The subject of these photographs is a relatively early production T-72A MBT, formerly of the East German NVA. This vehicle, as well as a T-55A, a T-34/85M, and a really neat cutaway T-55A(M), were donated to the tank museum at CFB Borden back in the early 1990s by the German government. When photographed in 1994, this tank was still painted in its original East German markings. Unfortunately, since then it has been repainted, obliterating the original markings and camouflage.
The bow of a T-72 is a very busy place, with lots of fittings and protrubences. The dozer blade on the lower hull is barely visible, with a row of bolts above that for the attachment of mine rollers or mine plows. The driver's periscope is at the top centre of the glacis plate, with a large splash guard in front of that. The tow cable snakes around that, with the headlight assemblies just inboard of the fenders.
This closeup of the headlights and the inner fender reveals a plethora of useful details. Details of the tow cable stowage are visible, as are the bolts for attachment of mine-clearing equipment. To the left can be seen the spring for the folding portion of the fender, while other details of the fender construction can also be seen. In the middle of the photograph is the infra-red driving light, while to the left of that is one of the station-keeping lights that are on the corners of the tank. The main driving light is missing on the right side, giving us an excellent view of the headlight guard.
The T-72's exhaust comes off the left side of the vehicle. This vehicle is fitted with rubberized fabric skirt armour, as opposed to the fold-out "gill" armour fitted to early T-72s. The fabric armour also extends above the fenders, affording some extra protection to the fuel tanks, which are located on top of the fenders. Notice how scrapes on the skirts expose the rubber colour underneath. The portion of the skirt immediately below the exhaust is metal, and a metal manifold also covers the exhaust itself. This photograph also affords a good view of the left side of the turret, including the deep-wading snorkel.
The hull rear is dominated by the large unditching beam, which looks remarkably like a chunk of telephone pole secured by metal straps. Above the beam are the mounts for external fuel tanks, not fitted on this particular vehicle. The right rear station-keeping light is missing its bulb, giving it the strange appearance; just to the left of that can be seen an unusual bracket for holding the rear towing cable above the engine deck. Finally, the rubberized rear mudguards can be seen to advantage in this view.
The right side of the turret has stowage clasps for two ammunition boxes for the commander's 12.7mm NSVT machine gun. Immediately in front of that is a grab handle; on later T-72s, this spot is occupied by smoke dischargers. The right-hand aperture and housing for the gunner's coincidence rangefinder is visible in front of the commander's cupola.
An unusual view down the top of the T-72's 125mm 2A46 Rapira-3 main gun. This gives us a good look at the top of the thermal sleeve and fume extractor on the gun. I was surprised to find that the barrel sleeve was simply thin sheet metal, with nothing inside of it (the sleeve flexed when I grabbed it).
Just to the right of the main gun is an infra-red searchlight, which is connected to the gun in elevation through a linkage. Normally, as seen here, the light has a protective cover on it. Some details of the rubberized canvas mantlet cover can also be seen here, as well as the driver's hatch and periscope.
From above, we can see more details of the searchlight mount, including how it attaches to the turret, and the wiring conduit that leads back onto the turret. The brightly painted bolts used to adjust the searchlight mount are noteworthy, and provide a small splash of colour to the tank.