T-62 Medium Tank / Main Battle Tank (MBT)
The T-62 Main Battle Tank was a further development of the successful T-54/T-55-series but failed to outright replace the former designs.
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After the end of World War 2, the Soviet military had officially replaced their war-winning T-34 Medium Tank series with the T-54 family. These were then upgraded with NBC protection and a slew of other features to become the T-55 series a short time later, intended to counter the new, interim American developments. Going beyond simply upgrading the T-55, work also began on a new tank design based on the same proven T-54/T-55 system though intended to house a more powerful 115mm main gun. To fit the new armament, the base T-55 had her hull lengthened and given an all-new turret assembly designed specifically for a high-velocity smoothbore 115mm main gun - the U-5TS (2A20 "Rapira"). This weapon was of particular note for it marked the first time a production combat tank had been given a "smoothbore" barrel - to this point, all combat tanks fielded a rifled barrel, the Soviet direction proving a major upgrade to the 105mm rifled main gun being fielded by the new American M60. The new Soviet tank was christened the "T-62" and production of the type resulted in deliveries occurring in July of 1961.
For all intents and purposes, the T-62 was more or less a further upgrade of the T-55 itself with the T-54 still serving as the "true" starting point for the family. As such, the type delivered roughly the same utilitarian appearance of its originator as well as the follow-up modification. The tank sported a low-profile design with a center-fitted turret emplacement. The glacis plate was very shallow and well-sloped for excellent point ballistics protection. The sides were dominated by the track system encompassing five road wheels to a hull side. The drive sprocket was held at the front with the track idler at the rear. Like the T-54 and T-55 before it, the T-62 lacked any track return rollers along the upper track region. The single diesel engine was held in a rear-set compartment and could generate its own smoke screen as needed. The turret was well-curved and squat in its general appearance, housing the 115mm U-5TS main gun armament as well as three of the four crew. The crew consisted of the driver in the front-left hull and the tank commander, gunner and loader in the turret/middle hull region. The turret was protected by up to 242mm of armor thickness along the front facing. A pair of external fuel tanks could be fitted to the rear of the hull for improved ranges and jettisoned when empty. The main gun was fitted with a fume extractor and featured two-axis stabilization for adequate "firing-on-the-move". The main gun was also given case ejector actuated by the recoil action to which spent shell casings were ejected automatically out of the turret rear via a spring-loaded door after firing. The main gun was supplemented by a coaxial 7.62mm PKT series machine gun in the turret for anti-infantry defense. A 12.7mm DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun on the turret roof was optional and not generally seen in early production units. Up to 40 x 115mm projectiles were carried aboard, stored within the turret itself and primarily along the hull sides. 2,500 x 7.62mm rounds of machine gun ammunition were also carried for the coaxial machine gun. Power was derived from a V-55 12-cylinder diesel engine outputting at 580 horsepower. This supplied the vehicle with a top speed of 31 miles per hour on ideal surfaces with an operational range of 280 miles not including environmental factors.
The main gun was cleared to fire the requisite High-Explosive (HE) and Armor-Piercing (AP) projectiles of 115mm caliber. The HE breed consisted of the HE-FRAG-FS which stood for High-Explosive, Fragmentation, Fin-Stabilized. The HEAT-FS rounds was the High-Explosive, Anti-Tank, Fin-Stabilized variant. The AP round was the APFSDS - Armor-Piercing, Fin-Stabilized, Discarding Sabot. This projectile could range out at targets up to 1,100 yards away and penetrate up to 330mm of armor plate - a major upgrade from the projectile types fired from the 100mm main guns of the T-54 and T-55 series. The main gun held an elevation limitation of -6 to +16 degrees. One of the key limitations of the T-54/55 models were their lack of true "hull down" firing due to the main gun's depression restriction. The T-62 improved upon this limitation to an extent.
The T-62 was delivered with several notable standardized features including NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection for the crew as well as an automated fire extinguishing system which could also be manually actuated. An integrated snorkel could be erected prior to entering bodies of water and provide the T-62 with limited amphibious capabilities. The engine was used to generate a smoke screen, this essentially accomplished by injecting raw diesel into the engine for the desired result. The commander, gunner and driver positions all included infrared night vision devices for true day/night fighting capability. To keep the tank from becoming bogged over a trench or obstacle, a unique "unditching" beam was fitted under at the rear of the hull.
Despite its improvements and advancements, the T-62 eventually showcased several limitations to her design. The new advanced tank proved more expensive to produce in quantity, derailing foreign interest, they being content in keeping/producing/modernizing their T-54/55 series still. The lack of T-62 large-scale interest ultimately forced T-55-producing factories to continue serial while T-62 was ultimately discontinued. Furthermore, the original Russian engines proved unreliable and crew protection was lacking - as combat would soon show.
In the T-62's first combat actions during the Yom Kipper War of 1973, the tank shown a tendency to catch fire when hit, making the T-62 a threat to its own crews as much as any Israeli tank. As with the T-54 and T-55, hundreds of T-62 tanks were captured by the Israelis from the Syrians and Egyptians, modified and reconstituted to fight against their former owners. Israeli versions sported improved armor protection, American-based powerplants and technological additions such as laser rangefinders and thermal imaging. Such modified T-62 tanks were designated as "Tiran-6" in the Israeli inventory and proved greater in value and quality than the original design. Unmodified captured Israeli T-62s were known under the "Tiran-3" designation. The T-62 fared no better in the 1982 Libyan invasion of Chad, where large numbers were destroyed or rendered inoperable.
Despite the limitations in combat, the T-62 went on to see its fair share across decades of service. The type was showcased from the 1969 Sino-Soviet Border War onwards. This would include the Ethiopian Civil War of 1974-1991, the Angolan Civil War of 1975-2002 as well as the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-1988. The tank was featured in the bloody Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 and in the Lebanese Civil War of 1982-1983. Iraqi T-62s were also thrown into the fray during the 1990-1991 Gulf War which saw Saddam Hussein's forces routed. Russian T-62 use extended to the 1st and 2nd Chechen Wars of the 1990s. Afghan T-62s were in action during the 2001 United States invasion and Iraqi T-62s were once again fodder in the 2003 American invasion. The 2008 War in South Ossetia brought the T-62 into the forefront once again and the type was utilized in combat as recently as the 2011 Libyan Civil War which saw an end to Muammar Gaddafi's tyrannical reign.