The PT-91 Twardy represents a successful Polish evolution of the popular Soviet-era T-72 Main Battle Tank series.
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The Main Battle Tank of the Polish Army is the PT-91 "Twardy", developed from the popular Soviet-era T-72 MBT (T-72M1). The PT-91 represents a 50-ton armored combat vehicle with a low-profile, an autoloader reducing the crew to three and a formidable 125mm main gun. Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks are used liberally in the latest incarnations of the vehicle to help promote improved battlefield survivability. The Polish derivative also includes many indigenous components that differentiate the design greatly from its Soviet Cold War-era origins including a local engine, communications suite and Fire Control System (FCS). Some 225 of the type are believed to have been produced with initial year of service being 1995.
In Polish, the "Twardy" name translates to "hard" to help showcase the vehicle's tough battlefield nature.
The PT-91 continues the low-profile appearance carried over from the classic T-72. It sports its powered turret at center with the engine at the rear of the design. With its crew of three, the design can afford to be of more compact dimensions when compared to her Western contemporaries. The vehicle has a length of 9.67 meters with a width of 3.6 meters and a height of 2.20 meters - all measurements smaller than the competing American M1 Abrams MBT - mainstay of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The driver is situated at the front-center of the hull with the commander and gunner in the turret. The latter two crew are afforded their own protected hatches along the turret roof with integrated vision blocks. Overall armor protection for the tank is of composite arrangement and steel side skirts protect the upper regions of the running gear. The running gear includes six rubber-tired road wheels to a hull side with the drive sprocket at rear and the track idler at front. The vehicle relies on the tried-and-true track-over-wheel link arrangement.
At the heart of every MBT is its main armament and the PT-91 does not disappoint with its Soviet-inspired 125mm 2A46M main gun based on the D-81TM. The crew is afforded up to 42 projectiles for the gun and these come in various warhead types to suit the battlefield need. The weapon it tied to a dual-axis Fire Control System which stabilizes the gun and offers firing on-the-move capability with good accuracy. The main gun is also fed by way of an all-new automatic loader, improving performance when compared to the original T-72 offering as well as increasing fire-hit capabilities at range. In addition to the 125mm armament, the PT-91 sports the requisite 7.62mm coaxial anti-infantry machine gun (PKT type) as well as a turred-roof-mounted 12.7mm NSVT anti-aircraft heavy machine gun. Some 2,000 x 7.62mm rounds of ammunition are carried for the coaxial mounting and approximately 300 x 12.7mm rounds are carried for the roof-mounted machine gun. Some 24 smoke grenade dischargers are fitted in two banks of twelve along the turret sides to allow the vehicle to develop its own smoke screen.
The PT-91 makes use of a locally-produced diesel engine in the form of the PZL-Wola S-12U series of 850 horsepower output mated to a manual transmission system. Coupled with the torsion bar suspension system, the vehicle is capable of reaching road speeds of 60 kilometers per hour with an operation range out to 650 kilometers. The vehicle can also see its range increased through use of external fuel tanks (adding an approximate 50 kilometers of drive distance).
The PT-91 was the primary production variant delivered to Polish Army forces. The PT-91A included the PZL-Wola S-1000 series diesel engine of 1,000 horsepower output. The PT-91Z represents a modernization attempt on the base system with a single prototype completed. The PT-91M "Pendekar" marks an export-minded derivative for Malaysia. Several other demonstrator vehicles have emerged following the basic PT-91 design.
The PT-91 chassis has served to generate several other related battlefield vehicles including the WZT-3 Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) series, the "Bizon-S" engineering vehicle, the PMC bridgelayer, the prototype PZA "Loara" anti-aircraft defense system, and the "Krab" 155mm self-propelled gun (SPG) vehicle.
The Malaysia government has taken delivery f 48 PT-91M tanks since 2007 as well as several of the related battlefield vehicles.
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