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Army of Ukraine increases protection of Polish T-72M1R with ERA armor

A first picture has been released on the Russian Facebook social network "VK", showing a T-72M1R donated by Poland to the Ukrainian army fitted with ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) to increase protection against Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
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Ukrainian army T-72M1R tank donated by Poland is now fitted with ERA Explosive Reactive Armor to increase protection against Russian anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.  (Picture source VK)

On April 29, 2022, Army Recognition reported that Poland will provide more than 200 T-72 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine. Citing Polish source, Poland has sent at least 240 T-72 tanks to Ukraine including T-72M1s and a modernized version of the T-72, the T-72M1R.

On May 4, 2022, a video was released on the Internet showing soldiers who conduct training with T-72M1Rs donated by Poland. The T-72M1R, is Polish-made modernization of the T-72M1 main battle tank, the export version of the T-72A. This version of the Polish T-72 was never fitted with ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor).

In fact, the original T-72 turret is made from conventional cast high hardness steel armor with no laminate inserts. It is believed that the maximum thickness is 280 mm and the nose is 80 mm. The hull of the T-72 was initially designed to withstand 105 mm tank ammunition from close ranges around 500 m and anti-tank guided missiles along the frontal 60° arc.

The original armor of the T-72 is very inefficient against the new generation of modern anti-tank guided missiles and self-propelled grenades. The Russian RPG-22 is able to penetrate 400 mm of Rolled homogeneous armor (RHA) commonly used on main battle tanks, while the RPG-26 is able to penetrate 440 mm of RHA.

One of the most modern anti-tank guided missiles used by the Russian armed forces is the 9M133 Kornet which is designed to defeat armored vehicles fitted with explosive reactive armor (ERA). The Kornet missile can be fitted with different types of warheads including 9K135, E, and D capable of penetrating the armor of a thickness of up to 1,300 mm.

The Ukrainian army quickly upgraded the Polish T-72M2 and T-72M1R tanks in order to improve protection against the new anti-tank weapons used by the Russian army. New ERA armor has been fitted at the front and the sides of the hull and at the front of the turret.

The Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) is used for the protection of tanks against anti-tank threats such as High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) and Kinetic Energy ammunition. It consists of mainly two subsystems, reactive elements, and armor panels. Different size panels are fitted on the tank with a provision for positioning of reactive elements inside the panels. The panels are mounted to the tank by welding fixtures and mounting structures.

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