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T-62 main battle tank

Written by Sakhal

The bad prestations of the Egyptian and Syrian tanks T-54 during the Six Day War constituted an unpleasant surprise, equally in Moscow, Cairo and Damascus. If the Soviet Union wanted to continue supporting the Arab regimes, they would need a better material, leaving apart a better training. And a better material would be soon available in the form of the new main battle tank T- 62.

The program of the T-62 started in the late 1950s as the successor of the T-54/55. The tank entered production in 1961 and it was seen in public for the first time in the parade of the 1st May 1965, which means that, probably, it had been delivered to the first-line units in 1963-64. In general terms, its appearance derived from the T-54/55, with the same type of turret of low and bowl- shaped profile and without mantlet, and with Christie suspension, albeit the wheels were spaced differently to the former model. It also had a wider and longer hull, totally built by welding and with the thickness of the front face being 100 millimeters. The turret was made in cast steel, with a thickness varying from 170 millimeters in its front face to 60 millimeters in the rear face. The driver was placed in the fore left area of the hull and the other three crew members in the turret, the commander and gunner to the left and the loader to the right. The engine and transmission were placed in the rear part of the hull. The suspension was of the type torsion bar, with five road wheels, a fore idler and a rear drive sprocket. The new tank had some more thickness in the frontal armor: up to 214 millimeters in the front of the turret, which increased its weight slightly. Despite of that the prestations of the T-62 matched the ones of the T-54/55, thanks to its slightly more powerful engine V-2-62; like its predecessors and successors, this tank used external fuel tanks to increase its operational range, which the driver could jettison if a combat were about to start.

T-62 main battle tank

The T-62 (lower picture) in comparison with the T-55.

The superior weight of the T-62 was due also to the completely new and much more powerful cannon. This was the first main battle tank fitted with a smoothbore cannon, in this case an U-5TS of caliber 115 millimeters, for which a range of ammunition was developed, including an anti-personnel breaking projectile, a subcalibrated fin-stabilized projectile and a shaped-charge projectile. The shaped-charge projectile was effective against armor of up to 430 millimeters within its operational range, while the kinetic-energy projectile, which exited the muzzle at the tremendous speed of 1680 meters/second, could perforate an armor of 330 millimeters at a distance of 1000 meters, having an effective range of 1600 meters. According to Israeli sources, the capacity of perforation of this projectile went from 300 to 1000 meters. The load is manually done and once the shot is effectuated, the barrel returns automatically to a preset position in which the case is ejected through a duct that exits it via a small hatch in the rear part of the turret, a system that could look as unreliable. Average rate of fire would be about four shots per minute and the cannon was stabilized in both axes. Since the new cannon, of 55 calibers, was longer than the former one of 110 millimeters, the space inside the turret was reduced even more. The size of the cannon limited as well the amount of ammunition on hand to only four shots [1], with other 36 projectiles being stored in the hull; and it also caused the new tank to share with the T-54/55 a too limited capability for lowering the cannon below the horizontal, with all the tactical disadvantages that this supposes (elevation sector was between +17 and -4 degrees). The tactical capability of the tank was even more restricted by a fire-control system which was not so reliable as its American counterpart, albeit such defect was later corrected, by mounting a system with laser rangefinder and a digital ballistic calculator.

[1] The bad placement of the ammunition on hand in the T-62 demanded notable conditions from the loader, who had to be small, strong and left-handed.

T-62 main battle tank

The NBC (Nuclear-Bacteriological-Chemical) protection was standard and a snorkel could be installed on the loader's hatch for deep fording of up to 5.5 meters. Like the T-55, the T-62 could produce smoke curtains by injecting pulverized gasoil inside the exhaust ducts. The infrared systems included headlights for night driving, a projector installed co-axially with the cannon, moving together with this one, and a smaller projector in the commander's hatch. The T-62 suffered a series of modifications in time. The T-62A had improved fire-control and infrared systems, a turret of new profile which improved internal space and the DShK anti-aircraft machine gun mounted in the loader's hatch, which was not present in the original model. The T-62M improved the tracks with an increased expectative of duration. Among the variants there was a command tank, with better communication and navigation systems; there was a flamethrower tank in which the flamethrower cannon did not replace the main cannon, but was installed instead of the 7.62 millimeters co-axial machine gun; and it was developed also an armored recovery vehicle. The T-62 remained in production during long time, like the T-54/55. In the Soviet Union it was produced until 1975, when about 20000 units had been made; another 1500 were produced in Czechoslovakia between 1973 and 1978. This tank was also produced in North Korea, where an unknown number of exemplars was produced for that country and other Communist clients in its sphere of influence. A quarter century after its introduction, the T-62 was still in service in first line with the Soviet Union and many of its satellite countries. The T-62 has been used in combat by Syrians, Egyptians and Iraqis. Albeit it was not so sophisticated as western models, it demonstrated to be quite tough and reliable. Other countries using this tank were Afghanistan, Algeria, Bulgaria, North Korea, Cuba, India, Israel (many exemplars captured) and Libya.

T-62 main battle tank

Tanks T-62 fording a river with their snorkels. This device allows to cross rivers without the assistance of bridgelaying vehicles, but its deployment requires a time-consuming operation. Are clearly visible as well the small hatch from where the 115 millimeters cases are ejected and the external fuel tanks.

T-62 main battle tank

A T-62 tank advancing through the hell of artillery explosions. Like most tanks of its time, it was prepared to intervene in areas of nuclear, bacteriological or chemical war.

Crew: 4

Armament: One U-5TS 115-millimeter cannon; one PKT 7.62 millimeters co-axial machine gun; one DShK 12.7-millimeter machine gun in the loader's hatch (not installed in the original model)

Ammunitions: 40 for 115-millimeter cannon; 2500 for 7.62-millimeter machine gun

Armor: 15-214 millimeters overall; 100 millimeters in the front face of hull; 214 millimeters in the front face of the turret (increased to 242 millimeters from 1972)

Length (total): 9.33 meters

Length (hull): 6.63 meters

Width: 3.35 meters

Height: 2.40 meters

Weight: 37.5 tonnes

Ground pressure: 0.72 kilograms/square centimeter

Engine: Diesel V-2-62 with 12 cylinders, water-cooled and with a maximum power of 580 horsepower at 2000 revolutions per minute

Power/weight ratio: 15.45 horsepower/tonne

Maximum speed (in road): 45-50 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range (in road): 450 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.8 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.8 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.4 meters unprepared and 5.5 meters with snorkel

Article updated: 2015-06-06

Categories: Tanks - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-06-04

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