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T-72 in Iraqi Service

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T-72 in Iraqi Service

Photographs and Text by Scott Taylor

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The Iraqi Army once fielded a large force of T-72 tanks, mostly of the T-72M1 variety. The Iraqis had a tendency to modify their vehicles in many wierd and wonderful ways, and very few of these modifications were known until the mass donation of ex-Iraqi armoured vehicles to western military museums following the Gulf War of 1991. This is one of those vehicles, on display at the Patton Armor Museum in Fort Knox, Kentucky. These photographs were taken in July 1997, and are primarily intended to document the unique modifications made to this particular vehicle.

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This view of the bow plate of the T-72 shows just how cluttered and complicated these vehicles are. The rubberized canvas mantlet cover is visible, as is the wiring for the smoke dischargers and the gunner's sight housing on the turret roof. Notice also the details of the station-keeping lights, the driver's hatch and its stopper, and the splash guard on the bow plate. It is not known how many Iraqi tank drivers had handlebar mustaches.

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This is what makes this particular T-72 unusual. The exhaust system was modified so that a plate could be slid down to divert the exhaust gases through two stainless steel pipes that ran along the length of the vehicle to the bow. Visible here is the badly rusted exhaust and plate, and details of how the two pipes were crudely welded to the exhaust. The two pipes ran down the entire length of the vehicle on the left side (as can be seen in the overall view of the vehicle at the top of this page). It is believed that this system was supposed to help blow up dust to hide the vehicle.

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Once the pipes got up to the front of the vehicle, this is what they did. A series of right-angle turns in the pipes were welded, and then brackets were added to the front plate to support the pipes as they exited on the ground just in front of the vehicle's bow. Notice how rusty the welds are, and how scuffed and scraped the vehicle is. Details of the fenders, headlights, and conduits running across the front of the vehicle are also visible in this photograph.

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This picture gives a slightly different view of the mounting arrangement for the pipes. Also visible here are details of the scraper blade mounted on the lower hull plate, the attachment points for mine plows or mine rollers, and the prominent weld marks for the towing shackles. A point to note about this vehicle is that all paint, including the markings on the turret, is original.

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