ARM: Book Review - WWP Present Vehicle Line No. 14 - T-72/M/M1

Book Review: Wings and Wheels Publications Present Vehicle Line No.
14: T-72/72M: T-72/M/M1 Soviet Main Battle Tan in detail by Frantisek
Koran, Frantisek Sykora, Josef Spurny, Jan Martinec, and Tomas
Bouchal; Wings and Wheels Publications, Prague, 2006; 216 pp. plus a
set of 1/35 scale plans; retail price about US$50; ISBN 80-86416-52-6
Advantages: very nice clear, color photographic coverage of exterior
and interior components of several different T-72 models
Disadvantages: disjointed text in English; does not clarify which
tanks are which other than at a gross detail level
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet and T-72 fans
As most historians now know, the T-72 came about by =93accident=94 in
1969 when the designers at Factory No. 183 in Nizhniy Tagil were
ordered to develop a =93contingency=94 variant of the T-64A which used the
older V-2 series V-12 diesel engines instead of the flat 5-cylinder
opposed piston design of that tank. Chief Designer Leonid Kartsev then
pulled a fast one and combined all of the Tagil design features they
had wanted to use on a T-64 based chassis design. Initially GABTU and
the Council of Ministers in Moscow were furious, but then found that
Article 172M (the factory designator for the new tank) was somewhat
superior to its parent. But they originally only authorized its
production for second-echelon formations, and five years after it was
accepted for service with the Red Army in 1973, export to Warsaw Pact
members and foreign production in Czechoslovakia, Poland and
The Soviet-approved and coordinated export models (other than
Yugoslavia) were basically designated the T-72, T-72M and T-72M1. But
while they noted only three different variants (plus the usual command
variants with =93K=94 suffices) the fact of the matter was that the
Soviets themselves identified either eight or nine completely separate
production series of these vehicles. These were internally noted as
=93Ob=94yekt 172MEh=94 to =93Ob=94yekt 172MEh8.=94 The first ones were basi=
Soviet T-72 tanks with a different quality of steel armor protection
and a different level of protection in the turret, and fitted with a
cross-turret coincidence rangefinder. Later this changed over to the
use of the TPK-1-49 laser rangefinder sight, and later on they also
added the TNK-2-49 night sight to replace the earlier model night
sight. Later the tank began to slowly add features from the Soviet
T-72A series tanks, with the final variant, the T-72M1, also adding a
modified turret with increased =93cheek=94 and glacis protection.
While the T-72M1 was considered to be (and is counted as such by the
Soviets) as the equivalent of the Soviet T-72A, they are actually
quite different. A =93real=94 T-72A has a turret which bulges up on either
side of the aperture for the main gun, which is how the tank=92s turret
got the name =93Dolly Parton=94 from imagery analysts in the early 1980s.
The T-72M1 has a much flatter profile with a supplementary bulge just
visible under the banks of smoke grenade launchers on the turret.
Over 20,000 T-72 tanks were built before the Russians =96 who took over
from the Soviets by =93default=94 =96 changed over to the T-90 series, a
product-improved T-72. Few other models have been built since then, so
most owner-operator countries have thus concentrated on upgrades such
as the T-72M4CZ (Czech Republic) or T-72M2 (Slovakia).
Be that as it may, the authors of this book have managed to collect a
massive number of good, clear color photos of the various T-72s in
service with the Czech army and concentrate them in one nicely
presented volume. The book is broken down by sections, with the first
85 pages focused on external components, six pages on a =93skeleton=94
East German training simulator, 58 pages on internal components of the
T-72, and then 36 pages on the T-72M1. The last two sections are for
Czech vehicles, the T-72M4CZ upgrade (20 pages) and the VT-72B tank
retriever (15 pages).
While the photos are grouped together pretty well to cover both their
subjects and the specific variants noted, the book is somewhat let
down by the painful fact that none of the authors are native English
speakers (the book is completely in English) and their translations
vary from disjointed to the frankly weird. Some of the comments appear
as if they are verbatim sections out of Soviet field manuals (which
require a knowledge of both the target language as well as what the
items discussed actually are) and are very hard to make sense of as
Overall, for modelers, the book should be quite useful and very, very
helpful in both making an accurate T-72 export tank as well as
correcting the Tamiya T-72M1 kit into a better representation of a
T-72M1. But for the historian, we still need a =93T-72 snizhu doverkh=94
series to cover all of the details, model by model, in order to get
them sorted properly.
Cookie Sewell
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