T-72 (Ural) Main Battle Tank (MBT)
One of the most successful post-World War 2 tank designs, the Soviet-era T-72 Main Battle Tank succeeded the T-54/T-55 series systems.
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The Soviets/Russians have always maintained a penchant for successful (and globally popular) tank designs since they unveiled their war-winning T-34 Medium Tank during World War 2. The T-34 began a long-running history of capable, cost-effective combat machines designed to match - or in some cases surpass - available Western offerings. The Cold War-era T-72 proved no exception, granted with excellent speed for its class and an inherent reliability that is always require by the modern battlefield. Perhaps most important to procurement authorities, the T-72 was a budget-conscious end-product which could be produced in the tens of thousands during a period when every effort was being made to stay one step ahead of the United States and Europe in comparable developments. As such, the T-72 has gone on to see an extended service life in many foreign inventories and has undoubtedly proven an export success. With over 25,000 examples delivered, the T-72 ranks only second to the most successful post-World War 2 tank - the T-54/T-55 (with as many as 100,000 being built). In comparison, the wartime T-34 saw 84,000 units produced.
The T-72 originated as a design to counter the expensive nature of the technologically-advanced T-64 of 1963. The T-64 was the primary spearhead Soviet Main Battle Tank and introduced the D-81T 125mm smoothbore main gun. To this point, Western offerings relied on a rifled 105mm system and have since gone on to adopt a 120mm smoothbore design themselves. The T-64 also coupled the 125mm main gun with an automatic loader which reduced the crew size to three and contained overall operational weights to manageable levels while promoting a reduced profile on the horizon. The T-64B was the first Soviet tank line to support firing guided anti-tank missiles from the main gun barrel which broadened its tactical value considerably. However, its procurement costs proved limited and only 13,000 T-64 tanks were produced from 1951 to 1962 from plants originating in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.