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T-72 tank in Russia

Russian Heavy Metal: Putin’s Four Main Battle Tanks

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by Igor Rozin

As the U.S., Germany, and other countries prepare to send armored vehicles to Ukraine, here is a look at the primary types of heavy metal that are found in Russia’s inventory.


Vadim Savicky/Defense Ministry of Russia 

The “oldest” tank in service is the T-72BM ‘Ural’. The tank was adopted in 1973, and still has the potential for future improvements.

This is the most produced second generation tank, with more than 30,000 units built to date. There are numerous modifications for both domestic and foreign markets.

What differs the T-72BM from other second gen models is the built-in dynamic ‘Contact-5’ protection system that is designed to shoot down enemy projectiles flying towards the machine.

The tank also has a 125-mm smoothbore cannon. The V-shaped multi-fuel diesel engine allows a driver to accelerate up to 60 km/h on highways, and up to 35-45 km/h on rough terrain.


Vitaly V. Kuzmin/

This is the world’s first tank with a gas turbine engine, often dubbed a “helicopter” or “jet” for its characteristic whistle. Regular gasoline, kerosene and diesel can be used as fuel. In emergencies, fuel oil, natural gas, water gas, alcohol, ship fuel and even crushed coal can be used.

The T-80U’s engine produces 1,250 hp; its maximum speed on highways is 70 km/h, while on rough terrain, 45 km/h. This tank was created at one time to break through the whole of Europe, with an engine designed to “eat” anything and constantly move forward. The tank could only be repaired at the factory, and the consumption was about 8 liters per kilometer.

T-90A ‘Vladimir’ 

Vitaly V. Kuzmin/

The nickname ‘Vladimir’ is taken from the name of the chief designer of the tank. This was the way the government of the Russian Federation honoured its creator’s memory. 

One of its distinctive features of the T-90A series is the ‘Curtain’ infrared guidance system and next generation protection from laser guidance systems.

The T-90A has a 1,000 hp engine. It’s not as voracious as the one inside the T-80U, but almost equal in speed.

In 2011, purchases of the T-90 for the Russian army were discontinued to free up funds for the new T-14 ‘Armata’. For this reason, they abandoned the most recent modifications of the T-90.

Around 400 T-90s are currently in service, most of them with ‘A’ modifications. There are also about 200 units in storage.

T-14 ‘Armata’

Vitaly V. Kuzmin/

The basic version of the T-14 tank is designed for use with a 125-mm gun. However, according to the weapons manufacturer, this combat vehicle can also be supplied with a 152-mm cannon, as well.

The T-14 tank is capable of shooting up to ten rounds per minute and can hit targets at a distance of up to seven kilometers.

Each new tank is equipped with its own radar system, according to sources in Russia.

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A version of this article first appeared in Russia Beyond.

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