, Chief Designer Kartsev made the decision to cease work on this tank and instead began to approach the idea from the opposite direction; instead of adapting the Object 140 with T-54 parts, he would adapt the upcoming T-55 with Object 140 parts. This was the point at which the T-62 can be said to have begun its life in earnest.

The T-55 represented the sum of the efforts of the UKBTM design bureau, having just entered service on 8 May 1958, containing several key technologies which were migrated from the Object 140 project. This included a 580 hp engine, integrated air compressor, exhaust smokescreening system, and fuel tank-ammunition racks with a new fuel circuit design. The fuel system significantly increased both the ammunition load and fuel capacity of the tank, and also increased the survivability of the tank by using sequential fuel draining. Moreover, thousands of small design and production refinements over the service life of the T-54 had been accumulated thus far, and although the technology of its drivetrain was now dated and had little room for growth, it was at least well proven and had extensive logistical and technical support. However, the firepower and protection of the tank was completely unchanged from the T-54 in the classical senses, and so the combat capability of the tank was essentially stuck at an obsolete level.

Under the premise of upgrading an existing tank along the lines of the Object 139 and Object 141 projects, Chief Designer Kartsev decided to improve the T-55 by arming it with the D-54, but unlike those earlier efforts, which he had viewed as dead ends due to the insufficient size of the T-54 hull and turret, a new lengthened hull was designed based on the T-55 hull. Some elements of the Object 140 design were also added and a new single-piece cast turret based on the Object 140 turret was worked out. The resultant tank, known as Object 165, was essentially a T-55 bearing a new, bigger gun, and having the working space for the crew to make use of it effectively, with improved armor along the frontal part of the turret. Technologically, this was a relatively low-risk option, as the Object 140 turret was unproblematic and many of the best and most practical innovations from the Object 140 project had already been integrated into the T-55. If successful, the project could even partly fulfill the conservative requirements of the future Soviet medium tank programme in its original form in 1953.

A Smoothbore Gun

In late 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was presented with the T-12 “Rapira” smoothbore anti-tank gun by the Main Rocket and Artillery Directorate (GRAU), which had begun development in 1957 at Factory No. 75 in Yurga and was being finalized at the time. The highlight of the gun was its high penetration power on sloped armor compared to standard 100 mm APBC (Armor Piercing Ballistic Capped) ammunition. Impressed, Khrushchev suggested replacing rifled guns in tanks with smoothbore guns, and to produce 200 such tanks in the next year. Despite the rather whimsical nature of the request, the idea of arming tanks with a smoothbore gun capable of high penetration on sloped armor was taken quite seriously. Chief Designer Kartsev recalls in his memoirs that he was urgently summoned to Moscow at the end of November 1958 to discuss the possibility of putting such a tank into production with representatives from various ministries, the military, and specialist institutions. Given that UVZ had just recently dropped out from the Soviet future medium tank competition, the factory was now ostensibly free to handle such a project if it came to fruition. Kartsev objected to the idea of putting the T-12 in a tank, citing the length of the ammunition as being unacceptable, instead proposing to develop a modification of the D-54 with a barrel bored out to 115 mm to obtain a smoothbore tank gun and to proceed using the ongoing Object 165 project, which now found itself in an astoundingly convenient circumstance.

Comparison between the 100 mm 3UBM1 round (top) and the 115 mm 3UBM5 round (bottom), showing the identical design features, differing only in physical scale and proportions. The images are not to scale – Source: MT-12 technical manual, T-62 technical manual

This proposal was accepted, and on 31 December 1958, the Ministry of Defence approved the Object 165 for further development under the development theme of “Improving the combat qualities of a medium tank”, and UVZ received financing for the project under contract from the Main Armored Directorate (GBTU) of the Soviet Army. In January 1959, the Main Artillery Directorate (GAU) of the Soviet Army approved the technical specifications for the prospective new 115 mm gun and its ammunition based on preliminary calculations, and on 13 January, the State Committee for Defense Technology submitted a letter of recommendation on the further development of Object 166 to the USSR Council of Ministers.

T-62 photo taken during an official photoshoot – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

The project theme for Object 166 was described by the State Committee as developing “a medium tank (based on the T-55) with a new powerful smoothbore gun stabilized in two planes and cartridges for it (codename “Molot”)”. However, this was revised less than two months later with only one change; the project was described as developing a “tank destroyer (based on the medium tank T-55) with a new powerful smoothbore gun stabilized in two planes of guidance and cartridges for it (codenamed “Molot”)”. This was to take place in the framework of the previously established theme for Object 165 and the timeline envisioned that trials could be carried out from 1959 to 1960, and that serial production could begin in 1961. The intent of the project was to “… provide, in comparison with the equipment of the T-55 tank, a significant increase in the initial velocity of an armor-piercing projectile, armor penetration, especially at large angles of inclination of the armor, and the range of a direct shot”, while at the same time specifying that the high explosive ammunition would simply be no worse than that of the T-55. Under this premise, the classification of Object 166 as a “tank destroyer” was somewhat understandable. It is worth noting that the go-ahead for Object 166 did not occur in the context of any specific threat, or at the very least, it has never been described as such in the available literature. How much was known about prospective threats from the likes of the T95 medium tank is also unclear, and the desire to overmatch threat tanks armed with the new 105 mm L7 gun was not expressed at all throughout the development of Object 166.

The task of designing the 115 mm smoothbore gun was assigned to Factory No. 9, NIMI was to create the ammunition for it, and the stabilization of the gun was to be sorted out by Factory No. 46. The workload was relatively light for all parties involved. For Factory No. 9, there was no need to design an entirely new gun, but simply create a new barrel to fire the new 115 mm ammunition while adapting the gun to remain within the same operating parameters as the D-54. For NIMI, which was previously responsible for designing the ammunition of the T-12 “Rapira” anti-tank gun, their work mainly involved adapting their existing 100 mm ammunition to a new caliber. They extensively reused their work on the cartridge cases, propellant, and their APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot) and HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) projectile designs, to the extent that the 115 mm HE-Frag round was created by simply modifying the HEAT round. Plant No. 46, which had previously engaged in a great deal of experimental work on tank gun stabilizers, also took a low-risk route, opting to adapt the STP-2 “Cyclone” stabilizer from the T-55 with elements of the PUOT-2S “Liven” stabilizer from the T-10M.

The completion of all of the technical projects was scheduled for the summer of 1959, and the production of two prototypes was scheduled for the first quarter of 1960. Military tests of the tanks, the guns and its ammunition were meant to take place in the second quarter of the same year.

In March 1959, a U-5 was fitted onto an ML-20 carriage by UVZ for control testing, and in this form, the gun was designated as the U-5B. In addition, a U-5 gun paired with a two-plane stabilizer, which then became known as a U-5TS, was fitted in an Object 141 test bed for verification testing. On 20 March, the tank was tested at the Pavlodar test site under NIMI. From 22 April to 24 June, tests of the U-5B and the ammunition were carried out at the same test site.

In August 1959, the technical design of the Object 166 “tank destroyer” was reviewed by the State Technical Committee, and on 6 August, the Object 166 design was approved by a resolution issued by the USSR Council of Ministers, opening the path for it to proceed to factory trials.

Work on Object 165 progressed alongside the work on Object 166, such that in October 1959, two prototypes of Object 165 and Object 166 each were built in metal at UVZ, and factory trials began in November, lasting until April 1960. A complete set of live fire tests were carried out on an Object 165 from 5-27 May 1960.

Purely By Chance

T-62 photo taken during an official photoshoot – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

After its factory trials, Object 166 immediately moved on to military field testing, which lasted from April to September. Then Object 165 underwent a round of military field tests from September to December. The military field tests of Object 166 identified a need to improve the effectiveness of the tank when firing on the move, improve the cooling system, solve the electrical overloading of the G-5 generator, and so on. These delayed the tests beyond their planned completion in the second quarter of 1960, but nevertheless, the issues were solved and the tests concluded successfully. Despite this, a recommendation for the Soviet Army to take Object 166 into service could not be obtained, with no official reasons given. With the Object 166 project stalled in late 1960, Kartsev took the initiative to improve the tank further by fitting it with a supercharged engine and the suspension of Object 140, creating Object 167.

Object 167, showing its suspension derived from the Object 140 – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

There was no obvious reason for the abrupt halt in the trialing process for the Object 166, particularly since the Object 430 was in its death throes by late 1960 and Morozov had no viable alternatives to offer. Kartsev, writing in his memoirs, expressed his belief that the reason was political in nature, as Morozov held more sway in the Ministry of Defence, and the Kharkov factory had already been earmarked as the institution that would build the Soviet Army’s future medium tank. However, it is equally possible that the Object 166 was simply not considered to be enough of an improvement over the T-54, and there was no compelling threat that would warrant the introduction of a new but fundamentally obsolescent tank into service. The Object 430 project was itself terminated by the government in February 1961 for this reason, despite the latest Object 430 prototypes having a decided technological advantage over Object 166.

The Object 166 project could have met a prosaic end here, joining the likes of Object 139, Object 141 and Object 142 on the list of abortive UVZ prototypes as Kartsev shifted his attention to Object 167, but then, another chance encounter with a high ranking government official set it back on track. In early January 1961, a minor scandal arose when Marshal Vasily Chuikov, Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defense, was informed about the debut of the American M60 tank in the USAREUR, and that it had a 105 mm gun. In a subsequent meeting with Marshal Poluboyarov and representatives from the GBTU, Chuikov asked what the domestic defence industry had to fight it with, and Object 166 was brought up by Poluboyarov. Marshal Chuikov articulated his tacit approval for Object 166, and with that, its fate was secured. Kartsev attempted to push Object 167 instead, but he was overruled on the basis that it was more expedient to produce Object 166.
With Object 166 having already met all the prerequisites for adoption by the Soviet Army and having gained high-level political support, and Object 432 (which would later become the T-64) being far too immature for production, given that it had just barely started development as the successor to Object 430, it was now poised to be the next medium tank of the Soviet Army. In its recommendation, the State Technical Committee stated:

“Given that it will take some time to complete the development and production of the new medium tank Object 432 while M60 tanks from the USA are already entering service in capitalist armies, it is necessary to eliminate this lag from the USA in tank armament with the speedy adoption by the Soviet Army and setting up of production of medium tank Object 166, created on the basis of the T-55 tank, with a smoothbore 115 mm “Molot” gun.”

On 7 July 1961, Marshal R. Ya. Malinovsky, Minister of Defense of the USSR, and L. V. Smirnov, Chairman of the State Technical Committee, appealed to the Council of Ministers of the USSR with a report recommending both the Object 166 and Object 165 to enter service:

“Considering the significant increase in the combat qualities of the medium tank in comparison with the T-55 tank, achieved by installing the 115 mm smoothbore gun U-5TS, as well as the positive test results of the control prototype, we consider it appropriate to recommend the tank with a smoothbore “Molot” cannon for service in the Soviet Army and for serial production. Adoption of a medium tank with the “Molot” cannon ensures the superiority of Soviet tanks over tanks of capitalist armies armed with a 105 mm British cannon. At the same time, we recommend adopting said tank with a 100 mm U-8TS (D-54TS) cannon with a stabilizer in two planes. The issue of the serial production of tanks with the U-8TS (D-54) cannon should be resolved after working out armor-piercing subcaliber and cumulative projectiles for the specified gun. The Draft Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR on this issue is attached.”

On 12 August 1961, Object 166 formally entered service in the Soviet Army as the T-62 by order of the Minister of Defense of the USSR. A pre-production batch of only 25 tanks was produced in the remaining months of 1961. Serial production was not yet possible, as the supply chain for the new tank was still being organized. On 1 January 1962, UVZ began six months of downtime to retool its T-55 production line. Serial production began on 1 June 1962. The first official unveiling of the T-62 to the public was during the May Day parade on 1 May 1966, and the first opportunity for Western observers to see the T-62 was in November 1967, during that year’s October Revolution parade.

T-62 during the October Revolution parade on 7 November 1967 – Source: Т-62: Убийца Центурионов и Олифантов

On 9 January 1962, Object 165 entered service as the T-62A, apparently receiving the unofficial name “Uralets”. A pre-production batch of five T-62A tanks was made, but a decision was made to eliminate the introduction of redundant calibers in the ground forces shortly thereafter, and as a result, serial production of the T-62A was never pursued. Work on the U-8TS gun was discontinued, but the technology of its APDS ammunition carried over to a new series of APDS rounds for the D10, D-25, and M62 guns. The T-62A differed from T-62 only in the gun, the glass cell in the sight containing the range scales, and the ammunition racks.

T-62 column – Source: Unknown Online Source


After the T-62 entered service, it supplanted and then replaced the T-55 as the new standard medium tank of the Soviet Army. In 1962, the expansion of the tank fleet and rearmament of existing medium tank units continued to be carried out with deliveries of T-55 tanks from Factory No. 75 in Kharkov and Factory No. 174 in Omsk while UVZ was engaged in retooling its production line for the T-62. On 16 July 1962, the T-55 was replaced by the T-55A, but only Omsk adjusted its production line, as Kharkov was preoccupied with preparations for the T-64, formally halting T-55 production on 1 January 1964 after only delivering a small batch of tanks in 1963, but then briefly continuing small scale production until its production line for T-55 tanks was completely converted to T-64 production in 1967. On top of that, orders from the Ministry of Defence for T-55A tanks wound down drastically as T-62 production ramped up, such that by 1965, the total number of T-55A and T-55AK models delivered amounted to only around 500 tanks. T-62 tanks amounted to three quarters of the total number of medium tanks delivered to the Soviet Army, the rest being the T-64 and various T-55 models. A total of 19,019 T-62 tanks would be built by the time production switched over to the T-72 at UVZ in 1973, almost all of which were delivered to the Soviet Army. This was lower than the total number of T-55 tanks produced in the USSR, but it is solely due to the fact that T-55A production continued at Omsk until 1978 for export.

T-62 Production Figures
Year 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973
Tanks built 275 1,100 1,600 1,500 1,420 1,505 1,957 1,970 2,280 2,215 2,209 1,620

Amusingly, when the T-62 entered service, it was assigned a combat effectiveness value of 1.15 against the T-55, which served as the baseline with a combat effectiveness value of 1.00. Keeping in mind that new 100 mm HEAT ammunition had just recently entered service, the fact that a T-62 was still considered to be 15% more effective than a T-55 was important for legitimizing its existence.

The production of a single T-62 took 5,855 work-hours, only negligibly more than the 5,723 work-hours required for one T-55 on the same UVZ production line. A similar relationship also existed when comparing the nominal prices, as a T-62 was always either equal to, or only marginally pricier than a T-55 throughout its production run (in the same factory). This was a major economic factor in its adoption, made possible by the economy of scale created by the breakneck production rate at UVZ, and it also influenced the export success of the T-62 in the 1970s, as the government sourced existing tanks from Soviet Army stocks to fill export orders rather than contracting UVZ to produce batches of tanks for individual customers. This allowed the USSR to sell tanks at very competitive prices and still have a profit margin, keeping a strong flow of foreign hard currency into the country, and it allowed UVZ to switch to breakneck production of T-72 tanks for the Soviet Army, keeping the cycle of efficient production going for the next generation of tanks.

The running costs of a T-62 were also equal to, or only marginally higher than a T-55. According to figures available in 1984, the total economic cost of running a T-62 tank for one kilometer, taking into account maintenance, repair and fuel consumption, amounted to 5.6 rubles, and for a T-55, it was 5.5 rubles. For comparison, a T-72 would cost 11.85 rubles to run.

As If By Divine Intervention

The creation of the T-62 was remarkable in that it would not have existed but for a precise series of three serendipitous events, all involving high ranking government officers. The first was the UKBTM entry into the future Soviet medium tank competition thanks to Minister Maksarev and Kartsev’s boldness to make such an adventurous proposal, the second was the whimsical request for a smoothbore tank gun by Premier Khrushchev, and the third was the reaction of Marshal Chuikov upon hearing the news about the new M60 tank. The fate of the T-62 and the UKBTM design bureau as a whole was shaped by what appears to be sheer coincidence.

In retrospect, it turned out to be extraordinarily fortuitous for the Soviet military that Premier Khrushchev was so keen on the T-12. Whether by extrapolation or accurate intelligence, the XM60 and Chieftain tanks were both designed and tested with high velocity 100 mm APCBC as their reference threat, essentially corresponding exactly to the D-54. If the fateful meeting with Kartsev had not taken place, either Object 165 or Object 430 (or a derivative of it) would have most likely entered service with a D-54 supplied with APCBC ammunition. At the time, 100 mm APDS existed, but would not be ready for service and mass production until the mid-1960s, and its use was unpalatable to the Soviet leadership due to the large weight of tungsten carbide used in its core. Moreover, with the new information available in 1964, it was understood that better ammunition alone would likely have been insufficient to overmatch the M60A1 and Chieftain, as they had partial resistance to 100 mm and 105 mm APDS as a byproduct of being designed to defend against high velocity 100 mm APCBC at some distance. In the end, tanks armed with the D-54 would likely have had to resort to using HEAT as the main anti-tank round for many years to come, in spite of the power of the gun.

Image of an M60 used in a book summarizing contemporary Western military power – Source: Вооруженные Силы Империалистических Государств 1964

This would have been all the more unfortunate given that the appearance of the M60 did not impress Soviet experts in any way other than the fact that it was armed with a 105 mm gun, known to be derived from the British 105 mm L7, and known to fire a standard APDS round with a muzzle velocity of 1,475 m/s. The M60 only aroused a certain amount of consternation because it was seen as the likely new standard tank for NATO. The adoption of the 105 mm L7 gun on Centurion tanks some years prior to the appearance of the M60 was not considered a significant development by the Soviet leadership due to the small military presence (in some texts, the term “insignificant” was used) of the British Army relative to the US Army and other NATO member states in the region, which had been principally supplied with American tanks. These included Italy, Belgium, and France. For this reason, and because of the industrial and economic might of the USA, the priority was on assessing the American tank threat above all other potential adversaries.

By 1964, enough accurate information on the M60A1 and Leopard had been gathered for a useful comparison, and in a informational reference document issued by the State Technical Committee (meant as a reference for industry experts to familiarize themselves on the current state of technology), it was reported that:

“The level of armor protection of the M-60 tank approximately corresponds to the armor protection of the domestic T-62 medium tank. At the same time, the ballistic resistance of the frontal part of the M-60 hull is higher than that of the T-62, and the turret is slightly lower than that of the T-62. The M-60 tank is defeated by the subcaliber rounds of the U5-TS cannon of the domestic T-62 tank at a range of 900-2,000 m (900 m – hull, 2,000 m – turret). At almost the same battle distances, the frontal armor of the T-62 tank can be defeated by the shots of the 105 mm cannon of the M-60 tank. The M-60 tank does not have anti-cumulative protection and, therefore, is defeated by the cumulative shells of the U5-TS cannon of the T-62 tank at point blank range”

“T-62 tanks … can defeat the frontal armor of a Leopard tank at a range of more than 3,000 m, and, therefore, surpass the Leopard tank in terms of armor protection, since the shots of the 105 mm cannon of the Leopard tank defeat the armor of the T-62 tank at ranges of 1,500-2,000 m”

Additionally, the frontal turret armor of the M60 or M48A2 was considered vulnerable from up to 2,800 m. The Chieftain was also evaluated, but intelligence was not as accurate. The upper glacis was considered strong due to its steeply sloping shape, but the turret was considered vulnerable out to 2,800 m. At this point in time, it was also believed that the Chieftain was still a 45-tonne tank as originally intended.

