The T-72 is the AK-47 of Tanks. Old but effective. As the only country in West Africa with a tank force Nigerian Army nixed a deal for the 3rd Gen T-90 Tank and settled for the 2nd Gen, and used the extra funds to aquire lots of Infantry and amoured fighting vehicles, more suited for Counter Insurgency operations which quite frankly makes economic sense.
The T-72 M I the most widely exported 2nd generation main battle tank in the world. An estimated 25,000 tanks have been built in plants in Russia, Ukraine Russia, Czech Republic.
Russia maintains the largest fleet of T-72’s currently, with 13,000 of them left over from the 1990’s and between 5,000 mothballed as reserves. In Africa, the Nigerian army is the largest user of T-72 M tanks with close to 100 in service.
The T-72 amour is resistant to most anti tank weapons and recoiless rifile. A cast round steel turret allows for a very strong frontal amour. The steel on either side of the T-72main gun has a thickness between 350-380 millimetres.
The T-72 is powered by a V-46 diesel engine, churning out an impressive 780 horsepower and can travel at around 60 km an hour on rough terrain.
It uses six large roadwheels.
The tank is completed with a very large self-entrenching mechanical shovel that can dig a trench in as little as 15 minutes. When not digging the self entrenched shove provides additional protection for the front of the tank. It also has amphibious capabilities, able to plot through water obstacle up to 10 meters deep.
It features a smoke screen dispenser by chaneling diesel unto the exhaust to give a screen of smoke, allowing them to retreat. It has a nuclear, biological chemical warfare protection system, allowing the crew to still operate the vehicle in a chemical threat environment.
The T-72 Uitilises a 125 mm smooth bore gun and can fire a projectile of around 39. The projectiles includes :
- HEAT FS ( high explosive anti tank fin stabilized) round.
- HE FRAG (high explosive fragmentation)
- APFSDS ( amour piercing fin stabilized discarding sabor)
The T-72 M features a turret mounted 12.7 mm machine gun and a 7.62 PKT gun
The T-72 M main gun can also fire a guided anti tank missile from the barrel.
Why T-72 M MBT?
It’s cheap. A T-72 M could be delivered to a client for as littke as $500,000 per tank for the older version and $1.5 million for the newer model. By contrast a T-90 costs between $5.5 to $7 million per tank.
As the only army in all of West Africa with a tank force, there is little incentive to spend hundreds of million of dollars on high tech 3rd-4th generation tanks if they are not going to use it against other high tech tanks. The tanks that countries like Egypt, Algeria, South Africa are being utilised to engage other tanks, so why would they not buy better to keep an advantage.
Its amour protection leaves more to be desired. The millimetre thicknesses of amour thickness on this tank is disappointing. Explosive reactive amour does not adequately compensate for its vulnerable. Countries like Chad and Cameroon have hundreds of MILAN anti tank missiles with standoff capabilities.