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  1. Shortly after Jeeps_Guns_Tanks started his substantial foray into documenting the development and variants of the M4, I joked on teamspeak with Wargaming's The_Warhawk that the next thing he ought to do was a similar post on the T-72. Haha. I joke. I am funny man. The production history of the T-72 is enormously complicated. Tens of thousands were produced; it is probably the fourth most produced tank ever after the T-54/55, T-34 and M4 sherman. For being such an ubiquitous vehicle, it's frustrating to find information in English-language sources on the T-72. Part of this is residual bad information from the Cold War era when all NATO had to go on were blurry photos from May Day parades: As with Soviet aircraft, NATO could only assign designations to obviously externally different versions of the vehicle. However, they were not necessarily aware of internal changes, nor were they aware which changes were post-production modifications and which ones were new factory variants of the vehicle. The NATO designations do not, therefore, necessarily line up with the Soviet designations. Between different models of T-72 there are large differences in armor protection and fire control systems. This is why anyone arguing T-72 vs. X has completely missed the point; you need to specify which variant of T-72. There are large differences between them! Another issue, and one which remains contentious to this day, is the relation between the T-64, T-72 and T-80 in the Soviet Army lineup. This article helps explain the political wrangling which led to the logistically bizarre situation of three very similar tanks being in frontline service simultaneously, but the article is extremely biased as it comes from a high-ranking member of the Ural plant that designed and built the T-72. Soviet tank experts still disagree on this; read this if you have some popcorn handy. Talking points from the Kharkov side seem to be that T-64 was a more refined, advanced design and that T-72 was cheap filler, while Ural fans tend to hold that T-64 was an unreliable mechanical prima donna and T-72 a mechanically sound, mass-producible design. So, if anyone would like to help make sense of this vehicle, feel free to post away. I am particularly interested in: -What armor arrays the different T-72 variants use. Diagrams, dates of introduction, and whether the array is factory-produced or a field upgrade of existing armor are pertinent questions. -Details of the fire control system. One of the Kharkov talking points is that for most of the time in service, T-64 had a more advanced fire control system than contemporary T-72 variants. Is this true? What were the various fire control systems in the T-64 and T-72, and what were there dates of introduction? I am particularly curious when Soviet tanks got gun-follows-sight FCS. -Export variants and variants produced outside the Soviet Union. How do they stack up? Exactly what variant(s) of T-72 were the Iraqis using in 1991? -WTF is up with the T-72's transmission? How does it steer and why is its reverse speed so pathetically low?
  2. Hello fellow members, a newcomer here. I just finished reading the exhaustive Ukrainian armor -thread among few other great threads, and felt like I shall contribute something to this forum in return. Hopefully I can drag other authors with me into this thread, but I restain the right to start the topic with the vehicle, of which retirement has caused most butthurt among Finnish armor community. That is, of course, the T-72M1, "Seittenkakkonen" (Finnish for "semdesyatdvoyki" / "seventytwo"). All data presented here is translated from public Finnish articles and seminarys. In this post I focus on the initial acquirement process of the T-72 from the USSR, and in later posts I will adress the NVA-deal, some interesting modifications and last, the disqualification of the T-72M1 in the FDF. A Nižni Tagili T-72M1, produced somewhere between 1985 and 1988, in AALTO-2004 exercise with reservist crew. The attached combat simulator equipment is Saab BT 41. Photo most likely courtesy of the FDF. T-72M1 in Finnish Service The acquisation and preparations During the 60's and 70's the Finnish land force's fist was one <sic> Armored Brigade, which main battle tanks were T-54's and T-55's delivered from 1959 to 1972. During 1975-1977, The parliaments defense commitee proposed the renovation of armored equipment. The next committee left its memo in 1981, which suggested acquiring armor from the USSR, utilizing possible bilateral trade. Such procedure was usual way of business in heavy machinery and equipment between Finland and USSR at the time. This would enable the FDF to form another war-time armored brigade. In May, 1979, The T-72 Ural, among armor workshop trucks and other armored vehicles was presented to the Finnish delegation in Vystrel training centre in Solnetshnogorsk. In December another delegation was sent to examine the T-72, first in theory at Malinovski armor academy and in practice at Vystrel. Memos from both trips review the T-72 very suitable for the FDF's usage, and to be a vast improvement in contrast to the T-55, but it was also considered to demand more service due its complexity. The buying process was initially started, but during may 1983 the Soviet counterpart notified for the Finns surprise that more modern, T-72M and T-72MK-tanks would be available. These vere reviewed by the Finns later in the same year. Later the acquisition refined to apply T-72M1 and T-72M1K's. Training in Odessa The process started to materialize, when