Left: 1964 GKOT table listing the distances for defeating the armor of enemy medium tanks; Right: Chieftain prototype as shown in 1964 report – Sources: Uralvagonzavod, Вооруженные Силы Империалистических Государств 1964


Overall Design

T-62 photo taken during an official photoshoot, showing the distinctive roadwheel layout – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

From the standpoint of fire control, the T-62 was essentially the same as the T-55 on a technological level. Although the T-62 was considered a new tank when it was taken into service, most of its parts were standardized with the T-55 and crew training for these two tanks was so similar that practically no transitional training was required for a T-55 crew member to transfer to a T-62. In this respect, the relationship between the T-62 and the T-55 was very similar to the relationship between the M48 Patton and the M60. Because most of its non-structural parts were standardized with the T-55, there were a few positive implications in how readily the Soviet Army could absorb the T-62 into its tank fleet and manage its day-to-day needs, but from a technological perspective, it was a decidedly negative situation, as it meant that there was no truly major leap in combat effectiveness.

Even without taking into account devices such as the radio station, intercom system, periscopes, lighting devices, power cables, electrical connectors and various fasteners, which were not only standardized among tanks but among all Soviet armored fighting vehicles, there was a particularly high degree of unification between the T-62 and the T-55, excluding structural elements and their details. The main functional changes were in the main gun, the fittings for the ammunition, the fuel tanks, the auto-ejector mechanism, the commander’s primary periscope, and engine preheater. The total degree of unification between the T-62 and T-55 reached 65%. Many of the differences came from mundane details such as the pneumatic pipes used to connect the compressed air bottles to the engine and the linkages for the driver’s controls, which all had to be longer due to the increased hull length, the linkage for the TPN1 night sight, which had to be different due to the trunnion position of the U-5TS gun, the seats for the crew in the fighting compartment and the fittings around them, etc.

Improvements, which were backwards compatible with the T-55, included a new and improved injector preheater, new G-6.5 generator with forced air cooling, reinforced cooling fan and air compressor drives, and a reinforced third gear in the gearbox. The suspension was also improved with an increased bump travel of 160-162 mm and a rebound travel of 62-64 mm.

Structural Design

T-62 hull – Source: T-62 technical manual

Structurally, the T-62 featured a welded hull composed of rolled 42 SM RHA steel plates of four main thicknesses. Additionally, the belly and engine deck plates were stamped out of thinner plates of several different thicknesses. The design of the hull was broadly similar to that of the T-54, but differed in its length, the design of the hole for the turret ring, the shape of the engine compartment, the angle of the hull roof, the layout of the suspension mounts, and a number of small structural details. The armor plate thicknesses are identical to the T-54 hull it was derived from, although one source states that the belly plates at the middle of the hull were 16 mm thick rather than 20 mm for weight reduction purposes. There was no hull roof over the engine deck, as the deck panels bolted directly to the hull sides to permit maximum accessibility to the engine compartment once removed. The deck was 15 mm thick.

T-62 Armor Plate Thickness Values
Belly Crew compartment roof Rear plate Side plates Glacis plates
20 mm 30 mm 45 mm 80 mm 100 mm

In order to optimize the gun’s depression angles in all-round rotation, the roof of the hull was tilted forwards by 0.5° (0°30′), while the engine deck was sloped at 3.25° (3°15’). This was a feature inherited from the Object 140’s hull design. The main reason for this shape was to allow the main gun to fully depress even when traversed over the engine deck, considering that the turret was offset by a forward tilt of 0.5°. It also gave a minor weight reduction by reducing the area covered by the side hull armor.

The concept of armor differentiation was used on both the hull and turret, with the protection level being the strongest in a frontal arc of 60° and declining rapidly outside this arc. Compared to the T-55, the internal height of the hull along the fighting compartment had been increased from 937 mm to 1,006 mm, and in the front, it had been increased from 927 to 939 mm. Additionally, the hull was lengthened by 386mm along the fighting compartment to accommodate the increased turret ring diameter. The engine compartment was slightly shorter than that of the T-55 due to the elimination of the slope on the rear plate. The rear plate was not completely flat, however, having a very slight 2° tilt. This was because the cooling fan mount and the fan drive from the gearbox power take-off were designed with this tilt in the T-54 and T-55, and since the entire assembly was carried over to the T-62, the same tilt was retained.

Bare T-62 turret – Source: T-62 technical manual

The turret was a single-piece casting of MBL-1 steel with a distinctly round shape, forming a perfect circle from a top view, and having a nearly hemispherical form in certain projections. The design of the turret was very close to the turret of the Object 140, but notably differed in that it did not use a stamped roof plate welded onto the circular “belt” formed by the turret wall, and the commander’s cupola was moulded into the turret rather than being a bolt-on structure. Other than the hole in the left cheek required by the TSh2-series sight, these refinements and their associated adjustments were the only major changes from the Object 140 turret. Production of serial T-62 turrets was carried out using steel molds.

Casting mold for T-62 turret – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

The T-62’s turret had a considerably larger internal volume than the T-55 turret, but had almost the same weight while at the same time providing significantly better protection. This can be credited entirely to the use of a near-hemispherical shape. A sphere has the highest volume to surface area ratio of any 3-dimensional shape, and thus a hemispherical turret requires the smallest mass of armor to protect a given internal volume. At the same time, a sphere is also the strongest shape when uniformly loaded (for example, a bathysphere is spherical because it is the ideal shape to withstand crushing deep sea pressures). This was relevant for dissipating strong blast loads across the turret’s structure, and it is also a near-ideal shape for more uniformly dissipating shock energy from localized impacts. However, for a tank turret, using the pure shape of a perfect hemisphere is not ideal because the concept of armor differentiation can be leveraged to further lighten the structure. In this case, armor differentiation was applied in the design by drawing eccentric circles of different diameters to create smoothly contoured surfaces of variable thickness, decreasing in thickness as the impact angle increases.

The armor differentiation of the turret along the horizontal axis was done by making the outer contour of the turret an eccentric circle to its inner contour, so that the front of the turret had a large thickness in a wide arc and a shelf for equipment was created between the turret wall and the turret ring along the rear half. In the vertical axis, the turret wall was designed by the same method but with a larger difference in circle radius and increased eccentricity. The roof part was formed by taking into account the projected dimensions of the main gun when it was fully depressed and retracted at the end of its recoil stroke, as well as the restrictions imposed by the need to accommodate the commander’s cupola. The turret wall then joined up with the roof with a variable contour, tuned to help suppress the formation of cracks during the casting process. In this way, it was practical to cast an extremely robust turret in one piece without driving up the labor intensity of the process.

A noteworthy feature of the turret is the use of embedded wedge-type trunnions for the gun. This design required the turret cheek walls on either side of the gun embrasure to be hollowed out, so that the gun could be installed from behind by dropping the trunnions into the turret’s cheek itself. The gun would then be secured by bolting wedges above the trunnions, tightly clamping the gun in place. This design had a few mechanical advantages, such as increasing the radius of the elevation arc, making it easier to elevate the gun manually and allowing the stabilizer elevation piston to be moved closer to the gun embrasure while also gaining a larger lever arm and therefore a larger stabilizing moment, but it greatly reduced the armor thickness in front of the trunnion pins, and made it nearly impossible to extricate the gun if the gun embrasure area was deformed by a powerful shell strike.

Overall, the armor alone took up 50% of the tank’s total combat weight, equal to the T-54. This was possible thanks to a great deal of effort in removing excess weight wherever feasible and in the optimal shape of the turret, as the increase in the armor weight over the T-54 was absolutely minimal despite the larger internal volume of the T-62. Looking at its armor weight, which amounts to 18.3 tonnes, there is an excess of only 0.3 tonnes over the armor weight of the T-54, which, remarkably, is somehow less than the weight that would have been gained from the extension of the side hull plates alone (0.38 tonnes). Overall, less armor mass was used to achieve better protection. Given its total empty internal volume of 12.5 cubic meters, the T-62’s hull and turret have a specific structural weight of 1.464 tonnes per cubic meter, whereas a T-54 had a specific weight of 1.58 tonnes per cubic meter.

Crew Stations

Cross-sectional drawing of a T-62 – Source: Т-62: Убийца Центурионов и Олифантов

The crew of a T-62 were equipped with the same controls and observation devices as their T-55 counterparts. The driver was provided with two periscopes, laid out to ensure that he could see both front corners of the hull. He could swap out one periscope for a night vision periscope, which could also be mounted externally when driving from an open-hatch. The loader had a single MK-4 rotating periscope for a relatively restricted view toward the left side of the turret. The gunner was provided with a single forward facing periscope for general observation and to alleviate carsickness, while his main observation device was the TSh2B-41 telescopic sight. A TPN-1 night sight paired with an L-2 “Luna” IR spotlight provided the T-62 with a basic night fighting capability, allowing the gunner to identify a tank-sized target at up to 800 m, though the spotlight was intended to be zeroed to the sight at 700 m. The commander was provided with four periscopes and a single primary observation periscope, which was initially a TKN-2, but was changed to a TKN-3 beginning in 1964. Both the TKN-2 and TKN-3 were combined day-night periscopes, paired with an OU-3GK IR spotlight. All night vision devices used Gen 0 image converters with S-1 photocathodes and as such, were dependent on IR illumination. Both the TKN-2 and TKN-3 had a fixed 5x magnification in the day channel and could be used to cue the gunner to a target with a press of the left thumb button.

Besides the main gun, the most significant qualitative improvement was in the working conditions of the crew in the fighting compartment, which was made possible thanks to a number of positive design choices. The main shortcoming of the T-54’s turret was that it was built according to wartime ergonomics standards, and the dimensions of the fighting compartment were not larger relative to the T-34-85. The T-62 crew had a conventional seating layout, with the commander and gunner seated in tandem on the left side of the gun, and the loader having the hull length of the turret on the right side of the gun to himself. All crew members were located in such a way that their feet would not leave the perimeter of the rotating turret floor when seated. The footrests for the gunner and commander were also laid out in such a way that they did not exceed the perimeter of the rotating floor. The driver’s station was on the left of the hull, and had an identical structural layout to the T-55 driver’s station, although the placement of some equipment was shifted.

A T-62’s hull without turret and rotating floor – Source: Mittlerer KPz T 62 “Schutz Erprobung”

The main design feature of the crew stations was that all seats in the turret were placed within the circumference of the turret ring and were located well below the turret ring level. This allowed the turret to be made shorter, as it only had to accommodate part of the seated height of the crew members, and a protruding cupola could be omitted for a streamlined, low profile cupola. The dome shape of the turret also meshed well with the needs of the loader, as it was tallest at the center, giving the loader the most vertical space when he stood next to the gun, and shortest around the front, where the loader would be ducked down to retrieve ammunition from the front hull racks.

Seating layout in a T-62 turret. The shape of the seats is not accurately reflected in the drawing – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

However, the improvement to the gunner’s and commander’s stations was limited by the constraints posed by the hull width, which was unchanged from the T-54. Rather than expanding proportionally to the increase in turret ring diameter, the commander’s seat still had to be located forward enough that the diameter circumscribed by the seat did not exceed the internal hull width, hence the missing corner on the seat. However, the commander’s body was afforded more freedom because his seat was positioned at the level of the turret ring extensions built into the hull sides.

Object 166 overview drawing – Source: Uralvagonzavod

The gunner’s seat was located perpendicular to the rotating axis of the turret, allowing the gunner’s torso to be located at the point where the maximum width is available for a given turret ring diameter and gun width. The position of the gunner’s seat along the length of the turret was dictated by the length of his TSh2B-41 sight, which had a total length of 1,026-1,046 mm, varying slightly according to how much the articulated head was deflected. Because the articulated head of the TSh2B-41 sight was fitted coaxially to the trunnion of the gun, and the trunnion was located directly above the turret ring, the gunner had to be seated no less than 1 m behind the frontmost point of the turret ring. The same design principles for the layout of components were used in the T-54, so with the expanded turret ring diameter of the T-62, it is immediately apparent that significantly more room was available behind a gunner seated in a T-62 turret. In total, the difference was enough that the commander’s knees no longer straddled the gunner when seated normally, although the gunner would still have the commander’s knees pressed against his back.

Inside a T-62M – Source: YouTube

The loader’s station was also expanded by the increased turret ring diameter, and additionally, the increase in hull length gave him more floor space to work. Also, unlike in a T-55, the rear hull ammunition racks were well clear of the rotating floor, and the large turret ring made them much more accessible to the loader. However, the diameter of the rotating hull floor was only marginally widened from 1,370 mm to 1,450 mm. The perimeter of the floor marks the boundary where the loader may stand without colliding with any fixed object in the hull. In this case, the floor diameter was restricted by the engine preheater. Anti-slip rubber mats were affixed to most of the fighting compartment floor, to the top of the escape hatch, and on the rotating floor.

Rotating floor in a T-62 – Source: T-62 technical manual

The rotating floor was semi-rigidly connected to the turret through the VKU-27 rotating power unit at the center of the rotating floor via a steel pole which joined up with the mounting frame for the gunner’s seat. The steel pole also conveyed the power cables from the VKU-27 into the turret, where it connected to various devices in the turret. A ball detent torque limiter was present in the VKU-27, so that if the rotating floor was jammed for some reason, the turret and the electrical contacts in the VKU-27 would still be able to turn, providing a certain degree of isolation in the event that hull deformation from a mine blast jammed the rotating floor, which would otherwise be absent if the floor were to be rigidly joined to the turret, such as the floor in a turret basket.

A special section of the rotating floor was made openable, so that when the turret was turned slightly to the right, the hinged escape hatch would not be blocked from opening inward. The hatch itself was reasonably large, being around the same size as the driver’s hatch, but the fact that it could only be opened when the turret was in a specific position made its usefulness highly situational.

The increased hull length did not affect the front of the hull, leaving the driver’s station effectively identical to the driver’s station in a T-55. Even the front hull ammunition racks remained almost the same length as in a T-55, and the width that they occupied remained unchanged. This was because the right front ammunition rack in the T-55 had its cartridge slots offset to the left, owing to the original T-54 having its front ammunition racks offset to the left by a fuel tank wedged between them and the hull’s wall. In a T-62, the right front ammunition rack was not offset, allowing everything to remain almost identical to a T-55.

Strong ventilation was provided by a negative pressure ventilation system, where a fan in the engine compartment partition drew air from the crew compartment and blew it into the engine compartment, thereby putting the crew compartment under negative pressure. Additionally, the tank’s electrical generator used forced air cooling with an intake located in the crew compartment, and the engine compartment itself was held under negative pressure by the powerful cooling fan, so the intensity of the draft in the crew compartment grew as the engine revved up. This worked together with the ventilator blower to increase the intake rate of fresh air, and circulate pollutants out of the crew compartment after the main gun and coaxial machine gun were fired. Moreover, to supplement the ventilation system, personal fans were provided for each crew member except the commander.

Ventilator blower situated underneath an open case ejection port in a T-62. The intake is the ducted end, and air is blown towards the loader – Source: The Tank Museum

However, this negative pressure ventilation system could not be used in a nuclear contaminated environment. When the tank locks down after a nuclear detonation is detected, the negative pressure system switches to a positive pressure system. The ventilation ports in the engine compartment partition would be sealed, and the blower functions at a higher power setting, allowing it to centrifugally remove dust and fill the crew compartment with purified air faster than it escapes. A slight overpressure is developed, thereby protecting the crew compartment from being irradiated by radioactive dust particles. The air circulation in the crew compartment worsens drastically in this mode, so the ventilation system is not used in this mode unless strictly necessary.


T-62 armor thickness scheme – Source: Отечественные бронированные машины 1945-1965 гг.

Concealment from enemy observation was provided by a combination of the tank’s diminutive silhouette and the standard matte green IR-absorbing NPF-10 paint. Additional colors of regular paint or enamel paint (during winter) could be added onto the IR-absorbing green base color to form deforming camouflage patterns, which could blend into local environments in both the optical and short infrared spectrums. The T-62 also featured an exhaust smokescreening system to provide visual and near-IR obscuration, a filtered overpressure system for atomic protection, and it had an automatic fire fighting system with three extinguisher bottles, providing three attempts to extinguish a fire in the engine compartment or crew compartment.

Armor protection remained unchanged from the T-55 aside from the turret. The upper glacis was sloped at 60°, and was completely immune to the 8.8 cm KwK 43 and 90 mm M41 guns firing APCBC and APCR/HVAP, and was protected from the 100 mm D10 from a short range. Data for the T-54 shows that, under a non-penetration criteria where the maximum damage is a crack, bulge, or cracked bulge of the rear surface of the armor, BR-412B has a velocity limit of 850 m/s (500 m) on its upper glacis, increasing to 920 m/s when striking the plate at a side angle of 30°. The lower glacis has a distance limit of 900 m, and the arc limit for the hull sides was 22°.

German T-62 armor thickness scheme – Source: Unknown Online Source

West German testing indicates that the hull of the T-62 could be defeated by 105 mm DM13 APDS from a distance of 1,800 m at its ballistic limit, defined as the maximum range at which it is possible to create a through hole in the armor. The margin of perforation is very small at the ballistic limit, as testing on a T-55 hull showed that the safety limit (guaranteed lack of perforation) was 2,000 m. The tests also showed that the DM13 round began to falter as the impact angle increased. A graph of the change in the ballistic limit with the armor slope shows that if the impact angle was increased slightly to 61°, which could be achieved if the hull were turned sideways by 14°, the safety limit would be reduced to 1,500 m. At an impact angle of 63°, which could be achieved if the hull were turned sideways by 25°, the safety limit would drop to 1,000 m. The same results are applicable for the T-62 hull.

Object 166 turret after a validation study unrelated to original armor tests – Source: Вестник Бронетанковой Техники

The T-62’s turret could resist 100 mm BR-412B fired from the D10 at a limit velocity of 830 m/s in a frontal arc of 90°, under the same non-penetration criteria. For comparison, the T-55’s turret could resist this threat at a limit velocity of 810 m/s in a frontal arc of 60° (including the direct front), corresponding to a range of 800 m. In the same West German tests as mentioned earlier, it was found that 105 mm DM13 could not perforate the turret from the direct front even at impact velocities ranging from slightly below (1,468.8 m/s) to far in excess of the normal muzzle velocity (1,520.3 m/s), as long as the shot landed outside of weakened zones. The only penetrating shots were those that landed directly next to the gunner’s sight embrasure, which managed to burst sideways through the inner wall of the gunner’s sight cutout, creating cracks that were large enough for light to pass through. The impact angles on the turret were fairly moderate, ranging from 40° to 50°. Similar results might be expected from the L52 (M728) APDS round, which had a tungsten alloy core that performed better than L28 (M392) at high impact angles of 60° and above, but had no advantage on moderately sloped targets (30-50°) and was inferior on flat and mildly sloped targets (0-30°).

Left: External view of three 105 mm APDS hits to the front of a T-62 turret; Right: internal view of the three hits – Source: Mittlerer KPz T 62 “Schutz Erprobung”

However, the overall frontal arc protection was somewhat lower, with one source indicating that the turret was protected against 105 mm APDS from 800 m across its entire frontal projection.

