Tthe T-72 tank will be fitted with reactive armor tiles on all sides. Pictured: Syrian Army soldiers fight insurgents in Jobbar, a suburb of Damascus.Andrey Stenin / RIA Novosti
The countries that use Russia’s most mass-produced second-generation main battle tank – the T-72 – should not worry about what to do with aging equipment and the transition of military operations from the field to urban conditions. The creators of the tank – Russia's Uralvagonzavod corporation (UVZ) – have figured out how to modernize the T-72 for effective combat in urban environments.
As the UVZ's deputy director for special equipment, Vyacheslav Khalitov, told Gazeta.ru, the project is based on the experience of the war in Syria.
"If you look closely at the armed conflicts in the world, war is now fought mainly in the cities, no one fights in the open anymore, because it is, in fact, instantaneous destruction," said Khalitov.
"But you can fight quite successfully in the city and in urban areas generally. Therefore, while analyzing Syria and the wars in Iraq and the Middle East, we came to the conclusion to make a special set of additional protection systems, which could be installed on the vehicle at the right moment, to fight more efficiently in urban environments."
To give the T-72 a new life, first of all it is proposed to increase its firepower – to install a more efficient fire-control system with the Sosna multi-channel sighting system, a new electromechanical drive stabilizer, the upgraded 2A46M cannon and an autoloader modified to fire missiles.
The modernization of the T-72 for urban fighting also involves mounting a bulldozer blade – this clears all rubble and debris caused by collapsing buildings and other structures, and makes passages.
A sort of cockpit will be mounted on the T-72 to protect the tank commander, who has to look out of the hatch to fire the anti-aircraft machine gun and is thus vulnerable to fire from all sides.
"We have made this cockpit with windows, so that he should have all-round visibility, but be fully enclosed himself, there is mostly anti-bullet armor protection there," said Khalitov.
The tank itself will be fitted with reactive armor tiles on all sides. They will protect the hull over the track skirts, from the front, rear and sides, as well as the turret.
The modernized T-72 tank will be also equipped with electronic warfare devices. According to Khalitov, militants now use radio-controlled missiles, and it is necessary to suppress their signals in a very wide range, which is particularly important in urban areas.
"We have installed equipment that suppresses radio-controlled explosive devices – these are two inconspicuous devices behind the turret that look similar to antennas; this equipment suppresses all signals sent to an explosive device," he said.
Viktor Murakhovsky, an expert in weapons and military equipment, says the specific conditions of the city force designers to make improvements to armor from a technical point of view.
"Firstly, shelling from all directions is possible, not only from a frontal firing angle, as usually happens in the field." Murakhovsky said.
"Secondly, it requires large angles of gun elevation to fire at the upper floors of buildings. Third, it requires better viewing conditions for those operating the weapons – there should be better all-round and upward visibility. In Israel, for example, they have two or three extra machine guns on the roof of a tank – it is designed to hit the enemy in the upper floors of buildings."
The T-72 tank, upgraded for urban conditions and fitted with a fire control system and thermal imaging sight in the new configuration, will be shown to potential customers for the first time at KADEX 2016, the Fourth International Exhibition of Arms and Military Equipment, to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan from June 2 to 5.
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