Friday, June 26, 2015

T-72 monkey models

In various discussions about the performance of the T-72 in recent and past military conflicts or in fictive combat scenarios, there is always that one key word that will be thrown out by either side "monkey model".

 People arguing against the performance of the US military in Operation Desert Storm will say "the US fought only against monkey models, real Soviet tanks were much stronger!". In the same manner people, who try to argue about how "weak" the Soviet Union was, will say "most of the tanks were monkey models, we know that they are no problem".

Actually the export versions of T-72 sold to non-members of the Warsaw Pact were nearly equal to those used by East-Germany, the ČSSR, Hungary and Poland.
The armor was the same as used on the original Soviet tanks (with the exception of the T-72M), on which they were based.
The main difference between a 'monkey mode' T-72 and a Soviet one is the date of production/introduction:

E.g. the T-72M1 entered production in 1982 (Soviet Union) and 1986 (ČSSR and Poland), but was a monkey model of the T-72A from 1979!

There are a lot minor differences and some downgrades between the Soviet tanks and export versions, but there were a total of 9 export versions compared to only 5 Soviet production models (of which the last didn't even receive an export model because of the collapse of the Soviet Union).

The 9 export versions of the T-72 differed by tank model and by features.

E.g. the Object 172M-1-E5 is the export model of the T-72M1 that was used in the CSSR, East-Germany, Poland and Hungary, while the Object 172M-1-E6 was sold to India, Iraq, etc.

The only difference between the Object 172M-1-E5 and 172M-1-E6 is however the NBC protection suite; armor, fire control, gun, engine, etc. are all equal.

The same applies to the Object 172M-1-E3 (for members of the Warsaw Pact) and Object 172M-1-E4 versions of the T-72M: armor, fire control, gun, suspension, smoke grenade launchers, opctics, engine and transmission are identical, only the NBC protection is different - both the Object 172M-1-E-4 and Object 172M-1-E-6 were using the NBC protection of the Object 172M-E1, which is the original export version from 1975.

The only tank that really deserves the description "monkey model" is the T-72M, which was a mixture of features from the T-72 and T-72A.

Soviet tank Export model Sold to Designation Notes
T-72 Object 172-E Warsaw Pact T-72 "export"
" Object 172-E1 Third world countries T-72 "export"
T-72A Object 172-E2 T-72M T-72A with the old 2A46 gun and steel turret
" Object 172M-1-E3 Warsaw Pact T-72M
" Object 172M-1-E4 Third world countries T-72M
" Object 172M-1-E5 Warsaw Pact T-72M1 T-72M with T-72A turret armor and suspension
" Object 172M-1-E6 Third world countries T-72M1
T-72B Object 172M-1-E7 T-72M1M Supposedly a single tank was found in Iraq following OIF
" Object 172M-1-E8 Third world countries T-72M1M1, T-72S Exported to Iran after collapse of Soviet Union


  1. M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural from Steven J. Zaloga
  2. T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974 - 1993 from Steven J. Zaloga
  3. Kampfpanzer Heute und Morgen from Rolf Hilmes

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