In a recently published video, Russian machine-building company Uralvagonzavod Corporation demonstrated the process of upgrading the T-72B tank of the 1989 variant to a more advanced B3M version of the 2022 iteration.
T-72 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) are the most extensively deployed tanks on the battlefield in Ukraine.
With Ukraine securing modern Western tanks from NATO allies, Russia has taken it upon itself to upgrade its existing T-72 fleet to take on the Western Leopard-2, Abrams, and Challenger-2 tanks alongside other cutting-edge tanks in its arsenal.
With indications of an upcoming spring offensive, reports suggest Moscow is upgrading and returning to service potentially hundreds of older T-72s. Some of these 1980s-era vintage T-72 tanks are being upgraded to the B3M variant to make them suitable for large-scale combat.
As seen in the video below, the T-72B MBT is brought into the preparatory workshop, where the tracks are dismantled as the first step, following which the tank is towed to be taken to another location.
The next step appears to be more exciting. Here, the mechanisms and assemblies are entirely removed from the equipment, leaving only the skeleton of the hull. After the tank is completely stripped naked, it undergoes some essential steps, including sandblasting, cleaning in the bulk pool, restoration of integrity during welding, and painting.
Modernisation of a Russian T-72B MBT to a T-72B3M at Uralvaganzavod. #Russia #Tank #T72 #MBT #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/ln9OhJv31s
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) April 14, 2023
The video shows that a new 2A46M-5-01 smoothbore gun with an enhanced stabilization system, Relikt passive dynamic protection devices, and new optical sighting equipment are being installed in the turret of the MBT.
After that, the video shows that new tracks with a parallel hinge are attached to the hull along with the upgraded turret, protective side screens, and an 1130-horsepower V-92S2F engine. These tracks are more dependable and durable and increase the reverse speed, which is crucial when maneuvering the tank on the battlefield.
Once the entire work cycle is completed, the MBT upgraded during the repair and modernization is tested and sent to the unit assigned to it to continue service in a completely new capacity. The video went viral on social as soon as it was published and has since been lauded by Pro-Russian accounts and groups.
While the video does offer a glimpse into the advanced upgrades that the vintage T-72B’s are getting, it is shadowed by another set of reports that suggest Russia is using very archaic T-54 and T-55 tanks in Ukraine due to the massive tank losses that continue to mount.
#Ukraine: The Russian Army has indeed started to use ancient T-54/T-55 tanks- one of them was already filmed in #Zaporozhzhia Oblast.
A far cry from the army that invaded just over a year ago. pic.twitter.com/pcVCUAMUMC
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) April 13, 2023
According to recent accounts, one of these tanks was purportedly seen in southeast Ukraine, almost a month after trainloads of them traveled through Russia, sparking rumors they will soon be pressed into battle. Earlier this week, the first images and videos with a T-54/T-55 type tank began circulating online.
Since these tanks are over 70 years old, Ukrainians have mocked Russians for pulling grossly outdated tanks from storage.
The first T-54 prototype was developed by the Soviet Union in 1945, and the first T-55 was finished in 1956. Both tanks share similarities and are believed to be of the same family.
T-72 B3M Tanks
The T-72B3M main battle tank (MBT), also known as the T-72B4, is an improved version of the T-72B3 MBT developed by Uralvagonzavod Research and Production Corporation. The public saw the T-72B3M tank for the first time at the 2014 Tank Biathlon World Championship, which took place in October 2014.
In February 2017, the Russian Army’s Western Military District began using the first batch of 20 modernized tanks. The Belarusian Armed Forces introduced their first T-72B3M tank in June 2017. The T-72B3M obr 2022 is supposedly the newest variant, so much so that it is called the “SVO variant” by military watchers.
The T-72B3M’s configuration is the same as the ordinary T-72’s, with the driver’s cab at the front of the hull, the fighting compartment in the middle, and the power pack at the back. Three people make up the tank’s crew: the driver, the commander, and the gunner.
The driver is housed in the center of the forward hull, and the other two crew members are accommodated in the turret.
The MBT has a modern thermal sight and an innovative fire control system. The tank’s mobility and combat abilities have also been enhanced to keep up with the most sophisticated tanks on the planet. The T-72B3M tank is outfitted with snorkels for deep fording, radio equipment for encrypted digital speech and data transfer, and a built-in blade for self-entrenching.
A previous Izvestia report claimed that the updated tank would be equipped with a new 2A46M5 125-millimeter smoothbore cannon and a new Sosna-U sighting system that will be used with the 1A40-4 fire-control system. To improve accuracy, the tank also gets a new ballistics computer.
Most importantly, the T-72B3M reportedly gets a separate PK PAN sight with its thermal imaging system for the tank commander. The brand-new Relikt explosive reactive armor (ERA) kit has also been added to the T-72B3M. The Relikt is twice as effective as the outdated Kontakt-5 ERA suite, which it replaces.
The T72B3M is armed with a 2A46M5 125mm smoothbore gun, an advanced version of the 2A46M cannon. It can fire a variety of projectiles, including 9M119 Refleks guided anti-tank missiles, (high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), high-explosive fragmentation (HEF), and armor-piercing discarding sabot (APDS). An auto-loader loads the missiles and ammunition.
The guided missiles fitted to the modernized MBT can destroy static and mobile targets day and night at ranges up to 5,000 meters. However, despite these features, some military experts suggest it would become tougher for Russia’s Soviet-era tanks to fight against the modern Leopard-2 tanks currently arriving in Ukraine.
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