a 22-men delegation formed of personel from the Headquarters, Armored Brigade and depots took a trip to Moscow in early September 1984, and continued from there to Odessa, where instructors and maintenance personell received their training. The journey memorandum is still held secret by the headquarters, but a good overview in to their studies was publicly presented by one of the participants in 2014. The course were held in military academy in Fontanskaya street. Gunnery took place in Khornomorskje, driving studies in Štepanivka near Kiev, and deep fording training was held near the town of Nikojalev. The academy was a combined arms cadet academy, and held participants from satellites such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Mosambik, Afganistan and Mongolia, but also equipement course students from a countries whose ties to the USSR were little looser, such a Finland and Algeria. The cadet courses lasted for five years, of which the first one consisted of only studies of Russian language. The delegation was led by colonel Tauno Ylänne, while their soviet counterpart was army captain. The students were split into three courses: The instructors, weapons and electrics, and service & maintenance. The Finns attending the course were no greenhorns; all had solid experience on the T-54 and the T-55, the most experienced elders even beyond that, from the T-34-85. They shared the views of acquisition delegations and considered the T-72M1 remarkably advanced in terms of fire control, night vision and loading automatics <no way...> compared to its predecessors. The cultural difference between the instructors and students was wide: The Soviets wanted to call their Finnish students comrades, which the delegation refused to accept. The instructors had gotten used to the low knowledge level of their students, thus for example the training for the command (K)-models navigation apparatus started from the basics of trigonometry. The Finns were taught like they had no prior experience of the armor branch, but these issues was to be solved quickly. Not every participant was fluent in Russian language, or understood it at all. The three interpreters included in the delegation could not be serving all need simultaneously, but with help of colleagues the students kept up. The Finns also had translated the technical documentation of the T-72 on their own, which greatly helped the self-studies. The translation was done by a major called Ari Puheloinen. He would later become the commander of the defense forces. A tankist to the bone, he left service for retirement in 2014, driving a BMP-2 in the streets of Helsinki. Instructor's training consisted of 300 hours, of which over a half was spent for combat vehicle course and a degree. Relatively little time was used for weapons and gunnery training, and the emphasis of the studies was on the cassette autoloader which represented new technology for the Finns. The maintenance group instead, focused on the repairs and evacuation, and also carried out a degree to attest their 336 hour training. The studies took place from Monday to Saturday, from 0800 to 1500 followed by a three hour self-study time. The method of theory followed by self-studies was seen successful, and was later to be applied on the training of conscripts. In the exams the Finns cheated abundantly : The interpreters had heard the correct narrations many times over, and despite of what the student sobbed them in Finnish, they provided the correct answers for the instructors. On the other hand, the Finns repeatedly broke the 2,8 km long tank driving tracks speed records for a great nuisance for their instructors. Practical training remained a bit thin; no full-calibre shots were fired, and deep fording was presented only as an exhibition. The combat frog, MT-LB was also presented for the students, and later it was chosen to be bought also. The students returned in Finland 27.10.1984. The tanks arrive The first 15 T-72M1's and T-72M1K's of the order of 60 tanks, crossed to border on a railbed 13.12.1984 and were transfered to Siikakangas depot for acceptance and modifications. Also a "work brigade" of two russian mechanics arrived to fix faults and deviations noticed in the acceptance checks. The new vehicles and its systems were put on several tests during 1985 in order to examine and clarify its features and performances. The tanks were localized with Finnish light package for road usage, Finnish plates in instruments, fire extinguisher and such minor things. The Odessa men were called in May for a week to recap their studies, exercise driving and perform so called "driving licenses" for the tank in order to start its usage on the Armour Brigade. The first batch on tanks, 3 T-72M1's and one T-72M1K was delivered from depot to the Armored Brigade in May, where they were used in public presentation and in additional training for the brigade staff. In autumn 1985, 10 tanks more were delivered and the conscript training (production of war-time troops) begun. In the next summer the Armored Brigade received next 13 tanks to start training in another Tank Company and a first T-72 cadet course. For the next decade they would be training two T-72's companies concurrently, until the second unit switched to modernized T-55's in 1996 in order to fulfill new troop production demands. The rest of the tanks were delivered in four batches, 15 in February 1985, 10 in December 1986, 10 in Apri 1987 and 10 in September 1988, respectively. All the delivered tanks, 54 T-72M1's and 6 T-72M1K were new and were shipped straight from Nižni