West German protection summary – Source: Internet

Additionally, structural holes such as the gun embrasure, periscope slots, and holes for the sights had been tested with 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine gun fire to ensure jam resistance. The rear of the hull did not protect from 14.5 mm machine gun fire, although the rear of the turret did. That said, the rear of the hull only fell short of immunity from 14.5 mm fire by a small margin, a margin which was previously covered by the 17° slope of the rear plate on the T-54 hull.

The protection of the T-62 from nuclear threats was considered to be equivalent to other Soviet medium tanks, but significantly worse than the T-55A, as it lacked anti-nuclear lining and cladding over the crew stations. An experimental variant of the T-62 fitted with anti-radiation lining known as Object 166P was tested, but did not enter service.


Drawing depicting the U-5TS gun in a T-62 – Source: Энциклопедия XXI век: Оружие и технологии России Том 7

The T-62 was the world’s first tank to introduce a smoothbore gun and to use APFSDS ammunition as its standard armor-piercing ammunition. It was not the first modern smoothbore large caliber gun in service though, as that distinction belonged to the T-12 towed anti-tank gun. The 115 mm tank gun had the factory designation of U-5TS and it was assigned a GRAU index of 2A20. A number of stabilizer components were attached underneath the gun, and an automatic case ejector was fitted behind the breech.

Case ejector in a T-62 with its turret oriented to the rear – Source: The Tank Museum

The gun and coaxial machine gun were stabilized in two planes by the Meteor stabilizer system. Meteor-M and Meteor-M1 variants of the stabilizer with transistorized electronics were also produced in the 1980s for refitting tanks to the T-62M standard. The performance characteristics were identical to the basic version. Officially, the turret rotation speed was not less than 16° per second (full rotation in 22.5 seconds). The real turret traverse speed under normal conditions would be somewhat higher, with US Army and West German tests finding that a full rotation took 20 seconds (18° per second), or 22 seconds with the tank situated at an unspecified slope, and Russian literature sources give a rotation speed of 17-19.6° per second.

The stabilizer had a loader’s assist feature, turned on by default. After a shot was fired, rotation of the turret would be locked and the gun would be elevated by 2.5° for the convenience of the loader when retrieving ammunition from the hull and when loading a round into the gun. Control of the turret and gun returned to the gunner once the loader pressed his safety switch, with the gun returning to its previous elevation angle automatically. This feature could be turned on manually before a shot was fired. He had to do this before reloading the machine gun when the tank was on the move, as it would be dangerous for him to have his hands underneath the open top cover in case the gun suddenly depressed as the tank rode over a bump. The loader’s assist feature was later added to the T-55A in 1965. After a shot was fired, the auto-ejector was triggered independently of the loader’s assist, completing the ejection cycle within 2-3 seconds from the moment of the shot until the return of the ejector behind the breech.

Case ejection mechanism – Source: Автоматизация Удаления Гильз Из Боевого Отделения Танка

Design-wise, the U-5TS was built on the basis of the D-54TS, and it was even alleged that the first five guns built for Object 166 trials were built by refitting existing D-54TS guns with a new barrel. The similarities remained after the D-54TS evolved into the U-8TS (2A24), which was the same gun but with new rifling optimized for APDS ammunition, a new stabilizer, and an automatic case ejector of the same design as the U-5TS. Moreover, the 115 mm gun was created on the basis of matching the performance of the D-54TS gun with all ammunition types while being easier to load, but because a larger caliber provided favourable internal ballistics performance with sub-caliber ammunition, the U-5TS managed to outperform the U-8TS with contemporary ammunition technology.

Image of a U-5TS showing its distinct bottom-heavy shape, owing to the placement of its recoil mechanism underneath the breech – Source: 115-мм Танковая Пушка У-5ТС: Альбом Рисунков

Structurally, the U-5TS closely resembled a U-8TS, although most of its major assemblies were no longer interchangeable. Many of its small parts, such as fasteners, gaskets, and pins, were either generic parts or parts shared with earlier guns, including the D10 (52-PT-412) and D-30 (2A18). The barrel length of the U-5TS was 5,700 mm and the gun length (barrel and breech block) was 6,050 mm, the same as the U-8TS. The recoil mechanism was also changed. In total, the oscillating mass of the U-5TS was 2,315 kg, excluding the stabilizer and case ejection mechanism, as compared to an oscillating mass of 1,908 kg for the D10-T in a T-54 turret. The weight of the gun alone, when counting only the barrel and breech block assembly, was 1,810 kg. This was 400 kg heavier than a D10-T.

The primary justification for a smoothbore gun is that the nature of barrel wear with a smoothbore barrel is more conducive to a high pressure, high velocity gun, as it eliminates the short accuracy life of rifled barrels from throat erosion. This was particularly relevant for rifled guns designed for “hot” propellant, which develops a high peak pressure that drops off rapidly. In such guns, the barrel throat experiences exceptionally high pressure and heat, but this dissipates quickly as the projectile moves through the barrel and the volume occupied by the propellant gases increases, leading to uneven erosion of the rifling lands. The loss in accuracy from this type of erosion does not manifest in smoothbore guns, so the only factor in the accuracy life of a smoothbore barrel is the total eroded thickness of the bore.

Nature of barrel throat erosion limits in rifled guns (left) and smoothbore guns (right) – Source: Учебник Сержанта Танковых Войск

The U-5TS did not require a muzzle brake because it was not capable of launching heavy projectiles at a high muzzle velocity, only light projectiles. This was in contrast to the D-54TS/U-8TS, which was a classical high velocity gun, designed to launch a 16.1 kg AP projectile at a muzzle velocity of 1,015 m/s, with a muzzle brake and recoil system made to handle the immense recoil. Although the muzzle energy did not drop so drastically, the difference in momentum between a sub-caliber round and a full-caliber round was enormous, which was reflected in the recoil impulse. The U-5TS was directly equivalent to the L7 in this regard, which was designed according to the same principles.

Initially, the thinning of the barrel wall of the first few 115 mm guns made from boring out the original D-54 barrel did not result in a change in the strength of the barrel, but reduced its stiffness, apparently causing the guns for the first few Object 166 tanks to exhibit a drifting zero. It is unlikely that this continued to be true for serially produced U-5TS guns, because the barrel must have undergone a redesign that redistributed its weight, as evidenced by the different position of the fume extractor. A reworking of the barrel wall’s thickness profile would be needed to address the change in balance caused by the absence of a muzzle brake and the significant mass removed by boring out the barrel. Moreover, a barrel of the same weight but with larger inner and outer diameters would have greater stiffness due to a larger second moment of area.

Main Gun Ammunition

As a smoothbore gun, the U-5TS was well adapted to fin-stabilized high velocity rounds, but this came at the expense of less efficient HE-Frag shells compared to spin-stabilized shells. This was due to the parasitic mass and drag of stabilizing fins, which would also produce less of a stabilizing moment at long range, where the projectile velocity is low. The shells would therefore tend to be lighter, costlier, shorter ranged and less precise at long range. These shortcomings could be minimized with a heavier shell fired at a reduced charge, but the ammunition designers likely chose the more expedient option of adapting an existing design to stay within the tight deadline. Initially, a 3UOF1 HE-Frag round closely resembling the 115 mm 3UBK3 HEAT round was used, but only on an interim basis, as its substandard long-range accuracy and suboptimal explosive filling ratio were deemed unsatisfactory.

HE-Frag round for the T-62 – Source: T-62 technical manual

By September 1963, work on a “long-range” HE-Frag shell design was underway to address the issues with the interim HE-Frag shell, mainly focused on improving long-range accuracy to a level that was not too far off from the HE-Frag shells fired by the D-54TS. No other suitable HE-Frag shell design was available to be adapted for the 115 mm gun, as even the T-12 lacked HE-Frag shells, being entirely focused on an anti-tank role. This much-needed “long-range” fin-stabilized HE-Frag shell design was introduced into the Soviet Army for multiple gun calibers all at once in 1967. For the T-12 in the form of the 3UOF3 round, followed by the 3UOF6 round for the T-62, and the 125 mm 3VOF22 round for the T-64A. The main innovations lay in the streamlined ogive shape of the projectile nose, the increased thickness of the casing walls to increase sectional density, the lack of wall thinning along the nose of the body (to push the center of gravity forward) unlike conventional shells, and the new aluminium tail boom with a boattail-shaped fairing over the base of the projectile.

Left: 3OF11 projectile from the 3UOF1 round; Right: 3OF18 projectile from the 3UOF6 round – Source: 115-мм Танковая Пушка У-5ТС: Альбом Рисунков

The 3UBM3 and 3UBM4 APFSDS rounds entered service concurrently with the T-62. The 3UBM3 round was intended to provide high penetration power on both sloped and flat targets, high enough to compete closely with an APDS round fired from the D-54TS while using only a fraction of the amount of tungsten, The 3UBM4 round was an even cheaper round with an all-steel projectile that would provide high penetration power on sloped targets but forego penetration performance on flat targets. In practice, the 3BM4 was both cheaper and more effective due to slightly better penetration on sloped armor, given that flat armor would have been a very rare sight in the hypothetical modern battlefield of the time.

APFSDS ammunition of the T-62 – Source: T-62 technical manual

Both rounds met the specified tactical-technical characteristics used to approve the “Molot” gun in January 1959, wherein the basic armor-piercing round was supposed to perforate 135 mm RHA at a 60º angle from 1,000 m, and perforate 100 mm RHA at 60° from 2,000 meters. Both rounds could perforate 130 mm RHA at 60° from 1,150-1,250 m and 100 mm RHA at 60° from 2,360-2,390 m.

The HEAT ammunition for the U-5TS was considered capable of defeating all known tanks, and its effectiveness was limited only by its high fuzing angle limit of 77°, which was possible thanks to its pointed conical nose. Its penetration power was outstanding, with the 3BK4M shell having an average penetration of 500mm RHA on 0° and 60° targets, although its rated penetration was only 440mm RHA. The cheaper 3BK4 shell, with a steel liner instead of a copper liner, had less penetration but produced a stronger post-penetration effect.

HEAT round for the T-62 – Source: T-62 technical manual
T-62 Ammunition Performance Specifications
Ammunition Type Cartridge Mass Projectile Mass Explosive Filler Muzzle Velocity Point Blank Range (2 m target)
3BM3 APFSDS 22 kg 5.55 kg 1,615 m/s 1,870 m
3BM4 APFSDS 22 kg 5.55 kg 1,650 m/s 1,870 m
3BK4(M) HEAT 26 kg 12.97 kg 1.55 kg (1.478 kg) A-IX-1 950 m/s 990 m
3OF11 HE-Frag 28 kg 14.86 kg 2.7 kg TNT 905 m/s 970 m
3OF18 HE-Frag 30.8 kg 17.86 kg 2.79 kg TNT 750 m/s

Secondary Armament

In addition to the 115 mm main gun, the T-62 was fitted with a SGMT coaxial machine gun chambered in 7.62×54 mm. Beginning in August 1964, the SGMT was replaced by the new PKT as part of the Soviet Army’s overall push to standardize on the PK general purpose machine gun. The PKT could be fitted onto the existing coaxial mount in the tank and the two machine guns had barrels of the same length, ensuring that the shots would be ballistically matched. This was done so that the PKT would be easily interchangeable with the SGMT, as there was no need to modify the machine gun mount or swap out the glass viewfinder insert in the gunner’s sight to account for differing ballistics.

Coaxial PKT installation in a T-62 – Source: T-62 technical manual

The same ammunition belts and 250-round boxes used with the SGMT were also compatible with the PKT. Ten ammunition boxes were available inside the tank, one mounted on the machine gun and the rest scattered in various stowage points in the hull, for a total combat load of 2,500 rounds of ammunition. This load was consistent with other Soviet armored fighting vehicles, which were all designed for a combat load of around 2,000 rounds for their 7.62 mm coaxial machine guns.

In 1969, it was decided to install the DShKMT anti-aircraft machine gun on T-55, T-55A, and T-62 tanks and their subsequent modifications beginning in May 1970. The new requirement for an anti-aircraft machine gun, driven by combat reports of American helicopters and gunships in the Vietnam War, returned the DShKM to medium tanks, missing since the T-55. It was installed to a new loader’s cupola with a traverse lock, differentiating it from the basic T-54 loader’s cupola. The DShKM was fed with standard 50-round boxes. One box is stowed on the machine gun mount and another five boxes are stowed to the side of the turret next to the loader’s cupola for easy access, giving a total ammunition load of 300 rounds.

T-62 abandoned during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War – Source: Internet


The T-62’s suspension features five pairs of roadwheels, independently sprung with torsion bars, complete with unsupported all-steel tracks. Depending on the time period, the tank may have been outfitted with the OMSh type track (dead track), or the heavier but more durable and efficient RMSh type track (live track). Beginning in 1965, RMSh tracks were fitted to new-production T-62 tanks, and retrofits of existing tanks would take place throughout the 1970s and 1980s. A new drive sprocket was required for the new track.

T-62 suspension, showing the reversed direction of the fifth pair of wheel swing arms to free up floor space in the engine compartment – Source: T-62 technical manual

Early T-62s fitted with the original OMSh track had 96 track links on each side rather than 90 track links as on the T-55, due to the longer hull of the T-62 compared to the T-55. This gave each set of tracks a weight of 1,447 kg, slightly heavier than on the T-55 (1,328 kg). This represented a modest increase in the unsprung mass of the suspension, in return for a longer ground contact length of 4,230 mm instead of 3,840 mm for a net reduction in the nominal ground pressure of the T-62. This translated to a higher tractive efficiency in soft terrain, but the turning resistance also increased. For tanks fitted with RMSh tracks, a full set consisted of 97 links, giving a weight of 1,655 kg.

A T-62 tank fitted with RMSh tracks would weigh 538 kg more than a basic tank with the original OMSh tracks. With RMSh tracks fitted, the tank combat weight increased to 37 tonnes. However, experimental data showed that, when installed on a medium tank, power losses in the suspension were reduced by an average of 20% compared to OMSh tracks. This large improvement was mainly due to the elimination of dry friction between the track links and the track pins, and the reduction of dynamic oscillations of the unsupported upper track run, which induced large losses at high speed. As a result, the average speed was increased by 15% and the top speed also saw an increase, despite adding weight to the tank.

The diameter of the roadwheels was 810 mm. They had a dual-disc construction with a central gap for guide horns. Steel wear plates lined the inner rim of the roadwheels to limit wear on the aluminium roadwheel discs from the steel track guide horns. The first and last pair of roadwheels had rotary vane shock absorbers fitted, like on the T-55.

T-62 crossing a pontoon bridge during Soviet exercises – Source: Internet

The main feature of the T-62 suspension that distinguished it from the T-55 suspension at the time it was introduced was its new torsion bars, made from an improved steel alloy but retaining full interchangeability with the existing suspension. The overall vertical travel range of the suspension was 220-224 mm, with the bump travel being 160 mm to 162 mm, and the rebound travel being 62-64 mm. T-54 and T-55 tanks would later receive the new torsion bars during capital overhauls as well.


V-55V engine – Source: T-62 technical manual

The T-62 was powered by a V-55V liquid-cooled, naturally aspirated diesel engine. Compared to the basic V-54 engines used in the T-54 series, the V-55 generated more torque at the same range of engine speeds by having a uniformly higher fuel injection rate, thus producing a proportional increase in power across the entire operating speed range. The compression ratio was increased to 15 from the original ratio of 14 in the V-54 by modifying the cylinder head geometry, thereby improving the combustion efficiency to compensate for the higher fuel flow, keeping the gross fuel consumption equal to the V-54.

V-55V Engine Performance Specifications
Technical characteristics Data
Engine layout 60-degree V12
Compression ratio 15
Maximum power (hp) 580
Maximum torque (Nm) 2,354
Minimum specific fuel consumption (g/hp.h) 172
Idle speed (RPM) 600
Maximum speed (RPM) 2,200
Dry weight (kg) 920
Dimensions (L x W x H, mm) 1,584 x 986 x 897

The only difference between the V-55V and the basic V-55 used in the T-55 was that the latter was fitted with a 5 kW G-5 generator, whereas the V-55V had a more powerful 6.5 kW G-6.5 generator. The generator was a clamp-on accessory that did not change the structural design of the engine itself. The installation of a more powerful generator on the T-62 was necessary to deal with the increased power demands of the “Meteor” gun stabilizer. The generator was connected to the front of the engine via a fluid coupling, driving the rotor and the impellers of the cooling system. Clean air was taken through the crew compartment via a hole in the engine compartment firewall, but it could also be switched to take air from the engine compartment, although there was usually no reason to do this, as it reduced air flow through the crew compartment and increased dust contamination of the generator windings. However, in the case of a nuclear attack, the nuclear protection system automatically switched the intake to draw air from the engine compartment instead, preventing the loss of the overpressure in the crew compartment.

The engine starter motor was a separate device located on the intermediate gearbox between the engine and gearbox. It connected to the engine flywheel in the clutch pack through a geared tooth.


Overall scheme of the T-62’s transmission – Source: T-62 technical manual

The T-62 had a manual mechanical transmission with a multi-plate dry friction clutch and a synchronized two-shaft gearbox with a conventional design with splash lubrication. A power takeoff unit on top of the gearbox powered the cooling fan and air compressor. The intermediate gearbox connecting the engine to the gearbox had a gear ratio of 0.7, unlike many tank gearboxes of the time which used a reduction gear input. By reducing the torque flowing out of the engine, it was possible to reduce the stress in the clutch and use smaller gears and power shafts in the gearbox, which in turn reduced the overall size and weight of the unit and reduced the rotating mass (and moment of inertia) in the drivetrain, thus decreasing the stress in the gears during acceleration and braking and reducing the wear on the synchronizer cones.

5-speed gearbox of the T-62 – Source: T-62 technical manual

In turn, the gearbox itself had low reduction ratios except in 1st gear and reverse, thus reducing the stress on the final drives, particularly in the long-term, as much more time was spent driving in higher gears than in 1st gear, 2nd gear, or reverse, both in peacetime and during war. Additionally, a peacetime study found that most of the driving time in T-54 and T-55 tanks was spent in 3rd gear during both summer and winter conditions, on dirt roads and off-road. For this reason, the T-62 gearbox had a reinforced 3rd gear. The weakest link in the powertrain of the T-62 was the 4th gear owing to poor lubrication relative to the other gears. For some reason, with the constant rotation of the gears keeping the oil flowing around the gears and circulating in the gearbox through the transverse partitions in the gearbox, there would be less oil ending up at the 4th gear than in all other gears. This issue was never solved, and was only acceptable due to the relatively infrequent usage of the fourth gear.

The concept of implementing minimal gear reductions in the drivetrain until the final drives became common after WWII, both in tanks and in commercial vehicles designed to bear heavy loads across difficult terrain, including tractors and off-roading trucks. The transmissions of tanks like the Centurion and the Patton series were also designed according to this concept, and both tanks used spur gear final drives with a high reduction ratio. Out of all the positive effects from this design solution, the most important for the T-62 was that it increased the service life of all drive units downstream of the intermediate gearbox.

