Russian Forces Receive First Upgraded T-72 or T-72B3M Main Battle Tanks for Ukraine War: A joke could be made that Ukrainian forces should soon expect to be equipped with the newly upgraded Russian T-72BM3 main battle tanks (MBT), as the first batch of the modernized vehicles has been deployed to Kremlin forces – and it is likely only a matter of time before a few are abandoned and subsequently captured.
On Friday, the press office of the Uralvagonzavod, the largest tank factory in the world – and a part of the state-owned conglomerate Rostec – announced that the first batch of the T-72B3M MBTs has been sent to Russian forces.
“Uralvagonzavod has delivered a batch of T-72B3M tanks to the Defense Ministry of Russia. The upgrade was carried out under the defense procurement plan that stipulates modernizing T-72B tanks to the T-72B3M level. The set of measures to upgrade T-72 tanks has been worked out by engineers-designers of the Ural Design Bureau of Transport Engineering (part of Uralvagonzavod). It involved practically all the systems and helped improve the vehicles’ maneuverability, raise their firepower and the protection level,” the press office said in a statement, as reported by Tass.
Enhanced T-72 Tanks
The MBTs are an upgraded version of the T-72B that had previously received a new sight system with a digital display and a rear-view video camera.
The tanks are also equipped with a 1,000 horsepower V-92S2 high-power engine with an automatic powerplant and thermal controls, along with new protection that could enhance the survivability of the crew, even in a combat environment against anti-tank weapons.
This includes armor that has been reinforced with Relikt reactive side plates, while the tanks received a new 125mm cannon with enhanced barrel life, a new R-168-25U-2 Akveduk ultra-short-wave radio station, new fire-fighting equipment, and a Sosna-U multi-channel gunner sight.
“The upgraded T-72B3 tanks are also outfitted with a new fire control system that features an automatic process of preparations for fire and considerably raises fire accuracy,” Uralvagonzavod added.
It is unclear how many T-72B3Ms will be sent, but this could likely be welcome news from the Kremlin.
Russian forces have lost thousands of tanks since Moscow launched its unprovoked attack nine months ago, and it has even deployed hundreds of upgraded T-62 tanks to the frontlines to bolster its numbers.
In recent weeks, Russia has also been forced to send prisoners from its forced labor camps to work at the Uralvagonzavod facility to help increase the production of more modern tanks.
Reversal of Fortune for Russia’s Tanks in Ukraine?
The question is whether these T-72B3Ms will actually do anything to reverse Russia’s fortunes on the battlefield, as it continues to lose ground on nearly every front.
The biggest unknown is how vulnerable the MBTs will be to Ukrainian man-portable anti-tank weapons including the American FGM-148 Javelin, British NLAW, and Swedish AT4 – which have all proven quite effective against the Russian T-72s.
The Cold War-era designed T-72 is noted for having a serious design flaw – where up to forty rounds of ammunition for the main gun is stored in the turret.
The ordnance could be set off even by an indirect hit to the MBT’s hull, and this flaw had been known for decades after it was first encountered in the 1991 Gulf War.
Russia simply did little to address the “jack-in-the-box effect,” and its tank crews have paid with their lives.
The T-72 was once the most feared MBT in the world, but the war in Ukraine has proved that it has more bark than bite – and that is still likely true with this “upgraded” model.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.