Staff Writer (Updated: 6/14/2014):
The T-64 was born of a prototype not unlike the T-54/55/62 series before it. There were many notable exceptions in its design to help differentiate it from the former examples. The five large road wheels consistent with earlier Soviet tanks were dropped in favor of six small road wheels to a track side. While the previous designs all lacked track return rollers, the T-64 prototype involved as many as four along the upper track region. The drive sprocket was now relocated to the rear of the hull with the track idler at the front. The hull was suspended by an effective and advanced torsion bar suspension system. The driver's position was now centered at the front hull as opposed to front left. The turret was largely reminiscent of the one featured on the T-62 and original armament was the same 115mm smoothbore main gun (the preceding T-62 design was the first combat tank anywhere in the world to showcase a smoothbore main gun). The T-64's gun was the D-68 (2A21 series) while a pair of snorkels could be erected prior to entering bodies of water for amphibious crossings. The ammunition count totaled 36 x 125mm projectiles and included APFSDS, HEAT-FARG and HE-FRAG types as needed. There was provision at the front hull for the adding of a mine clearing plow. Anti-infantry defense was handled by the 7.62mm PKT coaxial machine gun in the turret. To counter low-flying aerial threats, the crew managed a turret-roof-mounted 12.7mm NSVT series heavy machine gun. Standard NBC protection was afforded to the crew as was a fire extinguishing system. Armor protection ranged up to 450mm in thickness and involved a mix of glass, plastic and steel. Overall weight was roughly 42 short tons. An electro-hydraulic autoloader managed the reloading function of the main gun while reducing the crew to three personnel - the commander, driver and gunner. This not only saved on wait but increased internal volume and allowed for a smaller turret design and, thusly, shallower external profiles. As with the T-62, the T-64 incorporated two-axis stabilization of the main gun. Protection was afforded by the aforementioned composite armor designed to counter the new 105mm guns of Western tanks (explosive reactive armor blocks were eventually added in later T-64 production marks).
The engine of choice became the 5DTF 700 horsepower diesel system which dramatically improved performance (on road and off road) of the vehicle over that of the T-62. The engine was fueled through three internal fuel cells and boosted by the carrying of external, jettisonable drums at the hull rear. Operational range was 310 miles and road speeds peaked at 37.5 miles per hour.
Production of the T-64 series was ordered out of the Malyshev Factory at Kharkov, Ukraine, in October of 1963 and initial models were all armed with the stated 115mm smoothbore main gun system (lacking the thermal sleeve). Some 600 first-batch T-64 production models then appeared though the tank was not formally introduced into operational service until late 1966. The T-64 was not seen outside of Russian borders until it was deployed in East Germany in 1976 with the Guards Armored Division, Group of Soviet Forces. It was later deployed with Russian forces in Hungary.