OVERVIEW: The T-72 was a Soviet medium tank/main battle tank.
DETAILS: The T-72 was introduced in the early 1970's. It mounts the same 125mm smoothbore as the T-64A and is also equipped with a 7.62mm coax and 12.7mm machine gun in a flex mount on the commander's hatch. The T-72 was not a further development of the T-64, but rather it was a parallel design that shares many features of the T-64 but was designed to be cheaper to build in large quantities than the T-64. Early versions of the T-72 were equipped with an optical rangefinder, but eventually this was replaced by a laser rangefinder. In Soviet service, the T-72B was introduced in the mid-1980's and had standard reactive armor, an improved main gun, stabilizer, sighting and fire control, and also the ability to fire the AT-11 Sniper ATGM through the main gun tube. Unlike the T-64, the T-72 was widely exported. More recent models of the T-72 are equipped with thermal imaging systems. The T-72M was the main exported version "monkey model" and was standard with a laser rangefinder but had inferior armor and fire control components than Soviet built models. The T-72 was built or copied by many nations both with license and without, and large numbers are still in service with many nations today and have been modernized and upgraded in varying degrees.
NOTES: The Soviet tank company consists of 10 tanks with three platoons of three tanks each and one tank for the company commander. The Soviet tank battalion consists of 31 tanks in three 10-tank companies and one tank for the battalion commander. Soviet tank battalions can be independent or are part of the tank regiment (three tank battalions). Each motorized rifle regiment also has an organic tank battalion and each motorized rifle division has an organic tank regiment. Until the mid to late 1980's when Soviet tank battalions were standardized across the board to 31 tanks each, the tank battalions in the motorized rifle division had four tanks in each platoon which gave the battalion a total of 40 tanks (13 x 3)+ 1.
SOURCES: FM 100-2-3. Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 1991