Tagil. The exported vehicles represented a productions from November 1984 to August 1988, there were some degree of structural differencies, which caused minor problems with spare part fitment and documentation. Configuration was usual for the type, but the GO-27 gas/radiation meter lacked from all Nižni Tagili vehicles. This wasn't the case with Warsaw Pact T-72M1's. Later the war-time Armour Brigade rosters were adjusted and changed, which created a demand for three more T-72M1K's. These were amidst very interesting political situation, in December 1991. They were equipped with brand new radio gear R-173 and R-134 and new R-174 intercoms. Training equipment In addition to the tanks them selves, a large assortment of training equipment was acquired. It consisted of UDS-172 demonstration tank (a cage model of the T-72, nowadays shown at the Armour Museum), demonstration turret SAZ-172, autoloader training apparatus, demonstration main gun and broad range of cut-models of various equipment. In 1993 started training with three TOPT-3 turret simulators, which were modified in Finnish-Israeli co-operation. The modifications allowed to train the turret crews of whole platoon in a classroom. First usage experiences and maintenance When the users had got familiar with their new tanks and their most common faults and issues, a repair training was initiated with the Soviet counterpart, based on earlier agreements. The field maintenance troop was trained in Kiev, and the major overhaul training was held in Moscow, Atamanovka and Saransk. The Soviet union broke up meanwhile, and changes in organizations caused a few years break in the training. When the training resumed, qualitative problems arose as some of the organisations supposed to train the Finns weren't yet familiar with the T-72 them selves, as they had just took over functions which were had been located in the Baltic states. Additional training was bought from former DDR, where their biggest tank repair factory in Neubrandenburg, now operated by company called SIVG provided the Finns training for the repairs in transmission and sighting complex TPD-K1. Some testing equipment were also bought from SIVG, which proved to be excellent and some still remain in use while the T-72 is long gone. Discussions with the Russians in 1993 were held in order to find out at which phase and in what scale they applied interval repair to their vehicles. While the Russian procedure was not applied "as-is" in Finland, the discussions strengthened the Finnish perceptions of the tanks usual wear and tear. The overhaul literature and technical drawings were bought as full series in their whole broadness. Spare parts were bought per manufactureres guidelines, but adapted in the light of Finnish experiences. Repair equipment and tools was purchased both in metal and in paper (to be manufactured by the buyer, if necessary). Finnish repair volumes didn't correlate at all with huge quantities of Russian workshops, and thus it was not necessary to obtain a specific tool for every single work phase. After "just" couple years of use, malfunctions started to appear in the V-46-6 engine, on its head gaskets to be more specific. The problems were examined, among other means, by instrumenting one engine. The instrumentation proved that the cooling usage after heavy duty before engine switch-off had major effect on the internal temperatures of the engine. During repairs it was observed that measurement, machining if necessary, and hand-picking the bi-metal gaskets with accuracy of 1/100 mm cured the situation in some extent. Even thou the cooling was given big attention in use, the problem of coolant and pressure leaks between the block and the heads followed the tank thru its whole lifespan, and appeared to be unrelated to the origin of the engine; both Russian-made and later Polish-made engines suffered from it. The experiences with the T-72M1 in the FDF were mixed in their nature, when compared to our other tank at the time, the T-55M. The tactical mobility of the T-72 superior, but it suffered from its slow reverse speed in typical fire position action. It had less daily maintenance subjects and adjustments than the T-55, but the final drives in the sprockets was noticed to wear prematurely. 2E28M stabilizer, the autoloader and the sighting complex TPD-K1 suffered from small defects and malfunctions thru the lifespan. The ammunition provided to the T-72M1 was outdated, especially the 3BM15 APFSDS lacked performance. As for Fire Control Systems, the differences were such big in favor of the T-55M that it not a huge wrong to declare that the T-72M1 did not have one. Meanwhile the T-55M presented a superior night figthing capability with its gunners image intensifier, and its Belgian 100mm sabot ammo was considered capable for the mission. A Nižni Tagili T-72M1 on an OPFOR mission, 28.6.2012 in the Armored Brigades 70 year anniversary. This vehicle is a rare example, as it retains the fording tube. It was not usually carried in the Finnish T-72 .Photo: Niko Juvonen Sources: Panssariseminaari 2014. (The armour seminary 2014). Parolannummi 4.2.2014. Lecture: Colonel (ret.) Kari Haapanen : Odessan miehet - Suomalaiset T-72 koulutuksessa Neuvostoliitossa. (The men of Odessa - Finns in T-72 training in the USSR.) Panssarilehti 4/2014. (Armor magazine 2/2014) Esa Muikku: T-72 Suomessa. (T-72 in Finland) ISSN 1235-3469. Lecture, 4.11.2014, Armour Guild, Parolannummi, Hattula: M.Sc.(Tech.) Esa Muikku, Millog Oy technical chief: T-72 Suomessa 13.12.1984-28.12.2006.
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