Soviet main battle tanks in Syrian conflict
As of early 2017, the tank inventory of the Syrian governmental troops comprised several types of main battle tanks (MBTs), including T-55A, T-55AMV, T-62, T-72AV, T-72, T-72B, and T-72M1. The exact number of the vehicles in service is still unknown; however, the Syrian Armed Forces operated some 2,500 MBTs, including 1,200 T-55s, 500 T-62s, no fewer than 700 T-72s, and 800 stored T-54 prior to the conflict. It was therefore T-55 that formed the backbone of the Syrian armor units. At present, the governmental troops intensively use upgraded T-55s, with part of them equipped with explosive reactive armor (ERA) tiles.
T-72 of the Syrian armed forces (Picture source: Facebook)
The T-55MV has become the most sophisticated variant of the T-55, which is used by the Syrian military. Unlike the baseline model, the modernized vehicle is fitted with the Kontakt-1 ERA. The T-55MV was developed on the base of the updated T-55M tank that featured a gun stabilizer, increased ammunition load, new 580-hp powerpack, and slimmer turret.
Compared to the T-55M, the T-55MV was fitted with ERA tiles and a 620-hp V-55U diesel engine. The T-55MV weighs 37 t and has a maximum speed of 50 km/h, a cruising range of 450 km, and a crew of four. The vehicle is armed with a D-10T2S 100 mm main gun with an ammunition load of 43 rounds, DShKM 12.7 mm roof-mounted antiaircraft heavy machinegun with an ammunition load of 300 cartridges, and PKT 7.62 mm coaxial medium machinegun with an ammunition load of 3,000 cartridges. The platform is also fitted with the 9K116 Bastion anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) system and a Cyclon-M1 main gun stabilizer. The vehicle`s fire control system (FCS) comprises a BV-55 ballistic calculator laser rangefinder, and other subsystems. The organic armor protection of the tank has been reinforced by ERA tiles and an additional underbelly armor plate. Unlike T-55, the T-55MV is equipped with eight 902B smoke dischargers. It should be mentioned that the upgraded variant of the T-55MV with a 690-hp V-46-5M diesel engine is designated T-55MV-1.
During counter-terrorism operations, the Syrian troops have upgraded some T-55Mvs in the field. According to local media outlets, the modernized tanks have received the Viper thermal imaging cameras and side-mounted bar-salt armor skirts that increase the vehicle`s resistance to high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) munitions. Several T-55s have been with the Syrian-originated Sarab jamming subsystem. Three modifications of the Sarab are reported to have been developed, including that for the T-72 MBT. Several T-72s carry the Sarab also.
The Syrian governmental forces also operate the Soviet-made T-62M MBTs. Like, the T-55MV, this vehicle was developed in the mid-1980s. Compared to the baseline T-62, the T-62M is equipped with additional turret (two additional curved plates in the front), hull (a glacis armor plate and rubber side skirts), and underbelly protection. In order to increase commonality with other MBTs, the organic tracks of the T-62 have been replaced by those of the T-72 MBT. The T-62M tank weighs some 42 t and is powered by a 620-hp V-55U diesel engine. The vehicles features a maximum speed of approximately 50 km/h, a cruising range of 450 km, and a crew of four.
The armament suite of the T-62M has been substantially reinforced; however, the tank has not received any ERA system. The upgraded tank is armed with a thermal-sleeve-mounted U5-TS 115 mm gun with an ammunition load of 42 rounds and the 9K116-2 Sheksna ‘AT-12 Swinger’ ATGM system, DShKM 12.7 mm roof-mounted antiaircraft heavy machinegun with an ammunition load of 300 cartridges, and PKT 7.62 mm coaxial medium machinegun with an ammunition load of 3,000 cartridges. The turret of the tank features eight 902B Tucha-family smoke dischargers. The tank is also equipped with a Meteor-M1 gun stabilizer.
Several more MBTs have been developed on the chassis of the T-62M MBT. The T-62M-1 is powered by a 690-hp V-46-5M diesel engine, while the T-62M1 lacks the Sheksna ATGM system. The T-62M1-1 is the T-62M1 powered by the V-46-5M engine. The T-62M1-2 is fitted with neither guided missile system nor additional protection. The variant of the T-62M1-2 powered by the V-46-5M engine is designated T-62M1-2-1.
Due to large number of T-62 modifications, the recognition of some T-62-family MBTs being operated by the Syrian military is sometimes impossible. It should be mentioned that the governmental forces also use baseline T-62s and upgrade their protection by applique armor plates.