T-62 tanks undergoing major servicing at a repair depot – Source: The Tank Museum

Steering was accomplished using two-stage planetary reduction gears, one on each side, placed between the gearbox and the final drives, and integrated with the steering clutch packs. When the steering tiller was pulled back to position 1, the clutch pressure plate would first be released and then a band brake would be tightened around the sun gear of the planetary set, engaging a gear reduction of 1.42. If the steering tiller was not pulled far enough to enter position 1, the track would merely be declutched. Pulling the steering tiller back further to position 2 released the steering brake and tightened the service brake band, which was made much wider to dissipate the heat of stopping the tank. With this mechanism, the tank could perform gentle turns with a free radius, geared turns or clutch-brake turns. Due to the need to limit wear on these dry friction elements, the steering mechanism was designed to engage in discrete steps, but this had the side effect of making the steering tillers rather jerky to operate.

Steering unit of a T-62, showing the condition of the unit in each of the three positions of the steering tiller – Source: T-62 technical manual
Gearbox Gearing Ratios and Speeds
Gear Gear ratio Overall gear ratio Tank speed at 2,000 RPM (km/h) Overall gear ratio with reduction Tank speed at 2,000 RPM with reduction (km/h)
R 6.0 28.17 7.61
1 6.0 28.17 7.61
2 2.8 13.15 16.31 18.67 11.48
3 2.0 9.39 22.84 13.33 16.08
4 1.43 6.71 31.94 9.53 22.48
5 0.9 4.23 50.75 6.00 35.76

Geared steering ensures that the motion of the tracks is kinematically fixed at all times, but they are left kinetically flexible owing to their shared connection to the gearbox output shaft, analogous to off-road vehicles with a locked differential. This provides more effective delivery of engine power in poor terrain conditions, but due to the slowing of one track, a geared turn causes a reduction in vehicle speed. To avoid slowing down, it is possible to steer by only de-clutching one track. It is also possible to obtain additional torque multiplication by pulling both steering tillers back, allowing the driver to essentially downshift by the equivalent of one gear without the prolonged interruption of engine power from performing a gear change.

T-62’s final drive – Source: T-62 technical manual

The final drives were shared with the T-55. They were a two-stage compound gear design, with a spur gear pair to perform the first reduction, and a planetary gear set coaxial to the drive sprocket to perform the second reduction. The final drives provided a high reduction ratio of 6.706, giving the drivetrain enough overall torque multiplication for the needs of the tank. This final drive design also complemented the increased torque from the 580 hp engine of the T-55, having a smaller reduction ratio of 6.706 instead of 6.778 on the T-54 series, and being much more durable, as the peak tangential forces on the gear teeth were 3-3.5 times lower than in the T-54 final drives and the stress was reduced by 2 times. Rather than to meaningfully affect the driving performance of the tank, these new final drives were built to attain a longer service life under high load compared to the T-54’s final drives, which already attained a failure-free service life of 7,000-10,000 km by the time the new compound design was introduced. Nevertheless, the slight adjustment to the gear ratio gave the T-62 a nominal top speed of 50 km/h at an engine speed of 2,000 RPM, the same as the T-55 and 2 km/h quicker than the T-54.

The clutch was a dry multi-disc design containing a pack of friction discs, all made from 30KhGSA alloy steel. An array of 18 coil springs kept the discs in engagement. The main weakness of the clutch design lay in the fact that steel friction discs do not have a high tolerance for slippage, as they can warp much more readily under intense heating compared to discs with composite or ceramic pads. Coupled with the lack of cooling aside from air cooling across the clutch housing, this made the clutch a serious weak point in the T-54, which was ameliorated only after a total of 33 changes were made to the design of the clutch, implemented over a 9-year period from 1948 to 1957. After the T-62 entered service, there were two major revisions that increased the number of friction discs, from 13 discs to 17 discs in 1965, followed by a final change from 17 discs to 19 discs. With each modification, the clutch life improved, and the need for periodic clutch adjustments became more and more infrequent.

In order to lessen the dependency of the reliability of the clutch on driver skill, a hydropneumatic pedal assist mechanism was present to take over the task of clutch operation from the driver. It had a bang-bang control system and would be activated when the clutch pedal touched a switch after a short push. The hydropneumatic assist ensured quick de-clutching (in 0.1-0.3 seconds) and smooth, shockless clutch engagement (in 0.4-0.6 seconds), regardless of the driver’s skill. With the hydropneumatic assist fitted, the force needed to depress the clutch pedal was 2-2.5 times less than normal.

Fuel Tanks

T-62’s fuel tanks – Source: T-62 technical manual

The on-board fuel carried in a T-62 was divided between four internal bakelite-coated steel tanks, holding 675 liters, and three external tanks on the fenders with a capacity of 285 liters, for a total capacity of 960 liters. Additionally, a pair of external 200-liter fuel drums could be mounted onto the rear of the hull for extended range.

Like in the T-55, sequential fuel draining was implemented. The driver had a control knob located beside the right steering lever to select which set of fuel tanks he wanted to draw from, choosing between using all fuel tanks or using the internal fuel tanks only, or he could cut off all fuel flow entirely. If all fuel tanks were used, the external fender fuel tanks were drained first, then the rear starboard tank, and then finally the group of three front fuel tanks. Alternatively, if the driver switched to internal fuel only, then only the group of three front fuel tanks was drained. The rear starboard fuel tank was not drained, even if it was full.

U.S Army intelligence photo of a Soviet T-62 belonging to the GSFG (Group of Soviet Forces in Germany) somewhere in East Germany – Source: Unknown Online Source

Automotive Performance

Three T-62s driving through mud – Source: Internet

The nominal top speed of a basic T-62 tank was 49 km/h. If fitted with RMSh tracks, the achievable top speed of the tank may increase to 54 km/h based on results achieved with the T-55. West German testing of a T-62 conducted in 1974 using a captured T-62 from the 1973 Yom Kippur War found that its maximum speed was 52.6 km/h. During Soviet military field tests, the average speed of the tank during road marches was 32-35 km/h, or 22-27 km/h when driving over a variety of dirt roads and off-road terrain types.

Technically, the absolute top speed of the T-62 would be 55.83 km/h, which might be achieved by running the engine to its redline speed of 2,200 RPM in 5th gear. Whether this speed was actually attainable on a level road was dependent on the particular characteristics of the road surface and the tracks fitted to the tank. With the original OMSh tracks, the large power losses at high speed inhibited the tank to a true top speed of 49 km/h at 2,000 RPM, according to Soviet testing. The engine developed less torque above this speed, so it would be physically impossible to further accelerate the tank barring some changes in external factors. For instance, a reduction in air temperature and better road quality may explain the higher top speed recorded in the West German mobility tests. When RMSh tracks were fitted to a T-55, the reduction in power losses permitted it to attain a top speed of 54 km/h, indicating that the T-62 may also have been capable of a similar true top speed if fitted with RMSh tracks.

This was not uncommon for tanks of the time, as the torque available in top gear would generally be insufficient to overcome high rolling resistances. In some cases, the slope of the engine torque curve fell behind the slope of the increase in rolling resistance, leading to the top speed being lower than expected. For instance, the M60 should technically have been capable of a top speed of 51.3 km/h at the rated engine speed of 2,400 RPM, or 56.5 km/h if the engine ran to its redline speed of 2,640 RPM. However, the maximum sustained speed on a level road was limited to only 48 km/h.

A T-62 driving at high speed – Source: Unknown Online Source

According to West German testing from 1974, a T-62 would take 22.75 seconds to reach 40 km/h on a paved road, as compared to the Leopard 1, which could reach 40 km/h in just 14.2 seconds. The M60A1 with the T97E2 track reached 40 km/h in 25 seconds, and with the heavier and more durable T142 track which began replacing the T97E2 in 1974, the acceleration to 40 km/h fell to 30 seconds. As a last point of comparison, Soviet testing found that the Chieftain Mk. 5R required an even longer time of 34-35 seconds to reach a speed of 40 km/h.

The maximum slope surmountable by the tank was 32° and the maximum permissible side slope was 30°. However, due to the lack of a torque converter, starting and accelerating from a stop on a steep grade of 60% was difficult. Shifting gears on a steep slope was also practically impossible, so drivers had to rely on the gear reduction of the steering units as a surrogate for downshifting or upshifting when a change in traction was necessary. The tank could cross a 2.85 m trench, climb a vertical obstacle up to 0.8 m tall, and ford a water obstacle up to 1.4 m in depth without preparation, or snorkel up to 5.0 m.

In terms of fuel economy, the performance of the T-62 was quite good, even for a tank of its weight, considering the high average speeds achieved. According to the figures given in the T-62’s technical manual, which was written using the results of military field tests, the fuel consumption per 100 km would be 300-330 liters when traveling on dirt roads (cross-country) and 190-210 liters when traveling on paved roads.

The driving range of the tank with its integral fuel supply was 450 km on paved roads and 320 km on dirt roads. With the addition of two fuel drums, the driving range was extended to 650 km on paved roads and 450 km on dirt roads.

In Soviet and Russian Service

Soviet T-62 belonging to the 20th Soviet Army causing an accident in Liberec, Czechoslovakia after swerving. One theory is that when the driver tried to steer, the track slipped on the steel tram rail on the pavement, leading to a loss of control – Source: Václav Toužimský

The T-62 took part in several of the largest and deadliest conflicts of the late 20th century. During its service in the Soviet Army, T-62 tanks were involved in three major Soviet military operations, and it also saw extensive use in the Middle East and Africa. T-62 tanks also saw combat in the hands of the Russian Army despite its obsolescence, mainly because many of the units based in the Caucasus were of a lower priority and had not fully switched over to more modern tanks when major conflicts erupted in the region, such as the wars in Chechnya and the Russo-Georgian War.

Prague Spring

The first military deployment of the T-62 was to Czechoslovakia in August 1968, when the Soviet Army was sent in together with a few other Warsaw Pact armies for a show of force by the Soviet leadership during the Prague Spring. This operation, known as Operation Danube, involved the mobilization of several Soviet tank units from the GSFG (Group of Soviet Forces in Germany), most notably the 1st Guards Tank Division, which was equipped with T-62 tanks and T-10M heavy tanks. However, the majority of participating tank units were not from East Germany, and so around 80% of the Soviet tanks that were present in Czechoslovakia during the operation were T-54s or T-55s.

Damansky Incident

Its second deployment was at the Sino-Soviet border in March 1969, in a conflict known as the Damansky Incident, where at least one platoon of T-62 tanks were involved in intense combat. This incident was in the context of the Sino-Soviet split and was part of the seven-month undeclared Sino-Soviet border conflict.

During a maneuver, one T-62 with the side number 545 was disabled in an ambush, and both sides withdrew from the site after the ensuing short skirmish. T-62 No. 545 became the focus of further battles, ending with the Chinese forces managing to recover it. A great number of details regarding the initial ambush and the battles that followed are still unclear, and many of the things written on what the Chinese obtained from T-62 No. 545 are in dispute. Regardless, the captured T-62 remains exhibited to this day at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in Beijing.

T-62 No. 545 after its capture – Source: Wikipedia


The Soviet 40th Army stationed at the border with Afghanistan had its motor rifle regiments almost fully equipped with T-62 tanks. When the 40th Army was sent in to occupy Afghanistan after a successful Communist government takeover, the T-62 became the main tank used by Soviet forces. T-62 tanks were also handed over to the Afghan Army, supplementing the existing fleet of T-55 tanks that had been acquired prior to the Communist takeover. Lessons learned from the asymmetrical nature of the fighting in Afghanistan led to the inclusion of several anti-mine protection features into the T-55AM and T-62M modernization project, which was initially completely unrelated to Afghanistan and had been designed according to conventional army standards.

T-62M exiting Afghanistan during the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 – Source: U.S Department of Defense

The 40th Army was almost fully equipped with the T-62 when it began its garrison in Afghanistan. Aside from tanks in motorized rifle units, the 40th Army also had three tank regiments fully equipped with T-62 tanks:

  • 234th Tank Regiment
  • 285th Tank Regiment
  • 24th Guards Tank Regiment

In total, there were 39 tank battalions in Afghanistan in 1980. However, as the nature of the fighting became clear, tank regiments were withdrawn back to the USSR or were converted. In June 1980, the 234th Tank Regiment was withdrawn, and then in March 1984, the 285th Tank Regiment was transformed into the 682nd Motorized Rifle Regiment, and the total number of tank battalions was reduced to 17. In October 1986, the 24th Guards Tank Regiment was withdrawn, leaving no tank regiments left in Afghanistan. From then on, T-62 tanks served only in motorized rifle divisions. In 1980, it can be estimated that there were approximately 800 tanks in the 40th Army, and by 1989, there would have been no more than 560 tanks. The total number of losses amounted to 147 tanks, the majority of which were due to hull damage from mine and IED blasts.

T-62 Tank Losses in Afghanistan
Year 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 Total
Tank Losses 1 18 28 17 13 7 18 14 7 22 2 147

However, it is worth keeping in mind that there is conflicting data on the total number of irretrievable losses in Afghanistan. Data tabulated in a 1991 military science journal article states that 110 T-55 and T-62 tanks were destroyed in total. For tanks, mines and IEDs were the predominant cause of losses, accounting for 75% of damaged tanks, and most of the irretrievable losses were caused by mines or IEDs with a total charge mass greater than 12 kg TNT.

From the USSR to Russia

After the dissolution of the USSR, T-62 tanks were phased out at an accelerated pace, as the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, signed on 19 November 1990, mandated massive reductions in tanks to eliminate the overwhelming quantitative advantage that the Soviet Army had in conventional weapons. According to the data submitted by the USSR government during its signing of the CFE treaty, as of November 1990, the Soviet Army had 5,190 T-62 tanks of various modifications in Europe. Being the successor to the USSR, Russia took to downsizing its tank fleet, leading to thousands of T-62 being scrapped alongside the T-54, T-55, T-10, and other legacy tanks.

Chechen Wars

During the First Chechen War (1994-1996), a small number of T-62 tanks were used by Russian forces, mainly by the internal security troops (MVD). Some belonged to units based in the North Caucasus region, such as the 42nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division, which later became the permanent garrison force in Chechnya. The T-62 saw relatively little combat, playing only a minor role in the fighting leading up to the assault on Grozny in late 1994, where it was completely overshadowed by the T-72 and T-80.

During the Second Chechen War (1999-2000), the T-62 took a largely secondary role, mostly being deployed as static firing points.

T-62 in the First Chechen War – Source: Unknown Online Source

Russo-Georgian War

By the time the Russian Army was called in to intervene in the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia, the T-62 was largely out of the picture, although a small number of tanks still managed to see some combat in the hands of the MVD forces deployed to South Ossetia. No reliable data is available on the number of tanks deployed.

T-62 with slat armor screens during the Russo-Georgian War – Source: Internet

Ukrainian War

A T-62 formerly operated by Russian separatists, captured by the Ukrainian Army – Source: Unknown Online Source

The T-62 recently regained its relevance in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Initially, T-62s began to be reactivated to arm the separatist troops of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, but owing to the massive tank losses suffered by the Russian Army, a call for tank replacements has led to the reactivation and upgrading of T-62 and T-62M tanks from long-term storage. Most of the tanks being reactivated are of the older T-62 model, as the T-62M was never particularly numerous, and some had already been sent to Syria as military aid.

Notable Service by Foreign Operators

Yom Kippur War

Abandoned Syrian T-62 tanks at the Golan Heights – Source: Roman Frister

From a Western perspective, the most notable conflict where the T-62 was involved was the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War. The war took place in October 1973 and began with a joint Syrian-Egyptian invasion into the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights with the intention of regaining these territories, previously lost during the Six-Day War in 1967. The USSR exported hundreds of T-62 tanks to Syria and Egypt to supplement their T-55 fleet, which formed the backbone of the Syrian tank forces. The war was closely studied by TRADOC, helping to establish a new non-nuclear combat doctrine for the U.S military, and thousands of subsequent US Army tankers were trained to recognize the T-62 as the archetypal Soviet medium tank. The precise number of losses suffered by the Syrian and Egyptian armies is unknown, but it is known from IDF Ordnance Corps records that no more than 132 tanks were captured intact.

Iran-Iraq War

T-62 abandoned in a swamp during the Iran-Iraq War – Source: Unknown Online Source

The T-62 played a supplementary role on both sides, particularly the Iraqi Army, which had already had a fleet of over a thousand T-55 and Chinese Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. On the Iranian side, the batch of T-62 tanks it received from North Korea played a larger role due to the smaller overall size of its tank forces, but it was still overshadowed by the eclectic mix of foreign tank models operated by the Iranian Army, such as the M47 Patton, Chieftain, and Type 59. Despite the static fighting that characterized most of the war, both sides managed to carry out a number of large scale armored maneuvers, leading to some of the largest and most violent tank clashes of the period. An unknown number of tanks were lost.

Chadian-Libyan War

The Libyan Army was equipped with several hundred T-62 tanks during the timeframe of the nearly decade-long Chadian-Libyan War. The degree of involvement of the T-62 is unclear, although it is at least known that they formed the minority of the Libyan tank forces in Chad during the last phase of the conflict, known as the “Toyota War”, when united Chadian forces expelled an increasingly disorganized Libyan Army with the use of Toyota trucks armed with French-supplied MILAN missiles. There are even reports of a Libyan T-62 that was knocked out by one of these Chadian “technicals”. There is no reliable data and few accounts of the use of T-62s during the conflict.

Angolan War

The T-62 was used in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale by the Cuban expeditionary forces deployed to the region to assist Angola.

No more than 364 tanks had been in use by the People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), Cuba’s ally in the country, from 1980 to 1987. By early 1987, at the eve of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, FAPLA had around 500 tanks in total, composed of a half-half mix of T-62s and T-55s. FAPLA’s tank units were further reinforced after receiving Cuban military aid and training. Many of the tanks deployed to Cuito Cuanavale were lost to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) through destruction or capture. Some of these tanks were then passed on to the South African Defence Force (SADF) for study and testing.

T-62 captured by the SADF undergoing tests – Source: Unknown Online Source

Gulf War

Burned-out T-62 tanks photographed during Operation Desert Storm – Source: The U.S. National Archives

Despite the overall devastation of the Iran-Iraq War, the tank forces of the Iraqi Army had not been depleted significantly, as the leadership did not commit to a massive armored offensive to decisively end the conflict. As such, the Iraqi T-62 fleet was far from spent, although after 1980, the Iraqi leadership chose to continue expanding its army by importing nearly 3,000 Chinese tanks instead of relying on the USSR. By the start of the Gulf War, the T-62 had lost much of its prominence in the Iraqi Army, making up less than a sixth of its tank fleet, but nevertheless, it took part in the fight against Coalition forces in 1991. Its performance was practically indistinguishable from most of the other Iraqi tanks that took part, generally failing to make much of an impression against advancing Coalition ground forces.

Main Soviet Versions

A T-62K, outwardly identical to a T-62. Although the tank had two radios, frequency filtering allowed both radios to operate from one antenna. A fixed mast antenna could be erected to turn the T-62K into a static command post – Source: Танки 60-х. Боевые машины Уралвагонзавода

During its service in the Soviet Army, the T-62 saw relatively few changes. Small modifications were introduced throughout the 1960s and 1970s, none of which were major enough to warrant a new designation. In 1981, the modernization of the T-62 was initiated alongside a parallel modernization project for the T-55, leading to the creation of the T-62M. It entered service in 1983, and spawned its own small family of sub-variants. A total of 785 tanks were officially upgraded to the T-62M standard.

