T-72 vulnerability again illustrated in Georgia - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Tuesday 12 August 2008

T-72 vulnerability again illustrated in Georgia

My friend, Prasun Sengupta, has kindly sent these two photos --- two of destroyed Georgian T-72BV MBTs and the other of a destroyed Iraqi T-72M --- both all of which illustrate the vulnerability of the hull-mounted auto-loader in the Soviet/Russian MBT designs! Even when equipped with ERA tiles, the T-72M's structure is still highly vulnerable to ammunition blow-up, resulting in the turret separating from the hull. The T-90S has the same basic ammunition stowage pattern as the T-72, so it is unlikely to fare any better.

Prasun Sengupta writes: "It is probably the Indian Army’s worst-kept secret since 1979, but political imperatives have prevented it from being discussed in the open till now. The bulk of the Armoured Corps’ existing inventory of main battle tanks (MBT) — comprising 35 Regiments of T-72M/M1s (totalling 1,572 units) and six Regiments of T-90S (totaling 310 units) — all of which were acquired from Russia’s Nizhny Tagil-based Uralvagonzavod JSC — suffer from fundamental design vulnerabilities. When the former USSR gave its first detailed briefings to Army HQ in the late 1970s, the Armoured Corps had then expressed grave reservations about the T-72’s design philosophy, centred around hit avoidance. What alarmed Army HQ most was the prospect of a detonation of a mine or improved explosive device (IED) beneath the hull, which in turn would result in a secondary detonation or a catastrophic ignition of the T-72’s ammunition reserve (this being stored in a carousel autoloader on the turret’s floor), resulting in the turret being blown off. In the end, Cold War-based geo-strategic considerations and financial constraints prevailed, resulting in the large-scale induction of the T-72 since 1982. The Corps did not have to wait that long to realise its worst fears and in October 1987 a powerful IED detonated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam beneath a T-72M en route to the Jaffna fortress resulted in the MBT’s ammo (stored in the carousel autoloader) igniting and blowing off the turret at least 15 feet high!

History repeated itself 39 months later, this time in the Middle East when Iraqi T-72s were destroyed with ease through a combination of advanced technologies such as thermal imagers and digital hunter-killer tank fire-control systems (TFCS) and kinetic-energy ammunition like the fin-stabilised armour-piercing discarding sabot (FSAPDS). In fact, Operation Desert Storm in 1991 convincingly proved two critical points:

That the traditional Soviet/Russian approach of keeping its MBTs small and low so as to profile the smallest possible target, putting more emphasis on not being hit rather than on survivable most hits, was obsolete. Until the Gulf War, it was possible to regard the Soviet and Western solutions as different approaches to the same problem, each being justifiable and logical in the light of the different requirements and operational doctrines (as well as technological levels and financial possibilities) of the countries involved. By the early 1990s, however, one was faced with the quite surprising conclusion that the Soviet/Russian MBT designers and planners were wrong all along—and dramatically so.

Basically, the overall Soviet/Russian approach to MBT design was found to be flawed on two major counts: namely, the gamble on not being hit rather than on surviving hits, and the refusal to perceive survivability of the crew as a quite distinct issue from survivability of the MBT, with the former having priority over the latter.

The combination of these two shortcomings produced design solutions such as the T-72’s and T-90’s carousel autoloader and ammunition reserve being accommodated on the turret floor. While this indeed allows for a very compact configuration and ensures that the ammunition is less likely to take a direct hit—it also entails a very high risk of ignition or sympathetic detonation should the fighting compartment be penetrated, in which case there goes the MBT and the crew with it. 

This should be compared with the ammunition reserve of a hit-survivable MBT (like the Arjun Mk1) being accommodated in the turret bustle, with blow-off panels plus an armoured bulkhead separating it from the fighting compartment. Though the likelihood of the ammo reserve being hit is indeed much higher, the MBT (or at least the crew!) would survive even a catastrophic detonation. Small wonder, therefore, that when Army HQ first began drafting its General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) for the DRDO-developed Arjun MBT in May 1974 and redrafted it successively in 1980, 1985 and 1996, it rightly always insisted upon the indigenous MBT being able to survive hits from FSAPDS rounds, instead of trying to avoid being hit.

Thus, when the Arjun Mk1 MBT enters service, the Indian Army will have the unique distinction worldwide of being the only one to have two types of MBTs: the T-72s and T-90s on one hand that are designed to avoid, but not survive hits from FSAPDS rounds; and the Arjun Mk1 featuring a design optimised for hit survivability."


  1. And yet after this, the DGMF will keep inducting hundreds if not thousands of T series junk !
    We'll have a dubious distinction indeed !

  2. The ERA bricks can be clearly seen intact on the turret !

    I can only pity the souls inside those god forsaken T series tanks.
    God help our jawans!

    No wait ! as the Supreme court said in one of its recent judgments recently that not even god can help India. So true !

  3. And Today I read that the russian made RPG-29 has gone in to hamas terrorists and it seems that round can pierce the Armor of British MBT Challenger 2 and US MBT Abrams.

    And now we are buying more T-72 and T-90 through which RPG-29 goes thro like knife throu butter.

  4. Edit: Not hamas but hezbolla

  5. Reminds me of quote in 'An inconvenient truth'...

    "Its difficult to make one understand something, when his salary depends on him not understanding it"

  6. Can u post some orignal blog i seem to see the same type of blog written by shiv arror.

  7. ^^ that's a common info spread by "Prasun Sen" and was sent to both of these gentleman.

