Friday, June 26, 2015

Kartsev on why three Tanks

Many westerners wonder why the Soviet Union mass produced three similar tanks instead of just one tank. In his memoirs L.N. Kartsev designer of the T-72 gives his explanation on why that they built three tanks:
In the middle of 1976, a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU, chief designer of the Kirov factory in Leningrad, N.S. Popov, convinced the leaders of the country to adopt the not so great T-80 tank. Having identical armament to T-72 and T-64A tanks, identical protection and maneuverability, the T-80 spent (according to army trials) 1.6-1.8 times as much fuel per kilometer, and despite the increased fuel capacity, had 25-30% less range. 
The T-80 had an inferior fighting compartment compared to the T-72, inherited from the T-64A, with vertical ammunition placement. This lowers the survivability of the tank in battle and makes it nearly impossible to communicate with the driver and evacuate him if he is wounded. The tank also has an unreliable suspension, etc. Overall, it was more complicated, more expensive, and less reliable than the T-64A, not to mention the T-72.
N.S. Popov also started production in Omsk, not in Leningrad, a factory that produced T-55s since 1959, waiting for Kharkov to design a new tank. These "wonders" were caused by D.F. Ustinov, deputy chair of the Council of Ministers L.V. Smirnov, chief of industry of the Central Committee F. Dmitriev, and other high ranked officials, taking advantage of Brezhnev's inaction.
The T-64, predecessor of the T-64A, with a mass of 36 tons, started development at the Malyshev factory in Kharkov in 1952. A new design bureau with professor A.D. Charomskiy at the head was formed to design the new two-stroke engine, a new plant was built for it.
By 1960, several experimental Object 430 tanks were built. This tank did not enter mass production due to unsatisfactory reliability, especially of the engine and suspension, as well as a lack of new systems and equipment that were already in use in Nizhniy Tagil in T-54A, T-54B, T-55, and T-62 tanks.
The T-64 (Object 432) was based on the experience of the Object 430 and was accepted for service in 1967. It had a 115 mm smoothbore gun, the same one as on the T-62, but with two-piece ammunition and a conveyor type autoloader.
The T-64 was supposed to enter production at all tank factories. According to a decree of the Council of Ministers, 40 of these tanks were to be built at Nizhniy Tagil in Omsk and 25 in Chelyabinsk in 190. In reality, the T-64 was produced only in Kharkov, and even then in limited quantities. The tank turned out to be complicated, and army use revealed its low reliability. Finally, in 1972, the T-64A with a 125 mm gun was accepted into service, and was produced in Kharkov until the collapse of the USSR.
The T-64A had an idea in it that dated back to the Object 430: less weight and minimum internal volume. This limited the potential of the tank, as the engine, suspension, and other mechanisms were working at their limits, with no modernization reserve. The ammunition rack made work difficult for the crew. Some of our "specialists" consider the T-72 a modernization of the T-64A, but the only thing they have in common is the gun.
The T-72, accepted into service on August 7th, 1973, was designed for mass production in existing factories with existing equipment. It was designed with the idea of relability and had many features for improved crew comfort. The design of the T-72 allowed for significant modernization and creation of special vehicles on its chassis. This tank was made for battle. Specialists from the whole world appreciated its uncontestable advantages; it is accepted as the best and most popular tank of the second half of the 20th century.