A T-62M, likely belonging to the Russian garrison in Chechnya – Source: Unknown Online Source

The T-62M was equipped with the “Volna” fire-control system, featuring a KTD-2 laser rangefinder, BV-62 ballistic computer, TShSM-41U sight, and guided missile capability via the 1K13 sight, which was also a night sight. It could carry the 3UBK10-2 round with the 9M117 missile in its existing ammunition racks and fire it through the main gun, using the 1K13 sight to guide it. Its protection from ballistic threats was improved to the same level as the basic T-64A and T-72 with new metal-polymer composite armor on the turret and hull, while its mine protection was improved with a spaced steel belly plate underneath the nose of the hull. The tank also had a 902B “Tucha” smokescreening system with 8 smoke grenade launchers and it was outfitted with new anti-napalm measures. A new V-55U engine uprated to 620 hp allowed its driving characteristics to remain largely the same as a basic T-62. Additional upgrades included the addition of a thermal sleeve on the main gun barrel and the replacement of the R-113 or R-123 radio with new R-173.

T-62 – Basic version that evolved over time with small modifications.
T-62K – Command tank version, with reduced ammunition load to accommodate an additional long-range radio, internal gasoline powered APU, and TNA-2 navigation system.
T-62D – T-62 with the “Drozd” active protection system
T-62M – Deep modernization of the T-62 with new metal-polymer composite armor blocks, sights, guided missiles, engine, radios, and mine protection
T-62M1 – T-62M without the guided missile capability
T-62M-1 – T-62M with an uprated engine
T-62MV – T-62 with the modifications added in the T-62M modernization, but with Kontakt-1 ERA instead of metal-polymer armor

T-62M1, identifiable by the absence of a 1K13 sight – Source: Unknown Online Source

Foreign Operators

North Korean Ch’ŏnma-ho tanks, outwardly identical to a late T-62 in most respects, but differing in having a KPVT for an anti-aircraft machine gun in a T-54 style loader’s cupola. Later tanks, such as the ones in the photo, have an indigenous laser rangefinder on the gun mask – Source: Massimo Tessitori

The T-62 was widely exported to the Middle East and non-Communist Third World countries for hard currency. The vast majority of tanks were second hand stock from Soviet Army units freed up by deliveries of new T-64A and T-72 tanks, with the exception of T-62 exports to Bulgaria, North Korea, and, most prominently, Egypt and Syria in the buildup to the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The tanks for all of these export orders came directly off the UVZ production line. Bulgaria, Egypt and Syria were also the only two export customers for the T-62 in the 1960s, which is noteworthy since most of the T-62’s export success came in the 1970s.

Iraq, Libya, and Algeria were key customers for hard currency, and received large numbers of tanks in the second half of the 1970s. Egypt and Syria were the largest customers for T-62 tanks, and the two countries received the largest number of tanks in the period between 1965 to 1975, but only Syria maintained good enough relations with the USSR to continue sourcing additional tanks after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Small batches of tanks were also exported to North Yemen, South Yemen, and Ethiopia, and a batch of tanks was given to Vietnam in 1978 as military aid against the backdrop of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. After initial export from the USSR, T-62 tanks were also circulated among its users through military aid.

Exports to North Korea began in 1971, and the country became a steady customer for T-62 tanks for the remainder of the decade. North Korea also became the sole production licensee in 1980. The T-62 left a strong design legacy in North Korea, visible in the country’s indigenous tank designs, such as the Ch’ŏnma-216. This might be credited to the difficulty of overhauling well-established technologies and ideas on tank design. Contrary to most online articles, T-62 production was never licensed to Czechoslovakia, and SIPRI data never firmly identified Czechoslovakian T-62 exports.

Additionally, the T-62 was also operated by a number of other nations as captured tanks. Israel operated a moderate number of T-62 tanks (no more than 132) as a result of capturing an enormous number of serviceable tanks and ammunition from Egyptian and Syrian forces during the 1973 war, and they later provided small batches of tanks to West Germany, South Korea (as the Tiran-6), and the USA for study, familiarization and training at armor schools. The US Army alone received around 20 tanks, and one company allegedly was kept in running condition for OPFOR training during the 1970s. Several other state and non-state actors have made use of captured T-62s. After the dissolution of the USSR, T-62 tanks were left on the territories of a handful of its constituent republics, where it continued to serve in a more limited capacity.

In The Warsaw Pact

Unlike the T-54 and T-55, the T-62 hardly served in Warsaw Pact nations, with Bulgaria being the sole adopter of the T-62 other than the USSR. The reason for this was tied to the circumstances in Poland and Czechoslovakia at the time, as they were not only the sole tank producing nations in the Warsaw Pact, but also had major responsibilities for arming the other members. Both nations evaluated the T-62 at some point, and both rejected it, choosing instead to obtain licences to upgrade their existing T-55 production lines for T-55A production.

T-62 tanks at a proving ground in Świętoszów, Poland – Source: ZBiAM

The primary reason for the rejection of the T-62 was that it was considered to not be economically feasible to produce it, whereas the upgrade from the T-55 to the T-55A was straightforward. According to Czech author and defense expert Dr. Pavel Minařík, Czechoslovakia evaluated the T-62, but economic factors forced the country to skip one rearmament cycle, when in the mid-1970s, the possibility of obtaining a licence for T-72 production came up. A very similar explanation for the Polish rejection of the T-62 is often cited in various internet articles, although without traceable sources.

It is likely that the cost of retooling the Bumar-Łabędy factory in Poland and the ZŤS Martin factory in Czechoslovakia was the critical reason why it was deemed not economically feasible to procure a licence to produce the T-62. These factories had only recently begun T-55 production in 1964 and 1965 respectively, and were also building a variety of specialized vehicles based on the T-54. Owing to the differences in the hull, all of these vehicles would also have to be reworked if the T-62 was introduced. This was not the case in the USSR, as Factory No. 174 in Omsk was responsible for building specialized vehicles alongside regular tanks on its T-55 production line, leaving UVZ free to focus on T-62 production.

Interestingly enough, a high sale price is commonly cited as a second-hand explanation for the rejection of the T-62 among Warsaw Pact nations, but this would have been very odd given that the T-62 was a popular export item outside of the Warsaw Pact.

List of Foreign Operators

(Figures in brackets denote the year when orders were placed according to the SIPRI data. Inheritors of T-62 tanks after the dissolution of the USSR are marked accordingly.)

Mongolia (1973) – 250 tanks still in service
North Korea (1970) – 500 tanks imported from the USSR, unknown number still in service
Turkmenistan (ex-USSR) – 7 tanks in service
Vietnam (1978) – 200-220 tanks, unknown number still in service

Algeria (1977) – 300 tanks, all still in service as of 2017
Angola (1981) – 18 tanks still in service
Egypt (1971) – 500 tanks still in service
Eritrea (Unknown) – Small number of tanks donated by Ethiopia
Ethiopia (1977) – 100 tanks still in service
Libya (1973) – Unknown number of tanks in service in various paramilitary factions
North Yemen (1979) – 16 tanks in service
South Yemen (1979) – 270 tanks in service

Belarus (ex-USSR) – All tanks scrapped throughout the 1990s
Bulgaria (1969) – All tanks scrapped throughout the 1990s
Kazakhstan (ex-USSR) – 280 tanks, some T-62M tanks still in service
Russia (ex-USSR) – Unknown number in Far East storage, outside the purview of the CFE treaty
Tajikistan (ex-USSR) – 7 tanks still in service
Ukraine (ex-USSR) – 400 tanks inherited from the USSR, almost all scrapped, none in service
Uzbekistan (ex-USSR) – 170 tanks still in service as of 2017

Latin America
Cuba (1976) – 380 tanks still in service

Middle East
Afghanistan (1973) – Unknown number still in service under the Taliban government
Iraq (1974) – No longer in service, remaining numbers unknown
Syria (1981) – In service, unknown number of T-62M and T-62MV tanks received from Russia in 2019

Conclusion – A Tank Plagued by Myths

T-62 during a parade – Source: Unknown Online Source

The T-62 could be best described as an exceedingly conventional tank that struck an outstanding balance of high performance in every metric that defined a classical medium tank. Although it was not without its shortcomings, many of which were connected to its obsolescent drivetrain, the design managed to avoid suffering from major deficiencies in any category. From an economical standpoint, it was a particularly successful tank design, fulfilling its intended role in staving off NATO tank technological superiority without the high production costs and mechanical troubles that dogged all of its counterparts except the Leopard 1. It was also viewed positively outside the Soviet Union. Contrary to the common belief that most countries did not see value in the T-62 compared to the T-55, the T-62 was a fairly popular choice in the export market during the mid to late 1970s, even with the T-72 soon becoming available in the early 1980s. In fact, surprisingly enough, a significant number of major T-62 export orders were placed in the immediate aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which had not covered the T-62 in glory as it had ended rather glumly for Egypt and Syria.

Overall, in the technical aspects of being a medium or main battle tank, it was very much like the Patton and M60 series, and quite unlike tanks like the Leopard, AMX-30, Panzer 61, and Chieftain, all of which were characterized by good or excellent performance in most regards but had one or more major technical shortcomings. However, this is not necessarily the case in the public eye, as those who have heard of the T-62 generally remember it for at least one of the many pervasive myths attached to it.

The most commonly cited shortcoming of the T-62 was that its rate of fire reached only 4-5 rounds per minute, ostensibly less than half the rate achieved by its Western counterparts. In fact, this was a nominal figure that merely defined the aimed rate of fire under simulated combat conditions, and the same aimed fire rate was achieved by the M60A1 and Strv 103B during comparative testing in the US. Moreover, there can be a great deal of variance in the fire rate of tanks from differences in the environment, degree of target concealment, rigidity in following procedure, and crew skill. In a Soviet parametric study of the factors involved in preparing for a shot on a target, it was found that a preparation time of up to 57 seconds was needed for a T-62 to fire a shot on the move at a concealed target or 38 seconds when firing from a standstill, whereas in a US Army study on the stabilized firing accuracy of a T-62, the average time for 3 aimed shots was 35 seconds. Both studies were equally valid, yet do not represent the qualities of the T-62 outside of the specific context in which they were carried out.

Another common belief is that spent casings would bounce around the turret and harm the crew after failing to exit the ejection port. Like many myths, this one arose from anecdotes from first hand accounts and was not without its own little kernel of truth, but repeated retellings and omissions from the story originally told by the US Army testers studying the T-62 meant that only the most amusing part stuck around in the public consciousness, while the rather mundane truth of the story was left behind. Major-Colonel James Warford recounts the story:

“I apologize for briefly telling this story again, but…when I first got on one of the US Army’s T-62s in 1978, I was told the story of the odd and somewhat dangerous “trigger” for the spent shell ejection system. When the tank arrived from Israel, the system’s trigger (a roughly cut triangular-shaped piece of metal) was laying loosely on the turret floor. When the tank was fired, the shell casings were ejected on to the closed ejection hatch or port…then bounced around the fighting compartment. It took awhile for someone to figure-out that the loose piece of metal was actually the trigger that operated the ejection hatch. Once it was put into place, the system worked well and reliably. To this day…I think it likely that someone in Israel may have removed the trigger as a practical joke for the Americans.”

That said, however, these myths brought with them a silver lining of their own. In a way, such peculiarities gave the T-62 a memorable personality, in contrast with its rather generic outward appearance. Nevertheless, in the end, its appearance might still have been the decisive reason why it has never enjoyed the same level of public attention – or perhaps notoriety – of its predecessors, the T-54 and T-55. Despite being the face of a quintessential Soviet tank to a generation of American tankers trained in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, being as much of a synonym for a “Red” tank as a “Sagger” was for enemy anti-tank guided missiles, the T-62 is still often mistaken for a T-54/55 today. Although the resemblance and technical commonalities cannot be argued, it is ultimately a disservice to the T-62.


T-62 straight from Ultravagonzavod factory plant, 1961.

T-62 early production, early 1960s.
T-62 Operation Danube, Prague spring, 1968.
T-62 on Moskow’s red square, 1973 military parade.
T-62 of the Red Army, 1970s.
Soviet T62M in 1982.
T-62 from the 93th Motorized Regiment, 100th Division, Interior Ministry forces, Chechnia war, 2001.
T-62M with BAR armor, Afghanistan 1980s.
T-62M of the VDW Airborne Division in Afghanistan with BDD armor, 1980s.
Soviet T-62M with Dozer blades and mine plough in Afghanistan, late 1980s.
Russian T-62M ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor), 1990s.
T62M in Cechnya, 2002 with BDD armor.
T-62M, 160 Guards Armoured regiment of the Russian Federation, Chechnya 2001.

T-62 Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) Hull dimensions:
6,630 x 3,300 x 2,395 mm
Total length with gun forward:
9,335 mm
Total length with gun rearward:
9,068 mm
Mass 37 tonnes (37.5 tonnes with RMSh tracks)
Crew 4 (Commander, gunner, driver, loader)
Vision Devices Commander:
5 fixed periscopes in rotating cupola
1 fixed periscope, 2 sights
1 rotating periscope
2 fixed periscopes
Radio R-113
Night Fighting Equipment Yes (active IR illumination only)
Commander: TKN-2 or TKN-3
Gunner: TPN-1
Driver: TVN-2
Main armament 115 mm U-5TS gun (40 rounds)
Secondary armament 7.62×54 mmR SGMT or PKT (2,500 rounds)
DShKM (300 rounds)
Turret Armor Maximum:
214 mm at 30º cheek section perpendicular to turret axis
30 mm
65 mm
Hull Armor Front:
100 mm
80 mm
45 mm
Ground Clearance 430 mm (combat loaded)
Engine V-55V liquid-cooled, naturally aspirated 38.8-liter 12-cylinder diesel, 580 hp at 2,000 RPM
Transmission Mechanical 5-speed manual, with 1 reverse
Geared steering with clutch-brake auxiliary steering
Speed Top speed:
50 km/h (nominal)
Average speeds:
32-35 km/h (paved roads)
22-27 km/h (dirt roads)
Power-to-weight ratio Gross:
15.7 hp/tonne (15.4 hp/tonne with RMSh tracks)
Ground Pressure 0.75 kg/ (0.77 kg/ with RMSh tracks)
Trench Crossing 2,850 mm
Vertical Obstacle 800 mm
Maximum Slope 32°
Maximum Side Slope 30°
Water Obstacle Depth 1.4 m (without preparation)
5.0 m (with 20-minute preparations)
Fuel capacity 960 liters (onboard fuel only)
1,360 liters (with additional fuel drums)
Driving Range On paved roads:
450 km
650 km (with fuel drums)
On dirt roads:
320 km
450 km (with fuel drums)


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УКБТМ 75 лет тагильской школе танкостроения
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Cold War Soviet Medium Tanks


Soviet Union (1972)
Main Battle Tank – Approximately 25,000 Built

Soviet 2nd generation MBT

Both the T-62 and T-64 were innovative in their own ways, but not successful in the long run because of their cost, complicated features, rushed production, or primitive FCS. The T-54/55 had been a highly successful export for the Soviet Union, but so far nothing replaced it in this area. Due to their age and the never-ending competition between ammo and armor with the west, a new MBT with a large gun was needed. This model had to incorporate some innovations but had to be mature enough to exploit them fully and be fast enough to catch up with other vehicles. Overall, WARPAC quickly needed a replacement for its aging fleet of T-54/55s (the T-62 was only adopted by Bulgaria and the T-64 was even denied to the Warsaw Pact allies). So a “mobilization” model was called up, even though the T-64 was still in development.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

By 1973, the T-72 was accepted for service and over 25,000 units were built, but the production lines never really shut down. The T-72, in its modernized form, now represents the bulk of the Russian armored forces, and was adopted by the best armored units in all Eastern Europe forces. It was widely exported despite its price -double of that of a T-55- because it represented a good compromise, not complicated to operate and maintain, with many commonalities with previous models. It was a real upgrade in firepower, protection, speed and even fire accuracy compared to previous models, and even contemporary western MBTs. Unlike the T-62, the T-72 became an instant hit, was well-modernized over decades and is still frontline today, in thirty-six armies.
Iraqi T-72


The Uralvagonzavod Factory, located in Nizhny Tagil, came up with an “economic” design, which was initially chosen. It was based around the V-64 engine and drawn by chief engineer Leonid Kartsev (Objekt 172), and later refined by Valeri Venediktov as a prototype built for testing (Objekt 172M). It began its trial session in 1971, and proceed until 1973. When it was accepted the same year, the Chelyabinsk Tank Factory (which had built the T-55) ceased production and prepared for retooling. Soon after this, all other plants dedicated to producing the T-62 and T-55s shifted their production towards the T-72, which was delivered yearly until the fall of the Soviet Union, and is replaced now by the T-90 (1991).


Although in its general shape the T-72 superficially resembled previous designs, and especially the T-62 (small turret, low hull, very long gun), there were many differences in the drivetrain, turret design, engine, main gun and equipment. Compared to western standards, its specifics were seen as drawbacks. Too small, it was seen as cramped and uncomfortable. It was believed in the west the crewmen had to be of small stature (1.60 m or 5ft 3in) but after the fall of the iron curtain, it appeared to have been officially 1.75 m (5ft 9in). For its designers and commanders, the vehicle was in line with the experience of the Soviet armored forces during the “Great Patriotic War”. The USSR modeled its tanks along a specific tactical use. Tanks were generally low, nimble and fast, being difficult to hit, contrary to western tanks which were, comparatively, at least 50 cm (1ft 8in) taller.
Crew comfort was seen as unnecessary, due to the survivability rates on the battlefield. The same law applied to a relatively non-refined interior and the simple, rugged, but efficient firing equipment, which was designed for production ease and easy maintenance. Any fragile and/or non-standard piece of equipment was therefore eliminated before production. This explained not only the production scale itself -much bigger than their western counterparts- but also their export success. Such manufacturing principles allowed costs to be kept very low, and at the same time produced a rugged piece of equipment which was durable, with part standardization (interchangeability) and relatively low-tech, which was an advantage in many pre-industrial countries, both for maintenance and upgrades.


The T-72 is small by western standards, and particularly low (about 60 cm/2 ft lower than its counterparts). This was a requirement which also helped to keep the total weight largely under the NATO practice. This allowed a great deal of mobility despite an aged V-12 diesel. For example, two T-72 could cross a bridge instead of waiting in line to cross it one at a time. This low profile was a problem when fording rivers more than 5 meters (16 ft) deep and a comprehensive sealing procedure, a snorkel and tightly waterproof interior were needed.
These fittings also helped NBC protection, rendered possible by a synthetic fabric made of boron compound lining which reduced (but did not) radiations. There was also an extensive air filter system with safety valves and constant over-pressure. This helped eliminate any poisonous contamination as well as residual fumes, that could leak out from the autoloader. Overall vision was not outstanding, with a set of extremely small periscope viewports. The hull construction called for an RHA (rolled homogenous armor) hull made of cast steel.


