The T-72M4 upgrade package focuses on upgrading full protection, fire control systems and engines with equipment originating from the West and Poland.
Soviet-era tanks are among the most successful war weapons of the past century. From their effectiveness in the border conflicts with Japan to the battle against Nazi Germany in the Battle of Kursk, tanks contributed to Soviet military victories throughout the 20th century, and widely used in many countries around the world.
For the T-72, this was the most popular tank of the soviet era. T-72 began production in 1973, it was soon used in the 1982 Lebanon conflict and then the countless wars in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Up to now, a total of nearly 40 countries have owned T-72s, some 25,000 were produced for service worldwide, about 30 countries are still using the T-72 as a major armored force.
Like other Eastern European countries, Czechoslovakia also took over hundreds of these tanks in their inventory. After the breakup of the Czechoslovak Federation, the new government of the Czech Republic quickly brought the country closer to the Western world both politically, economically and militarily. The Czech army has, for many years, gradually removed Soviet weapons and replaced them with Western combat vehicles. Over time, the T-72s became old, upgraded programs were developed to keep the T-72 fleets operational and capable of fighting. In the 1990s, an upgrade package was adopted, about 30 were called to be upgraded to a newer, more modern local standard designated T-72M4, also known as T- 72M4CZ. The upgrade program was completed between 2003 and 2005.
The T-72M4 upgrade package focuses on upgrading full protection, fire control systems and engines with equipment originating from the West and Poland. The T-72M4 has a weight of 48 tons, length of 9.8m, width of 3.76m and height of 2.18m. Compared to the T-72M1, it weighs about 7 tons heavier, mainly due to the addition of an armor package that enhances protection against new generation anti-tank weapons.
Inheriting the design from the T-72, the T-72M4 upgrade also shares the low profile of the original tank and the three-man crew. The T-72M4 tank is equipped with a Polish-designed DYNA explosive reactive armour, providing protection against HEAT, APFSDS and HESH anti-tank shells. Armor is arranged on the front of the hull, around the turret and the roof to protect against types of orbital missiles that fly towards the roof, to protect the most vulnerable part of the tank. The vehicle retains electronically controlled smoke grenade dischargers to create a self-screening effect. Side skit armor helps to increase protection from side attacks. In addition, the tank was added with full NBC protection and a fire detection and suppression system by German company Kidde Deugra.
In terms of firepower, the T-72M4 still uses the 2A46 125mm smoothbore gun and the original 2E28M stabilization system of the T-72M1. Improvements include upgrades to the fire control system and the gyro sensors for greater accuracy at the first shot. Some reports indicate that the probability of hitting a fixed target while on the move is about 65 to 75%.
The T-72M4 is equipped with the new generation Officine TURMS-T fire control system, ballistic computer and the same sensor used on Italy’s most advanced C1 Ariete tank. This fire control system has a “hunter-killer” mode, in which the commander acts as the “hunter” and the gunner is the “killer”. The commander will use day and night panoramic viewfinder with laser rangefinder and infrared camera to search for targets, the information will then be transmitted to the gunner to destroy. During that time commander looks for the next target.
The T-72M4 can detect targets at 4.2 km at night and identify them at 2.1 km, far ahead of the old Soviet T-72 tanks. Target detection range during the day is up to 5km. In addition to the old ammunitions of the T-72M1, the T-72M4 is also equipped with the Czech armor-piercing APFSDS-T shell, which can penetrate RHA steel up to 540mm at a range of 2 km. This tank is fitted with an autoloader.
Auxiliary weapons of the T-72M4 include a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and roof-mounted 12.7 mm machine gun. The 12.7 mm machine gun is manually operated by the vehicle commander.
The T-72M4 is powered by the British Perkins Condor CV12-1000 turbocharged diesel engine, producing 1,200 horsepower far beyond the T-90, equivalent to the British Challenger II tank. In addition, Perkins engines proved to be more reliable and fuel efficient than the original engines. The new engine is combined with an Allison automatic transmission with 4 forward and 2 reverse gears, providing easy operation, ensuring maneuverability. T-72M4 can reach a maximum speed of up to 61km/h, range up to 700km. This tank is comparable with third generation main battle tanks.
The changes created a heavier combat vehicle, but it was also more powerful and better protected than before. Czech T-72M4s are rated as modern as Russia’s T-72B3 and even close to T-90.
Recently, there has been some information regarding the possibility that the Czech Ministry of Defense is likely to buy the Leopard 2A4 or a newer version of this tank to replace the T-72M4 in use. Although it did not want to, but as a member of the NATO military bloc, the continued use of the T-72 by the Czech Republic will not please key members. Therefore, whether you like it or not, the fate of the T-72 in Czech is soon decided.The budget to buy Leopard 2A4 tanks, whether it is 2nd hand or not, is not small for the Czech Republic. It is likely that the Czech will have to sell part or all of its T-72M4 and T-72M1 tanks on the payroll to have a budget to buy new tanks. It will be a good opportunity for countries that are in need of modernizing the army.