    If someone already posted it on his blog doesn't mean anyone else can't post it.

  8. Georgia even taken out, one of T90 in the current war. You can find pic in my blog. Ajay Ji if you can post that pic in your blog that will be great. T series tank is nothing but Coffins on wheel for the tank crew once any anti tank weapons hit T72/80/90 it is almost end of tank crew.

    Arjun tank in contract to T 90S provide protection to its crew. IA(DGMF) have been shying away from comparative trials of Arjun Vs T 90S tank. As both the DRDO and DGMF knows about the capabilities of both the tanks, therefore both knew what will be the result of those tests.

    Another thing which concerns me is upgradition of T 72 tanks, Russian Agents are eyeing that contract, IA should choose ‘Tank X’ developed with Arjun Gun and its Turret, or else it will back to useless protection and complete waste of money.

    Indian Army should purchase as many Arjun tanks till, Arjun MK-II starts rolling from production line.

    Keep up the good work Ajay ji…..

  9. 1.Arjun was conceived for “Not to Avoid the Hit” but “To hit first the opponent”. “If needed in that aggression mode take the hit even, but survive the first hit and then surely kill the opponent”…This was the doctrine designed similar to all western heavy tank like A1, Challenger, Lecrak and Merkava. IA HQ was okey with this doctrine from the beginning…and now why this sudden U tern?
    2. All these tanks are considered the one among the best tanks in the world because first of there robustness and then their capabilities and all are heavy category tanks.
    3. My assessment of the IA tank strategy/doctrine was to use a layered approach like US with heavy M1s in the front and light Bradlys ICVs in the back..of an aggressing force….So IA HQ when re-drafted the GSQR in later stages, still Arjun was planned to be a Indian heavier version so that IA can use same Layerd Approach with Arjun leading the in front (as tank killer), T-72/T-90s in the middle layer with high firepower( as we can’t have tank force consists of 100 % Arjuns, not sure due to cost or question on mobility) and third layer with BMP 1 / BMP 2 ICVs in mobile infantrymen.
    4. So when IA HQ suddenly shifts it’s strategy to take the Arjun off from the inventory, it definitely will kill our IA’s aggressiveness in the war-field.
    5. It can not be due to just Arjun is Heavy and need extra logistics and infrastructure support.???? I guess A1s (72 Tonnes) were not designed to operate in US..? But works fine in Iraqi sandy planes and fields.

    The question is why suddenly there is a shift of this strategy/doctrine? Is it because of political influence of some western countries …who definitely would not like to see IA marching in PAK plains and fields … or due monitory benefits to Arms Purchase Political + Burocrat Mafia….IB has to investigate .


  10. Dear Ajai Sir,

    Why don't u suggest NDTV to raise this issue on national TV?? You can invite the Army generals for a question round session or something on similar lines.... the public must know why is the army so crazy abt the t-90 with all its flaws...

  11. Go to this link and identify this tank. ;)


  12. Sontu you need to read up about the induction of the first few M1s in West Germany, I think in their XII Corps in 80s. It entailed billions to be spent on reinforcing the roads, bridges etc the basic infrastructure for taking the tanks. India and Pakistan are relatively densely populated and built up areas so you wont get many areas to run your tanks in sand. Plus even tanks get bogged down in desert

  13. Once again, the same bullshit as in gulf war...

    All of you are wrong, you don't know anything of T tanks, The georgian tanks we see here are T-72M, covered with contact-1 era, these are tanks bought from Tchecoslovaquia, local versions. Their internal systems are the same as 1970's soviet T72, no any modern FCS or computer. Their armor are not composite, just steel, covered with that ERA, they are little bit more resistant to HEAT small charges, but not tandem. They are absolutely vulnerable to russian tank ammunitions, such as 3BM42/44/48 APFSDS. I bet their ammo was from 1980/1990's era.

    Russians employed in this war T72B, the latest version from 1988, with a strong composite armor, modern aquisition systems, computer etc... New autoloader, reliable, and were all covered, with ERA contact 1, or heavy era contact-5 (T72BV and T72BM). If you didn't know, Not any russian MBT was lost in the 8 days war.

    Such T72 versions (T72BV) were used in second chechen war, and proved to be resistant to AT chechen fire. Just a little story : Platoon of 3 T72BV in grozny, supporting infantry to take a zone held by chechen infantery/snipers.

    During the battle all three tanks were hit by RPG-7 rounds, and in particular, one of them took 3 ATGM AT3 "sagger", and 6 RPG7 rounds, all in the front and flank of the vehicle. It managed to reply, and crew left the tank (hydrolic system HS), no crew injured. the tank was repaired and few days after returned to combat.
    The tank had penetration on the flank (that didn't lead to any dammage), and all around, the tandem era + composite armour worked perfectly.

    One more thing, the explosing internal ammo is a bullshit, in russian tanks, the rounds are in carroussel only, not in habitacle or turret, this is protected by heayvy front armor and lateral road weels + era + armor.

    As you can see on photos, georgian tanks were totaly destroyed, either by APFSDS, but much more by aerial attacks from SU25.

    T-80U and T90 are even better protected than T72BM.

    Russia used T62 in the war, but not against tank, the gun of it was able to knock the georgians T72; but its armor couldn't stop a heavy AT round

    Bests regards.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last