The hull’s basic RHA construction was augmented by spaced armor, which was upgraded to the T-64 standard composite armor in 1979. In the early 1980s, T-72s received additional add-on armor along with rubber side skirts, and, in the late 1980s, full ERA made of active protective tiles was generalized. At the origin, the basic cast armor was about 280 mm (11 in) at the thickest, with the nose up to 80 mm (3.1 in) and the glacis made of a 200 mm (7.9 in) thick laminated armor, well inclined. This gave a virtual equivalent of 500–600 mm (20–24 in) thickness against direct fire.
Romanian T72M

Drivetrain & powerplant

The V12 which was basically derived from the WW2 era 500 hp T-34 engine. Rugged and well-tested, it was also shared with the T-54/55 and T-62 families, meaning a lot of parts were interchangeable. It was capable of 780 hp (582 kW), which made the T-72 look undepowered compared to western tanks of the time, but its performances were kept high due to the lightweight hull. It was also much faster and nimbler than the T-62 and even the T-55. This engine was coupled to a synchromesh, hydraulically assisted, seven forward/one reverse gears transmission. The steering system is a traditional dual-tiller layout, rather than the steering wheel/yoke familiar in the west, imposing constant two-hands handling. By the 1980s, the powerplant upgraded to the new 840 bhp (630 kW) V-84 diesel.
The suspension set was a moderately new one, combining traditional torsion bars and shock dampers on the last and two first roadwheel sets. There were six evenly spaced sets of rubberized roadwheels per side. These roadwheels were completely redesigned and partly hollow, like the T-64 roadwheels, but made of steel rather than aluminum, due to costs and durability. They were also smaller and much lighter than the traditional “starfish” model, imposing four sets of return rollers to support the upper tracks. The tracks themselves were similar to the previous models, but not advanced like those of the T-64.
Polish T72M1M


The turret was small in comparison to the T-62 and even the T-55, due to the elimination of the loader and its replacement by an auto-loader. The latter picked-up its rounds directly from a horizontal storage area (horizontally auto-fed), contrary to the faster and much more complex vertical actuators of the T-64 main gun automatic loader. The commander cupola was situated to the right rear, with four vision blocks, one periscope (later equipped with infrared sight), and a standard night illuminator. The gunner’s hatch was situated on the right-hand side and slightly angled down to the turret side.
He had one main periscope at his disposal and two additional vision block sights, plus the standard targeting sight with magnification. Target acquisition was manual under 1000 m (1,100 yds) but helped by parallax optical rangefinders above this distance. On later versions, this system was complemented by a laser rangefinder. It was seen as an expensive piece of equipment and in export version, only commander tanks (K) received one. Night vision imagery devices were generalized on Russian models in the 2000s, partly based on French technology (like the local Buran-Catherine system). These also are omitted from export versions.
The armor thickness was dictated by the shape, with was almost flat at the base, and the vertical section comprised a hollow space filled with sand (kvartz). It was called “Dolly Parton” by US intelligence. This thickness was believed to be about 200-250 mm (7.87-9.84 in). After further tests against various kind of ammunition, it was estimated to be the equivalent, at 1000 m, to 380 mm (15 in) for the T-72, 770/800 mm (30.3-31.5 in) on the T-72B with Kontakt 5 ERA vs. APFSDS rounds, and even 490 to 990 mm (19.3-39 in) vs. HEAT rounds. The late T-72B had the best level of protection among the Soviet-era tanks, even superior to the early T-90.
Polish T72M1M


Surprisingly for its small size and weight, the T-72 main gun had a killer punch, well above the standard rifled L7 105 mm (4.13 in) and even superior to the 120 mm/L44 (4.72 in) NATO smoothbore tank guns (at least on paper). This 125 mm (4.9 in) 2A46 gun series was capable of firing HEAT and APFSDS “sabot” rounds, as well as ATGMs with folded winglets. Its ideal range was 1,800 m (1,970 yds) where it had a mean error of 1 m (39.4 in). The maximal range was limited by the turret shape, as customary with Soviet designs, with poor elevation that only allowed a range of 9000 m (9,952 yds). Depression was also very limited according to western standards. Maximum aimed fire range was about 4,000 m (4,375 yds) with ATGMs. The gun barrel had an integral pressure reserve drum for rapid smoke evacuation from the bore, and it was certified for ramming a 40 cm iron-reinforced brick wall. It received, early on, a thermal sleeve. However, the stabilizers were of average precision and it was usual to stop the tank in order to fire more accurately. It was assisted by the traditional “Luna” infrared illuminator. The autoloader had to crank up the breech-block three degrees above the horizontal in order to line it up with the new shell, compensated by the vertically independent gunner’s sight to keep the aim. Spent cartridges were ejected through a rear turret port. The normal rate of fire was about 8 rounds per minute.
Secondary armament comprised the usual coaxial 7.62 mm (0.3 in) PKT machine gun, fed with some 2500 cartridges, and the 12.7 mm (0.5 in) NSVT anti-aircraft machine gun, an enhanced, faster version of the old “Dushka”. It was strange to find such pieces of weaponry, intended for AA protection, at a time most attack jets were capable of strafing passes at Mach 1 and more, but they were aimed against attack helicopters. These became a real threat with the adoption of TOW and HOT missiles, as shown in the later part of the Vietnam war. Besides, this mid-size firepower was still an asset in ground engagements with softskin or lightly-armored targets.
Polish T72M firing

Production and variants

Only 600 of the early T-72 were built in 1973-79. The same year the T-72A was introduced, followed by the T-72B in 1985. The T-72 was also produced by the Czech, Romanian, Serbian, and Polish industries, by 10-12 other countries under (or without) license, and was declined in as many variants and derivatives as the T-54/55 family.

The T-72 “Ural” (1973)

This base version, derived from the Ob’yekt 172M, had the original 125 mm (4.92 in) D-81TM and searchlight mounted on the left, and the TPD-2-49 coincidence optical rangefinder sight. It was declined into the command version T-72K, fitted with more powerful sets for radio transmission. For the platoon leader (NATO K-1), R-130M radio, for company (NATO K-2) two R-123M/R-173 additional radios and 10 m (33 ft) telescopic mast, and for the battalion/regiment command versions (NATO K-3) wR-123M/R-173 additional radios and the R-130M. The Ob’yekt 172M-E, Ob’yekt 172M-E1, were tailored export versions, simplified, but with 44 rounds (Irak, Syria, and built in Poland as the “Bumar-Łabędy”).
There were three modernization phases, one in 1975-76 with the Ob’yekt 172-2M “Buffalo” (metal side skirts, more sloped glacis, 830 hp engine, turret add-on armor, smoke grenade launchers, reworked suspension, 45 rounds of ammo), and the T-72 “Ural-1” in 1976, with 2A46 main gun and reworked turret armor. Non-officially, T-72s later upgraded with ERA Kontakt-1 were named T-72V – “V” for vzryvnoi (explosive). The third phase (1980s) called for a relocated searchlight (right), modified TPD-2-49 coincidence optical rangefinder and fitting of rubber skirts.
at Aberdeen


Although it is derived from the T-72, protection was much improved (1979). This also included a relocated searchlight, TPD-K1 laser rangefinder and improved electronic FCS, MB smoke grenade launchers, two-level rubber panels protecting the upper part of the suspension and upper hull, “Dolly Parton” composite armor on the turret front and top, flipper armor on the front mudguards, and many internal changes. It was slightly heavier (42 short tons).
The AK-1/2/3 were the command equivalents (as above). In late 1979, a 17 mm (0.67 in) high resistance steel appliqué armor was added to the glacis. By 1984, a better anti-radiation lining was applied and, in the fall of the 1980s, ERA “Kontakt-1” was generalized with the T-72AV.

T-72 AM

Contrary to standard Soviet nomenclature, this was not a modernized version, but the export one, modified indeed. NATO codename was “Monkey”. These were generally downgraded versions, less costly and complex, with thinner armor. These were also built for export by Czechoslovakia and Poland. The T-72MK was the equivalent command versions (as above) NATO MK-1/2/3. The T-72M1 was the export equivalent to the upgraded T-72A/1979g with extra smoke grenade dischargers on turret front. It was produced by USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The M1K-1/2/3 were the command variants, the M1V the ERA variant and the M1M the export version upgraded to the T-72B standard.
Iraqi T-72

T-72B (1985)

A much-improved version, far better protected (the best of the whole series), with a composite-reinforced turret front and top known in the west as “Dolly Parton”. There was also an extra 20 mm (0.79 in) of appliqué armor on the glacis. It had a new 1A40-1 fire control system coupled with a 9K120 laser RF system to fire the ATGM 9M119 “Svir” (NATO AT-11 “Sniper”) laser-guided missile. There was also the new 2A46M main gun coupled with a 1K13-49 sight, new improved stabilization system, and a new V-84-1 engine (840 hp or 626 kW). The early models could be distinguished by the placement of their smoke dischargers mounted on the turret front and later grouped on the turret’s left side to make room for the ERA frontal protection.


The ERA version fitted with 227 “Kontakt-1” reactive armor blocks on the turret front and mid-sides, glacis, and with sideskirts.


The commander version, recognizable by the extra radio antenna and a radio mast stowage under the rear turret bin.

T-72S “Shilden”

The “downgraded” export version, with fewer ERA bricks, simplified NBC and no anti-radiation lining for the known features. The T-72B1 was a downgraded version without the ATGM capability, with the older T-72A optics, and modified ERA armor. The B1K was the command export version.

T-72B obr.1989g

The model 1989 had an improved Kontakt-5 ERA armor, and a “Dolly Parton” composite armor extended on the turret sides.

T-72B obr.1990g

Upgraded version with a new FCS coupled with a cross-wind sensor and the V-92S2 engine (not systematic). it also had an improved commander cupola sight. The T-72BU was developed from this version, giving birth to the T-90.

T-72BM “Rogatka” obr.2006g

Developed from the Object 184M, A Russian home defense and export version of the T-72B, modernized with a new gunner’s thermal sight, the “Nakidka” camouflage kit, a new 125 mm (4.92 in) 2A46M-5 main gun (muzzle reference system), propelled by the V-92S2 diesel engine (rated 1000 hp) and protected by the “Relikt” 3rd generation ERA.

T-72B3 (2013)

The ultimate, latest version, with an upgraded FCS and much improved ballistic computer, as well as a much improved thermal sight for day/night all-weather combat capabilities. It was first delivered to the 20th Armored Guards Brigade in October 2014, with a total delivery of 150 tanks of this type.
Iraqi T-72
Price tag is an estimated 30,962,000 to 61,924,000 rubles (US$ 1–2 million) as of 2009, according to the Russian-Venezuelian deal.


  • BMO-T transport version (APC), for the RPO flamethrower squads.
  • BMPT, heavy convoy protection IFV armed with a twin 30 mm (1.18 in) 2A42 autocannons, 9M133 Kornet ATGM, AGS-17/30 30 mm (1.18 in) grenade launchers and a 7.62 mm (0.3 in) PKT and optional armament, protected by “Relikt” ERA and “Kaktus” modular armor.
  • TOS-1 turretless variant equipped with a multiple barrel rocker launcher (30 tubes), assisted by the TZMT supply variant.
  • BREM-1, the standard ARV version with a 12-ton capacity front crane, a 25-100 ton winch, auxiliary winch, hydraulic dozer blade, extra tooling and equipment. The BREM-1M was the modernized version.
  • IMR-2, the CIV version (genie), with a 11 ton cap. telescoping crane arm, V and T-shaped dozer blades, mine-clearing system and ground-raising system. Declined into the IMR-2M1 (better mine clearing system), IMR-2M2 (improved for contaminated areas), and IMR-2MA with an armed bigger operator’s cabin (12.7 mm/0.5 in NSV HMG).
  • MTU-72, the bridgelayer version. The 6.4 ton bridge has a 20 m oa span x 3.3 m (21.9×3.6 yd) wide, max. 50 ton cap., could be deployed in 3 minutes.
  • RKhM-7 “Berloga-1”, an NBC proof turretless version (replaced by a superstructure) reconnaissance vehicle.

Local versions

Bulgarian T-72M2

An improved T-72M1 with IR/thermal sights, 650 mm (25.6 in) equivalent armor, anti-radiation lining, and rubber side skirts, treated with C4I and IR suppression coating.

Croatian M-95 Degman

3rd generation MBT based on the ex-Yugoslav M-91 Vihor prototype, itself based on the T-72 prior to the war. The M-85D is upgraded to the same standard.

Czech T-72M

Local-built version built under licence by ZTS Martin in the late 1970s. The T-72G is the Middle East export version. By the 1980s, the export versions were modernized to the T-72A standard with side skirts and 902B “Tucha” smoke grenade launchers. The T-72M1 was the export version of the T-72A, and the VT-72 or BRAM-72, the standard Czech ARV.

Czech T-72M4 CZ

Local production version derived from the rejected M3, with a custom design gunner and commander thermal image sights. The gunner’s one is a two part doors sight and the commander’s is a tall cylindrical one (as for the Leclerc MBT).
It has additional ERA protection and improved turret armor, MB smoke grenade dischargers, Galileo Avionica TURMS-T computerized FCS, Perkins CV12-1000 740 kW/1,000 hp diesel engine coupled with an Allison XTG-411-6 automatic transmission and completely reworked NIMDA suspension. 30 were upgraded recently this way.

East German versions

T-72M (1986) upgrade by RWM with rubber side skirts, “Tucha” smoke grenade launchers and the 16 mm add-on armour on the glacis plate. 23 T 72M “Übergangsversion” were Polish-built vehicles from 1986. T 72(K)/(K1) were the command versions. Also the T 72TK ARV (3), BLP 72 bridgelayer and FAB 172M or FAP 172U driver training version.

Georgian T-72 SIM-1

This version was upgraded with the K-5 “Kontakt” ERA, and received components from the Polish PT-91 Twardy, with a FALCON C&C system, GPS, SKO-1T DRAWA-T FCS with thermal sight, laser rangefinder and IFF.

Ajeya II

Indian Ajeya Mk.1/Mk.2

India procurement for a main battle tank led to testing several western designs like the AMX-40, the Chieftain and the Vijayanta. But after 1991, policy change led to an agreement with the Russian Rosoboronexport for the T-72M and T-72-1982 to be built under license. The T-72M had been thoroughly tested in 1981.
The T-72-1982 had a power-to-weight ratio of 18.8 hp/tonne thanks to its V-84MS multi-fuel 840hp diesel. The procurement was about 2418 T-72 of both models, one only 37 tons heavy.
The Ajeya MK1 is an Indian version of the M1, built at Avadi. The Mk.2 received the full ERA protection and 12 smoke grenade launchers.
Due to the Arjun project very long maturation and development, the Ajeya fleet is in the process of being upgraded with some polish PT-91 Twardy components (SKO-1T DRAWA-T FCS & PZL-Wola S-1000 engine), NES Marconi electronics, improved NBC, improved DRDO ERA, Tamam navigation, German RDI and local laser RF.

Iraqi Saddam/Asad Babil

Due to a ban on weapons deliveries after the Iran-Iraq war (where Iraq lost some 60 T-72Ms), a covert agreement was found to pass Czech-built M1 parts for a local assembly which was done as the “Asad Babil” or “Lion of Babylon”. There were armed with downgraded FCS and LRF, and a poor-quality glacis plate armor. Like the “Saddam”, a local adaptation of the M1 (downgraded for desert warfare), some suspensions’ shock absorbers were removed and a local-built searchlight was added on the right-hand-side. Saddams and Asad Babils were seen in action by 1991 and again in 2001 gulf war.

Polish versions

Poland was the second-largest producer of T-72s outside USSR. Notably the T-72M/M1 (“Monkey”) for export and the late version “Wilk” and “Twardy”.

The Polish T-72M/M1

Built by “Bumar-Łabędy” plant in Gwilice. Fitted with the initial “Gill armour”, then rubber side skirts and “Tucha” smoke dischargers. The M1 is the local version of the T-72A, upgraded with a 16 mm additional glacis plate but with less KMT mounts.

The T-72 “Wilk”

This local upgrade (1986) was equipped with a Czech-built Kladivo FCS or Polish Merida, as well as a Radomka illumination-free night vision sight, LIS-Varta night sight, Obra laser illumination warning system, Tellur anti-laser smoke dischargers and local-built ERA protection Erawa-1/2.

The PT-91 “Twardy” (1995)

A modern, 100% Polish MBT designed by OBRUM and based on the “Wilk” but with many new features. Currently in production by Bumarcombine with a PZL-Wola S-12U diesel (850 hp), Erawa-2 ERA (394 m2 bricks surface), steel side anti-cumulative screens, metal anti-HEAT screens, Drawa FCS plus TES, PCO SSC-1 Obra-1 laser illumination warning system, and US-DK-1 C&C central console. Followed by the PT-91A Twardy, PT-91Z Hardy, Malay PT-91M Pendekar and PT-91U optimized for urban combat.

Specialized variants

These are the PZA Loara and upgraded Loara-A – SPAAGs, SJ-09 driver-training vehicle, WZT-3 and 3M (based on the PT-91 Twardy) ARVs among others.

Romanian TR-125

The Romanian-built version of the T-72 with extra armor, modified suspension and a more powerful diesel engine.

Serbian M-84AS

The T-72 local vesion upgraded to the T-90 standard Yugoimport SDPR which also produce an export modernization package. The M-84AI is the ARV variant.

Slovakian T-72M1A

The main upgraded version in service today, based on the export M1. Features a DSM 16.1 engine monitoring system, full ERA and improved floor protection, better suspensions, fire detection/suppression system, laser warning, new driver, gunner and commander sights, Slovenian EFCS3-72A FCS, new electrical harness, S12U diesel engine, new smoke MB dischargers, and external sensor rod mounts.
The VT-72C is a derived ARV planned for India, and the VT-72Ž is the combat-engineering version based on a modernized VT-72B, but with a telescopic arm with bucket. The MT-72 is the Slovakian bridgelayer version, and the ShKH 2000 “Zuzana” a 155/45 mm SPG replacing the Dana based on the T-72M1 in the 1990s.

Yugoslavian M-84

The first one was a locally built T-72M but with some improvements over the original. The M-84A was based on the M1, with a local SUV-M-84 FCS, DNNS-2 gunner’s all-weather IR sight, 2-plane independent gun stabilization assisted by a local integral LR, plus a 1000 hp engine. The AK was the commander version with additional navigation equipment and radios, and the AB and export version (150 sold to Kuwait). The sub-variants ABK and ABN had extensive navigations equipment.
Polish WZT-3


As one of the original builder, Ukraine now actively developed new versions and derivatives for the domestic and export markets.


The first one was the modernization package called “MP” developed in collaboration with SAGEM of France and PSP Bohemia from the Czech Republic. This include new sights and improved FCS from the aforementioned, better ERA protection, and improved engine.

T-72AM “Banan”

Corresponds to the T-72A modernization package, with improved “Kontakt-1” ERA protection, the very powerful T-84 6TD-1/2 diesel engine (1250 hp), and additional grenade launchers.


A full upgrade to the local T-80UD standard, with the 6TD-1 diesel, Kontakt-5 ERA, FCS andh TKN-4S/1G46 sights plus the T-80 main gun. The AMG is a downgraded version with the original engine.


A version with a KBM2 120 mm sb gun converted to fire standard NATO ammunitions and reworked autoloader.


Modernization package of the T-72B for export (2011), with Kontakt-1 and Nozh armour, 5TDFMA-1 multi-fuel diesel (1050 hp), air conditioner, day/night all-weather sights, integrated laser RF and ATGM capability, with an overall wieght of 42.2 tons.


A new design including a smaller yet powerful powerpack coupled with a lenghtened hull and small troop compartment, with an extra pair of roadwheels. It’s a hybrid of MBT and APC.


