First deployed in 1971, the T-72 main battle tank was the latest in the line of Soviet tank design, and was intended to replace the aging T-54/55 tank as well as the T-62. It was also the tank that made a number of design features standard for future Russian tank design, such as the 125mm main gun and its automatic loader, as well as a comprehensive NBC protection system. Otherwise, the T-72 is a more or less typical design, and exemplifies the Russian tank philosophy of simple, easy to maintain and cheap to build vehicles that are to be used in mass attack.
In combat, the T-72 has so far proven to be no match for heavy Western battle tanks such as the US Abrams or British Challenger, with those that have engaged being completely mauled for no Abrams or Challenger losses. However, it has been pointed out that the T-72 should not totally be dismissed, as it was meant to be used as a mass attack weapon, and not a vehicle built for head to head combat. Further, some have argued that since many of the T-72 users who went into combat against Western MBTs were only using downgraded export versions with poorly trained and demoralized crews, there has been no real head-to-head use to judge the tank's effectiveness.
Widely exported, the T-72 has seen combat in Lebanon, the Iran-Iraq war, the Indo-Pakistan conflicts, Persian Gulf War and Yugoslav civil war. Many users of the T-72 have also mass produced the vehicle under liscense and with their own modifications, such Poland (PT-91), Iraq (Assad Babyl), and the former Yugoslavia (M-84).
T-72 MBT Vehicle Stats:
Type: Main battle tank
First deployed: 1971
Length: 9.24 m
Width: 4.75 m
Height: 2.37 m
Weight: 44.5 tons
Armor: Estimated 400mm
Armament, primary: 1 x 125mm 2A46M/D-81T smooth-bore gun
Armament, secondary: 1 x 7.62mm PKMT machinegun, 1 x 12.7mm DShK AA machinegun
Ammo stowage, primary: 45 rounds
Ammo stowage, secondary: 2,000 rounds 7.62mm, 300 rounds 12.7mm
Powerplant: V-46 480hp V-12 diesel engine
Max speed: 80 km/h
Max range: 480km
Operators: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Bulgaria, CIS, Croatia (M-84), Cuba, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait (M-84), Libya, Malaysia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Syria, Ukraine, former Yugoslavia (M-84).