The Ukrainian version of the BREM-1 combat engineering vehicle.
Ajeya Mk.I

Operators by continent

Most Warsaw pact countries had considerable numbers of T-72s alongside USSR. Czechoslovakia for instance produced some 1700 T-72/M/M1 and still retained 815 in service for its armed forces in 1991. East germany had 583 T-72s/M/M1 from either USSR, Poland or Czechoslovakia (Reunified Germany sold, scrapped or preserved 549 of these). Finland operated in the 1980-1990s 170 T-72M1s, Romanian purchased 30 T-72Ms in 1978. They are now preserved or in reserve to be resold. Ukraine once had 1180 T-72s in the early 1990s. They were either upgraded to pur into reserve and sold, replaced by T-80/84s. The 80 ex-Yugoslav T-72s are now passed onto the Serbian army, completely modernized, as the M-84s.
Here follows a list of actual operators.



Use some 500 T-72 which forms the bulk of its armoured forces.


The Angolan forces here used 22 ex-Bielorussian T-72M1s provided in 1999.


The small state operated 42 ex-Yemenite T-72s (third hand).


50 ex-Yemenite and possibly 200 more ex-Ukrainian in 2011.


The Kenyan army purchased 77 in 2002 and 22 in 2009 ex-Ukrainian T-72AVs (110 total).


Muhammad Gadaffi had a force of 150 T-72s as of 2012, and some were used by rebel forces.


Purchased 136 B and 12 BK (command) from Belarus.

South Sudan

After the capture of Ukrainian ship MV Faina in 2009, 32 T-72s joined the 67 already operated by this army.


Operates about 391 T-72s among these perhaps 200 are locally assembled under licence by MIC (Military Industry Corporation) after ex-Ukrainian and Bielorussian kits.


Operates 39 T-72s as of 2003 (unknown origin).



Operates about 150 M1s.


Owns about 192 T-72s obtained in two shipments (Ex-Russian) in 2009 and 2013-2014.



The Armenian army counts 150 T-72M/M1s.


After 1990 the country was armed with about 636 ex-soviet T-72A, Bs and Aslan (locally modified).


Some 139 T-72s are in service.


In 2011, Georgia had 180 A and T-72 S1M-1s.


Purchased 1900 T-72M/M1 as of 2009. Also produced locally as the Ajeya Mk.I/II.


This country had 980 T-72s enlisted as of 2009.


Some 215 T-72s are enlisted.


Has some 85 T-72s in service in the 2000s.


Operates some 44 T-72s.


Operates 70 T-72s


Have some 480 M1s in service.



The army still operates about 1465 T-72Bs.


Due to budget cuts, only a fraction (80) of available T-72s are in service, some 350 are put in active reserve.

Czech Republic

As of 1993, 543 were in service but only 179 today.


About 195 M/M1s were listed as of 2009, 113 are in reserve as of today.


Purchased 31 T-72As from Ukraine.


580 T-72M1/M1D (2009), 135 T-72M1Z, and 98 PT-91 Twardy.


Still operates 800 T-72BA ERA, 300 BM ERA, 3000 B ERA, and 1000 others in upgrade stage to the BM standard (Kontakt 5 ERA) plus 4000 in active reserve.


Middle East


Some 480 T-72 M/M1s were listed in 2002. Upgraded locally.


Had about 1000 T-72s, M, M1, but also the locally built Saddam and Asad Babil in 1990. After 2003, their numbers had dwindled to 375, and only 125 are listed in the new Iraqi Army.


Had 1600 T-72 M/M1s in service, some were operated by rebels in 2012-2013.

The T-72 in action

In Soviet service, the T-72 formed the bulk of the armoured forces in case of a conventional war. They were hold back during the Afghan war, more expendable T-55 and T-62s being used instead. However with the fall of USSR, there was still a 4000-strong reserve. The oldest T-72 were replaced by T-90s while a significant numbers were about to be gradually modernized to the T-90 standard. Russian federation’s T-72s were committed in action in both Chechen wars, and in Georgia (South Ossetia war).

In the middle east

T-72s were actively engaged in several conflicts, starting in 1982 with the Syrian forces south of Lebanon, confronted with upgraded IDF M60A1s and Merkava tanks. After a famous clash on the eastern Beka’a, a Syrian Brigade from the 1st armoured division gave excellent account of itself against M60A1s, with almost no losses. But they were conflicting claims about the Israeli losses these days, attributed to RPG and well-hidden TOW missiles.
Iran-Iraq War
During the Iran-Iraq war, the Iraqi T-72s confronted Chieftains and M48/M60A1s with good results. At the early stage of the war, a single batallion claimed to have wiped out an entire Iranian unit equipped with Chieftains. Iraqi T-72s played also a major rôle in the battle for Basra and proved immune frontally to TOW and RPGs as well as 105 mm shells from the M60s. A total of 60 T-72s were lost during the 8-years conflict.
This confidence led to devise local versions like the Saddam and later the Asad Babil. However both models were “downgraded” versions of the “Monkey” (M for export models) from Poland and Czechoslovakia and performed quite poorly in 1991 1st gulf war and again in 2003.
Many of them were knock-out by long-range fire aided by infrared sights, and a few by hellfire missiles from the accompanying Bradley IFVs. This was well demonstrated in the famous Battle of 73 Easting which was almost entirely done during a sandstorm. The feared Iraqi Republican Guard T-72s were decimated by M1A1s with ease, with the loss of a single IFV on American side. Another similar engagement occured on 26 February 1991 at the Battle of Phase Line Bullet.
Arab Spring
During the “arab spring”, Libyan and Syrian T-72s were captured and turned back against regular forces recently. Syrian rebels showed that using IEDs and well-camouflaged RPGs were only successful in an urban environment at dangerously short distances, but they had more success later with ATGMs at longer, safer ranges.

In Asia

Indian T-72s were engaged in peace keeping operations during the long protracted Sri-Lankan civil war, starting in 1983. They were used mostly for infantry support.
Armenia clashed against similar T-72s from Azerbaidjan over a border dispute, the 1988–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War. Georgian tanks were found in operations in Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia against Islamist rebels. In Tadjikistan, local opposition was also met by the T-72s committed by the Regime.

In Europe

T-72s saw heavy action in the Yugoslav wars (1991-2001), mostly on Serbian side, including the Croatian War of Independence, Kosovo and Macedonian conflicts.

In Africa

In the Sierra Leone Civil War, T-72s were apparently used by Executive Outcome, a private security company. T-72s were also engaged in the 1994 Rwanda Civil War and in the South Sudanese conflict in 2013. T-72s will certainly be used in operations in the 2020-2030s if not longer, unless there is a new revolution in AT weaponry.



T-72 related links & sources

The T-72 on Wikipedia
T-72 Operator and variants (wikipedia)
A 200 pages document of reference about the T-72 (in Russian)
Various technical drawings about the T-72.
Specialized german website about the T-72.
#T-72 on militarytechcooperations

T-72A specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 9.24m (6.95m without gun) x 3.6m x 2.37m
(30’3″ (22’8″) x 11’8″ x 7’8″
Total weight, battle ready 41.5 Tonnes (45.7 tons or 65 000 lbs)
Crew 3 (Cdr, driver, gunner)
Propulsion V-12 diesel 780 hp (582 kw) 18.8 hp/t
Speed (land/water) 42 km/h (26 mph)
Range/consumption 490 km (290 mi) to 700 km (430 mi)/ 1,200 L with fuel drums
Supensions Torsion bars and shock absorbers/dampers
Armament Main: 2A46M 125 mm sb (4.8 in) MG, 38 rounds
sec: Heavy 12.7 mm NSVT AA MG, PKT 7.62 mm coaxial
armour Steele and composite, see notes
Total production Approx. 25 000

Comparison T-55/62/64/72
Comparison between the T-55/62/64 and 72.
T-72 1973
T-72, early production, in 1973.
T-72 early side skirts
Early production T-72 with flipper-type armoured panels, mid-1970s. Only 600 T-72 of the initial serie were delivered.
Iraki T-72 with Gill armour in Kurdistan, 1990s
Iraqi T-72 with flipper side armour in Kurdistan, 1990s.
Soviet T-72A, in manoeuvers, fall 1970s.
East German T-72
East German T-72A, without the lower side skirts, 1980s.
Russian T-72
T72A in winter exercizes, 1980s.
Iraqi T-72M
Iraqi T72M in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
Iraqi T-72
Iraqi forces Saddam/T-72, 1991.
Czech T-72A Modernized
1980s Czech T-72M or A (mod).
Armenian T-72M
Armenian T-72M.
Asad babil - Lion of Babylone
Iraqi Republican Guards Asad Babil, 2001.
Romanian T-72M
Romanian T-72M.
Russian T-72, 1983 Red square parade
T72A in a red square parade, 1983.
Libyan T-72M1, 2012
T72M1 of Libyan rebels, 2012.
Azerbaidjani T-72B Aslan, 2013
T72B Aslan of the Azerbaidjani Armoured forces, 2013.
T-72B ERA, 1995s
Soviet T-72B ERA Kontakt-1, 1980s.
T-72B ERA K5, 1985
Soviet T-72B ERA Kontakt-5, 1985.
Iranian T-72S
Iranian T-72S.
Ayeja Mk.I
Ayeja Mark I.
Ayeja Mk.II
Ayeja Mark II deployed in Myamnmar.
T-72M ERA Morocco
Moroccan T-72M ERA.
Pakistani Al Khalid
Pakistani Al-Khalid, derived from the T-72M.
Georgian T-72M ERA
Georgian T-72M ERA.
Armenian T-72M ERA
Armenian T-72M ERA.
Czech T-72M1
Bulgarian T-72M1.
Czech T-72M4 CZ
Slovakian T-72M1, with Sabca Vega thermal sight, Sfim VS580 commander sight and two 20mm Oerlikon KAA-001.
Czech T-72M4 CZ
Czech T-72M4 CZ, the lastest local upgrade of the model.

Polish IWT 72 Genie vehicle
Polish IWT-72 combat engineering vehicle.
PZA Loara I
Polish PZA Loara I SPAAG – only five were built.

Cold War Soviet Medium Tanks


Soviet Union (1958)
Main Battle Tank – 27,500 Built

The most produced tank in history?

Still classed as a medium tank, the T-54 was clearly a superior design to the T-44. Nowadays it is seen as an all-out classic of the Cold War. The T-55 version, which appeared in 1958, was the sum of all the modifications applied to the previous T-54 series, with several differences which made a clear distinction from the previous model. One of these was NBC protection and a brand new engine. T-54s were modernized over time to the T-55 standard, leading to a nearly indistinguishable “T-54/55” generic type.

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By combining the T-54 and T-55 production figures, the Soviet Union delivered itself a whooping 60,500 main battle tanks, and when including local productions (Czech, Polish: 21,000 more), production reaches a staggering 85,500 units delivered. This is more than its WW2 ancestor, the legendary T-34 (84,000 estimated). Part of these were largely exported, with increasing numbers when more advanced models like the T-72 came to light. Again, this must be compared to the USA’s MBT production figures of the M47 Patton (9000), M48 Patton (12,000), M60 Patton (15,000) and M1 Abrams before 1990 (around 5000).
According to most intelligence reports published in the mid-1980s, when the Cold War suddenly grew colder, it was admitted that the Warsaw Pact could field more than 50,000 tanks in a single day, and modernized T-54/55s still accounted for a good part of this number. This has to be put in perspective with the T-62 (22,700+), T-64 (13,000+) and T-72 (25,000+) production figures, not to mention the T-80 (5400 as of 2005). But the technological gap between a modern-day, well-modernized T-80 and the T-54/55 easily explained such production differences. The T-55, like the T-54 was still a relatively inexpensive and unsophisticated design, fed by the same principles that made the T-34 an iconic figure of WW2.
The production itself was viewed as a quality, technological refinements or crew comfort always came second to reliability and simplicity. It had adequate firepower, protection and speed to match the life expectancy of a single tank in operations. This made the T-54/55 the most inexpensive MBT to date, with more exports than any other modern tank in history. Outside USSR, Warsaw Pact and allies, most non-aligned countries bought and had this model in operations. Thus, it is nowadays one of the best-known Soviet tanks, and certainly the most iconic of the Cold War.
However, the T-54/55 series has been battle-proven in all kind of environments, from the icy cold northern border between USSR and China, to the tropical jungles of Vietnam, and only Australia and Antarctica have not seen this model roll its tracks in anger. Unfortunately, its production figures never matched the quality standard of the western world. Countless Cold War engagements, during indirect conflicts, with western-built tanks, proved that it was inferior on the battlefield to its counterparts. A well-documented fact which was somewhat toned down by the countless local modernization and improvements aimed at rendering this tank a still valuable battlefield combination.

Design of the T-55 – model 1958

The all-improved T-55 was developed from 1955-58 onward at the Uralvagonzavod plant. It was basically the sum of upgrades performed on the former T-54s, but with full NBC protection called PAZ (Protivoatomnaya Zashchita), studied by the KB-60 design bureau in Kharkov.


NBC protection

It was shown in tests that this tank could survive a 2-15 kt (tactical warhead) nuclear blast 300 meters (980 ft) from the epicenter, although the level of heat and radiation forbid any chances of survival for the crew at less 700 m. The sealing system associated with the NBC protection was triggered 0.3 seconds after detecting gamma radiation. This protection, however, was only partial, with particulate filtration, but not gamma radiation or poisoned gas. KB-60 completed its tests on the NBC kit in 1956, with the blueprints and the range of modifications required was then sent to Uralvagonzavod. The T-54M (Obyekt 139) also tested new production technologies and incorporated the sum of the latest upgrades of the T-54B and planned successors, under chief engineer Katsev’s supervision.


The T-55 was fitted with the new V-55 12-cylinder 4-stroke one-chamber 38.88 liter water-cooled diesel engine (581 bhp) to cope with the additional weight. Fuel pressure was augmented. The pneumatic starter with AK-150S charger was new. A new heating system for the engine compartment was introduced, as well as an MC-1 diesel fuel filter. The hatches over the engine compartment were modified for better access and maintenance. At the same time, operational range and fuel capacity were increased, with 300 liters added in tanks in the front hull, for a total of 680 without external tanks. The number of rounds carried rose from 34 to 45, of which some were stored in “wet containers”, in fact, lateral fuel tanks. The suspensions, tracks and transmission were basically unchanged, but the modern “starfish” type roadwheels were made mandatory.


The main gun was basically unchanged, with the characteristic new bore evacuator introduced on the T-55B. New ammunition had been developed, like the BK5M HEAT rounds which could penetrate 390 millimeters (15 in) of armor. The commander received a new TPKUB or TPKU-2B sight system, and the gunner a TNP-165 sight. The 12.7 mm (0.5 in) DShK installed around the loader hatch was dropped later, as it was found useless against modern jets. The T-55 was equipped with the “Rosa” fire protection system and the turret casting had a thicker armor while the back plate was slightly thinned to save weight. The gun was stabilized with a two-plane system while infra-red vision became a standard. The gun had a four shots per minute ratio.

The T-55A

This version was derived from the prototype Ob’yekt 155A in 1963, characterized by a new antiradiation lining and full PAZ/FVU chemical filtration system. This development was a logical step further after the PAZ protection suite, and was developed by the Morozov design bureau in Kharkov in conjunction with NII Stali (scientific research institute for steel). The result was a special lining called POV, and permitted by the intervention of the Vagonka bureau at Nizhni Tagil. This was a lead-impregnated plastic applied to all interior surfaces to protect the crew, outsides of the hatches and hatch combings, protected by a thin steel cover. Outside the overpressure system, a new NBC-proven air filtration completed the set against chemical agents. After trials, the production started in August 1963 as the T-55A.

The T-55 upgrades (1970s)

In the early 1970s, the need for additional firepower (experienced in distant conflicts where the export versions fought on) dictated the return of the Uralvagonzavod DShK 1938/46 or KPVT AA 12.7 mm (0.5 in) heavy machine gun on the gunner’s cupola. This upgrade was sometimes called “model 1970”. Later on, in 1974, KTD-1 and KTD-2 laser rangefinders and R-123 or R-123M radio sets were fitted. By the 1980’s the growing threat of personal-carried AT missiles, experience from Afghanistan and urban combat, triggered the adoption of the ZET-1 vehicle protection system. This was a net-like structure applied on the main gun and flipper-type side plates.

The T-55M & AM (late 1970 to 1980s)

These upgrades packages for the T-55s & T-55As comprised:

  • The “Volna” fire control system
  • The 9K116-1 “Bastion” ATGM system & 1K13 BOM guidance system
  • The “Tsiklon-M1” gun stabilization system & TShSM-32PV sights
  • The upgraded V-55U engine
  • Improved suspension and RMSh tracks
  • Increased armor, anti-mine, anti-napalm & improved anti-radiation protection
  • R-173/173P radio set
  • A laser range-finder in an armored box fitted over the main gun
  • Soft side skirts & rear RPG screens (used only in Afghanistan)
  • 81 mm (3.19 in) “Tucha” smoke grenade launchers
  • BDD turret brow armor and glacis appliqué armor

The T-55M1 was a sub-variant fitted with a new 691 hp (515 kW) V-46-5M engine derived from the T-72 and rendered compact enough.

The T-55AD “Drozd” (1980s)

These T-55As were fitted with the “thrush” active protection system also called KAZ (kompleks aktivnoj zashchity). About 250 tanks from the Soviet naval infantry adopted this system but reverted to simpler reactive armor (ERA). These versions also adopted most of the T-55AM modifications, included the R-173 radio set, TShSM-32PV sight, “Tsiklon-M1” stabilizer among others. The AD-1 was upgraded with the new V-46-5M engine from the T-72.

T-55MV & T-55AMV (1990s)

This was basically an upgrade to the ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) protection. The “V” stood for Vzryvnoj (or “explosive”). Not all T-55s were upgraded this way, many still kept the standard passive BDD/appliqué armor. The standardized ERA bricks (EDZ for “elementi dinamicheskoj zashchity”) are mounted on the hull, turret front and hull sides. The Elite units of the Soviet Naval Infantry were first to deploy these tanks, followed by the rest of the army in a gradual process after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and extended to previous versions like the T-55AMV (AM) and T-55MV (T-55M). These were also exported, notably to some Iraqi elite republican guards units. The sub-variant V-1 received the V-46-5M engine upgrade.


This is an “upgrade kit” aimed for export to all previous T-55/T-55A customers. This package includes “Kontakt-5” ERA panels, longer chassis, stabilized TVK-3 and TKN-1SM sights, upgraded main gun stabilization system for the 100 mm (3.94 in) D-10T2S, and the new V-55U engine or V-46-5M as an option for more mobility. The combat weight was less than 40 tons.


The latest upgrade, both for the Russian army and export, includes a longer chassis with six roadwheels per side, a completely overhauled turret with the 2A46M 125 mm (4.92 in) main gun and autoloader from the T-72B, V-46-5M engine and protection upgraded to the T-80U level. As an option, it could receive the 1A40-1 fire control system and ATGM system 9K120 “Svir” (from the T-72B), or A42 and 9K119 “Refleks” (from the T-80U).

Command versions

T-55K1, K2 & K3 ; T-55AK1, AK2 and AK3; T-55MK1, MK2 and MK3 were derivative command versions of the T-55, T-55A and T-55M respectively. The “K” which stood for “Komandorski”. The K1 and K2 received additional radio sets R-123/R-123M and were given to companies and battalions respectively (losing 5 rounds in the process), while the K3 received an R-130M, R-123M, a 10-meter antenna mast and a generator AB-1-P/30 (and losing 12 rounds). This was the divisional level command version. The modernized T55MK received R-173 (K1, K2) and an R-143T2 (K3) long range radios.

T-55A on display at the Imperial War Museum North, UK. Possibly from Tsahal, according to the identification plate (Author John Arwood, Credits – Wikimedia commons).


The Object 155 was scheduled for production on 1 January 1958, replacing the T-54 and accepted into service as the T-55 in the Red Amy by May 8, 1958. Overall, 27,500 T-55s were built until 1981, as many upgrades followed along the sixties and seventies. Most T-54s were upgraded along the same lines as the T-55, ended as hybrid series collectively known in NATO as the T-54/55. With combined production, this series remained the bulk of the Soviet conventional force until the fall of USSR, and was also largely exported. The T-55 production eventually ceased at Kharkov in 1967 (replaced by the T-64) and at Nizhni Tagil in 1971 (replaced by the T-72). It was continued at Omsk (mainly for exports) until 1977. During the production course, the bow-mounted machine-gun was removed to store six additional rounds, while the coaxial SG MT 7.62 mm was superseded by the PKT. In the mid-1970s, the DShK 12.7 mm (0.5 in) was back on the turret, on the loader’s cupola, for additional firepower and AA fighting capabilities against NATO helicopters like the Huey Cobra.

Succession: The T-62

Other projects, the Object 165 and 166, were attempts to upgrade the T-55A with the new D54T 100 mm (3.94 in) smoothbore gun. After reviewing the design, the Vagonka bureau reported that only an enlargement of the hull would allow a wider turret race. But, in January 1961, a disgruntled Iranian officer crossed the border with the USSR with his brand-new M60A1 Patton. After closely examining this new tank, better protected and equipped with a 105 mm (4.13 in) gun, it was decided to upgrade the main gun to 115 mm (4.53 in). After quick development, this modified T-55 became the T-62 prototype, which led in turn to curtail the production of the T-55A as it was replaced by the T-62 on the same production lines. 25 pre-series prototypes were followed by full-scale production in July 1961.

T-55 variants & conversions

The Red Army kept perhaps 20,000 T-54/55s in battle readiness in case of a conventional war or to use in the aftermath of a nuclear war due to their conversion to the NBC standard. By the mid-1970s, they still counted for more than 85% of the Red Army MBT force. Thanks to gradual modernization campaigns and updated ammo, about 3000 of these contemporaries to the M47 Patton were still frontline when the Berlin wall fell in 1990. About 412 T-54/55s were in active service in 1995 but only 20 in 2000. However, 1200 were reported in storage as of 2008, with perhaps 100 T-55s in reserve and less than 500 in storage as of today.
Outside the countries from the following paragraphs, the T-55s were modernized or gave way to local variants in Argentina (TENSA upgrade), Croatia (the up-armored T-55 and the Minocistac), Cuba (upgraded to the S-75/S-125 Dvina TEL), Egypt (The T-55E Mark 0, Mk. I, Mk. II and Ramses II), Finland (T-55M), Great Britain (post-1990 packages and AA Marksman conversion for export), Hungary (local modernization into the AM standard), India (modifications on the tubes to distinguish themselves from Pakistani models or 105 mm/4.13 in upgrade), Iraq (T-55 Enigma, QM & QM2, rocket launcher, mortar conversions and local BTS-2 and BTS Saddam recovery vehicles), Iran (Type 72Z or Safir-74, Safir-86), Israel (Tiran-2, Tiran-5, Tiran-5Sh, Ti-67 & 67s and Achzarit APCs among others), Pakistan (Al Zarrar), China (Type 59), Peru (modernized T-55M1 Leon 1 & M2A1 Leon 2, Tifon 2 and T-55 fire-support, built in USSR), Rhodesia (T-55LD), Serbia (all-improved T-55H and the VIU-55 Munja engineers APC) and Slovenia (M-55, a local modernization performed by IDF’s Elbit expertise, and sub-variant M-55 USP for driver training).

Soviet T-55 conversions

Despite massive exports, derivatives, variants, and new designs like the T-62, 64, 72 and T-80, the T-54/55 family formed the bulk of the Red Army for 40 solid years, both for the ground forces and naval infantry branches. To obtain precise numbers of the modernized T-55s in service today is quite tricky, but it is assumed to have decreased greatly due the end of the Cold War, lack of funds for maintenance and operations, and it is estimated a good 70% of the park is now kept in reserve.

Recovery vehicles

The BTS-3 were medium armored recovery tractors (Bronetankoviy TyagachSredniy) built on the T-55A. The T-55 MARRS is apparently a late recovery kit developed by Vickers.


MT-55 or MTU-55 : The TM stood for “Tankoviy Mostoukladchik”. These were, apparently, Czechoslovak-built MT-55As converted as bridgelayers with a scissors-type bridge. The MTU-12 (1955) was equipped with a 12 m (39 ft) long single span bridge with 50 tons capacity. The MTU-20 had a twin-treadway superstructure giving a 20 m (66 ft) long, 50-ton capacity bridge. Most were based on the T-54 but others were built on the T-55 basis.

Genie vehicles

The BTU dozer blade kit was developed to be mounted in less than 1 hour on every T-54/55. The ALT-55 was a permanently converted bulldozer, with a new superstructure and an angular concave dozer blade with hydraulic rams. Another variant of the T-55 dozer is a tracked armored excavator, turretless, with a rotatable armored cab with a boom and a bucket. The ubiquitous IMR (Inzhenernaya Mashina Razgrazhdeniya) is the main engineer version, turretless with a modified superstructure, hydraulically operated crane with a capacity of 2 tonnes, convertible to an excavator, dozer blade and searchlight for night operations. Only two heavy crane versions SPK-12G were built, while the MTP-3 is an SU-122-54 converted to a technical support vehicle fitted with a light crane (1973). It is noted that some T-55s were also fitted with twin-jet-engine mounts and multiple water nozzles for fire-fighting.

BMR-2 mine clearing vehicle

The BMR-2 (1987) is the main version derive from the T-55. It stands for Boyevaya Mashina Razminirovaniya or mine clearing tank. This vehicle had a fixed superstructure armed with an NSVT light MG, a KMT-7 mine clearing set and tried many mine roller designs.

OT-55 flamethrower

The OT-55 (or TO-55 derived from the Ob\’yekt 482), is equipped with the ATO-200 flame projector. Ignition used by pyrotechnic charges, with 12 charges per-loaded. The stowage tank contains 460-liters (and each burst averages 36l). Maximum range is about 200 meters (656 ft).

BTR-T armored personnel carrier

This is a recent heavy APC based on the T-55 (Bronetransporter-Tyazhelyy), with the DPM as a sub-variant convoy escort vehicle. Intended for export and fighting in the Caucasus region.

Czechoslovak T-55s & conversions

The T-55A was the main version built in Czechoslovakia. Due to higher quality standard compared to USSR manufacture, they were more widely exported. They differed only by details like redesigned engine access plates (three plates fitted to the hull to reduce track shedding) and oval engine grills in the engine decks. The sub-variant AK (command) had a modified base plate on the turret roof for a radio mast.
-The T-55AMB, first Czechoslovak upgrade, with local-built laser rangefinder, fire control system and wind sensor mast.
-The T-55AM1 Kladivo, local AM version, with local-built “Kladivo” computerized fire control system, laser rangefinder and cross-wind sensor mast. The AM1K3 is the related command version.
-The T-55AM2, locally upgraded version with the “horseshoe” turret passive BDD appliqué armor, hull front and sideplates. Individual steel boxes are filled with Penpolyurethane and some hull cavities were filled for added protection. It was upgraded to the V-55U engine with integral supercharger (620 hp) and R-173P radio set, had 8 smoke-grenade launchers (turret right-hand-side) and additional headlights. Sub-variants includes the Dyna-1 armor upgrade, the T-55AM2B equipped to fire the laser-guided 9M117 100 mm (3.94 in) “Bastion” (AT-10 Stabber) ATGM and 1K13 BOM gunner’s sight. The T-55AM2K1, T-55AM2K2, T-55AM2K3 are command version respectively at company, battalion, and division levels.
-The VT-55A recovery vehicle, widely exported. It had a 15 tonnes capacity crane, main (44 tonnes cap.) and secondary winches (800 kg cap.). The sub-variant VT-55KS is the main export versions while the ZS-55A had a BTU-55 dozer blade.
-The JVBT-55A genie vehicle, is the main Czechoslovak crane tank (15 cap. tons crane and BTU-55 dozer blade). The JVBT-55KS is the associated export variant.
-The MT-55A bridgelayer and sub-variants MT-55K and MT-55L which had longer bridges. MT-55KS is the export version and the PM-55L is the lightweight version.
The Modern-day Czech Republic also developed the T-55C-1 dozer “Bublina”, T-55C-2 “Favorit” driver training tank and fire-fighting SPOT-55.

Serbian T-55H as seen in 2007, a late, localized modification of the AMB variant.

East German T-55s & conversions

These include the T-54Z, T-54AZ and AMZ (Z for Zusatzausrüstung or “additional equipment”), equivalent to the T-54AM. The T-54T and T-54TB recovery tanks were equivalent to the BTS-2. Other variants included the T-55AM Minenräumladung (mine-clearer) and T-54 M1975/2 flail variant, T-55T with extra towing equipment and dozer blades, T-55TK crane tanks, BLG-60 bridgelayers and sub-variant BLG-60M2 with a larger bridgespan.

Polish T-55s & conversions

These include the T-55AD command tank with a 100 miles (161 km) range radio, T-55L (local version of the T-55A) and LD (T-54 rebuilt to this standard), command versions AD-1 & 2 (T-55A with additional R-123/130 radio).
-The modern Polish T-55AM is called the T-55AM “Merida”, comprising a local SKO “Merida” fire control system, cross-wind sensor, CCDN-1 day/night rangefinder, passive BDD protection and active protection consisting of a laser-warning system WPL-1 combined with WWGD-1 “Erb” and WPD-1 “Tellur” 81 mm (3.19 in) smoke-grenade launchers each side of the turret and W-55 WAX engine developing 613 hp (457 kW). Sub-variants include the genie T-55AMS and AD-1M & AD-2M command versions.
-The T-55AM2BP is a Czechoslovak-based version for export only, built under licence
-The W-152SC is a conversion into a S-125SC “Newa-SC” air-defense missile system.
-The WZT-1 & 2 are recovery vehicles, while the main mine-clearer is the T-55A engineer tank, with KMT-4 mine plow. The IWT is the standard dozer/crane version, and the BLG-60 was a joint Polish/East German bridgelayer.

Romanian T-55s & conversions

Romania modified the T-55 for the local needs in the 1970s. Modernizations were performed locally, like the local T-55AM sub-divided into tanks equipped with the Russian “Volna”, Czechoslovak “Kladivo” and local “Ciclop” fire control systems.
-The local production was the TR-580 (Tanc Românesc Model 580) in 1974, with a new, longer hull and chassis, 6 road wheels and metal side skirts, but equipped with the original 580 hp engine. 400 were produced until 1981, including the TER-800 and TCZ-800 ARVs.
-The TR-85 (for 1985) was the second major upgrade and variant with a new modified turret, fire control system, suspensions and a more powerful German engine.
-The BLG-67, along with the sub-variants 67M and 67M2 are the main bridgelayer variant.

East-German T-55AM2B now on display at the Munster museum.

Ukrainian T-55s & conversions

The Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau was responsible for fitting on T-55s 4 smoke grenade discharges cluster and a laser rangefinder, and later the fitting of a 125 mm (4.92 in) KBM1 smoothbore gun.
-The T-55 AGM is the locally modernized version, aimed at convert all T-54/55s to the T-80 standard. (a thorough description will be made in the modern Ukrainian section of the website)
-The T-55-64 was an other upgrade to the T-64 standard suspension and powerplant.
-The T-55MV is a tailor-made modernized version or package for the export market.

Yugoslav T-55s & conversions

Before the breakup following the death of Marshal Tito, the country had a significant fleet of T-54/55s (called TZI-JVBT), which were gradually modernized as the T-55AI “Igman”. This version had components of the M-84 (local T-72), which includes the engine, external AT-3 Sagger missile rails, simplified SUV (meteosensor & laser rangefinders), spaced armor on the turret and front and smoke dischargers.

Other modern operators

The list includes Abkhazia (a separatist republic which captured Georgian T-55s and operated them until 2008, also seeing service in Ossetia), Afghanistan (50 ordered in 1961, later 705 delivered between 1978 and 1991), Algeria (175 total), Angola (around 400 T-55 and modernized versions from various sources, which saw heavy fighting), Armenia (perhaps 40), Bangladesh (122 modernized T-54/55s today), Cambodia (205 from 1980 to 1990 including Polish T-55AM2BP), Chad (60), Central African Republic (4), Democratic Republic of the Congo (20, ex-Ukrainian in 2006), Ivory Coast (10), Cuba (1300+, around 120 modernized T-55M/AMs), Egypt (around 700 T-55s delivered between 1963 and 1973), Eritrea (120 ex-Bulgarian, 2005), Ethiopia (1200+ from various sources, less than 100-150 as of today), Georgia (108 as of 1992), Guinea (8, 1974), Iran (120+65 ex-Libyan and Syrian, now upgraded), Iraq (300+250+25+150 from various sources as of 1991), North Korea (570 from USSR and Belarus), Laos (15), Latvia (5), Lebanon (400?), Mali (12 T-54/55), Mauritania (51), Mongolia (250), Mozambique (110), Namibia (15?), Nicaragua (136), Nigeria (100?), Peru (250), Romania (850 + 400 TR-580), Rwanda (30 T-54/55), Sarhawi Republic (50), Somaliland (85?), Ossetia (12/15 T-55s), Sri Lanka (99 from various sources 1991-2003), Sudan (160 from various sources), Syria (1375 total), Togo (2), Uganda (160 total), Uruguay (Ex-Tiran-4/5She), Vietnam (perhaps 450 today, from 600 ordered by the NVA), Uzbekistan (80), Yemen (approx. 150) and Zambia (20).

Former operators

Outside the above list, are Albania, Azerbaidjan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Ecuador, Hungary, India (apparently 1219 in several batches), Israel (by captures, peaked in 1990 with 1500 T-54/55)s, Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Serbia (510 T-54/55s), Slovakia (206), Slovenia (58), and Ukraine (still 112 in service by 2010).

The T-54/55 in action

Here is a summarized list of major events were T-55 or T-54/55s were committed in the world.
In Europe, the 1956 Invasion of Hungary, the martial law in Poland and the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.
In the Middle East the 1967 Six-Day war, 1970 Jordanian civil war, 1973 Yom Kippur war, 1980s Lebanon war and Iran-Iraq war, not to mention the 1991 and 2001 coalition wars against Iraqi forces (Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom). Until recently, T-55s participated on both sides in the Syrian civil war.
In the Far East, T-54 and T-55 action revolved around the Vietnamese conflict, with the North Vietnamese army. They also participated in the Indo-Pakistani wars, Cambodian wars and the Sri Lankan civil war, against LTTE or Tamil Tigers.
In Africa, the Ugandan-Tanzanian wars, the Angolan and Mozambique wars, and more recently the Libyan civil war.
It could be said that the T-54/55 has encountered or fought with nearly all NATO tanks types ever produced during the Cold War but a few, and was for some time a master standard to judge western tanks combat performances.

T-55 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.27 (9 m oa) x 3.15 x 2.40 m (20.6 x 10.4 x 7.1 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 36 tons – 36.4 long tonnes (72,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion V-55 12-cyl diesel, 581 hp (433 kW)
Top speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Suspensions Torsion bars with hydraulic arms
Range (with extra tanks) 501 (960 l) to 600 km (311 to 370 mi)
Armament Main: 1 x 100 mm D-10T2G or D-10T2 rifled (3.94 in)
Sec: 1 x 12.7 mm (0.5 in) DSHK AA (back in 1972)
Sec: 1-2x 7.62 mm (0.3 in) PKT & SGMT machine guns
Armor Frontal glacis 120 mm (4.7 in), sides 80 (3.15 in), rear 45 (1.77 in), turret front 200 (7.87 in), roof 30 (1.18 in), bottom 20 mm (0.79 in)
Production (USSR only) Approx. 27,500

T-55 related links

The T-54/55 on Wikipedia
The T-55 On Military Factory
On T-54/55s variants and operators


MTU-20 bridgelayer conversion of the T-55, now on display at the Latrun museum

Soviet T55 fresh from the factory
Soviet T-55, early production, summer exercises, early 1960s.

Syrian T55, Yom Kippur 1973
Syrian T-55, Golan heights, Yom Kippur war, 1973.

Czech T55, 1978
Czechoslovak T-55, 1978.
NK T55, 1975
North Korean T-55, 1975.
Finnish T55, 1980s
Finnish T-55, 1980s.
East German T55
East German T-55 in exercises with a winter camouflage, 1960s.
Syrian T55, 1982
Syrian T-55, Beirut, Lebanon, 1982.
North Vietnamese T55, 1970s
North Vietnamese T-55, 1971-73.
Iranian T55, 1980s
Iranian T-55, 1980s.
Czech T55A, 1970s
Czechoslovak-built T-55A, 1970s.
Soviet T54-55, 1970s
Soviet T-54/55, during exercises, 1970s.
Soviet T55A, Northern Alliance, 2000s
Afghan T-55A, as found in a scrap yard at Kandahar, 2000s.
Somali T55A
Somali T-55A at the time of the UN intervention (Operation Restore Hope) 1992-95.
Romanian T55A
Romanian T-55A from the time of the anti-communist revolution of 1989
Serbian T55A
Serbian T-55A in Bosnia, 1990s
Bosnian T55/M18
Bosnian Serb T-55A/M18 Hellcat hybrid (SO 76 M-18 Mod) used for mechanic training before the war in Bosnia Herzegovina, 1990s
Croat T55A
Czechoslovak-built Croat T-55A in Turanj near Karlovac, 1990s.
Macedonian T55A
Macedonian T-55A, late 1990s.
Soviet T55A winter
Soviet T-55A, winter 1970 maneuvers.
Iraqi T55A 1991
Iraqi T-55A, First Gulf war, 1991.
Albanian T55A
Albanian T-54/55, 1997 revolt.
Soviet T54-55, Northern Alliance, 1980s
Afghan Northern Alliance T-54/55, 2000s.
Serbian T54/55, 1970s
Serbian T-54/55 from the 32nd VRS, 1990s.
Soviet modernized T54-55, now on display
Modernized T-54/55 A, 1980s.
T55AM, naval infantry
T-55AM, Soviet naval infantry, 336th Naval Guard brigade, Baltic fleet, early 1990s.
Georgian T55AM
Georgian T-55AM in the 2000s.
Serbian T55AM2
Serbian Czechoslovak-built T-55AM2 Kladivo, 1992.
Romanian T55AM
Romanian T-55AM, 1990s.
Iraqi T55AD-1 Enigma 1991
Iraqi T-55AD-1 Enigma, Elite Republican Guards commander tank, 1991.
Serbian T55H 1990s
Serbian T-55H, 1990s.
IDF Tiran-5
IDF Tiran-5, 1980s.
Soviet T55M
Soviet T-55M, 1983.
Soviet T55MB
Soviet T-55MB, 1985.
Soviet T55AMB
Soviet T-55AMB, 1989.