T-72: How some Russian tanks in Ukraine are doomed by a “jack-in-the-box” flaw dooms

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The sight of Russian tank turrets, blown off and mendacity in break alongside Ukrainian roads, factors to a tank design subject referred to as the “jack-in-the-box” flaw.

The fault is said to the way in which many Russian tanks maintain and cargo ammunition. In these tanks, together with the T-72, the Soviet-designed car that has seen extensive use in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shells are all positioned in a hoop throughout the turret. When an enemy shot hits the precise spot, the ring of ammunition can rapidly “cook dinner off” and ignite a sequence response, blasting the turret off the tank’s hull in a deadly blow.


Sitting on a powder keg:

The T-72 tank’s deadly flaw

Different tanks on the trendy battlefield usually retailer their ammunition away

from the crew, behind armored partitions.

The Russian T-72 principal battle tank’s ammunition sits in a carousel-style computerized loader straight beneath the primary turret and members of the crew.

If a penetrating hit on the tank’s comparatively skinny facet armor detonates one in all these rounds, the explosion can set off a sequence response, killing the crew and destroying the tank.

M1 Abrams (United States)

Sources: “M1 Abrams vs. T-72 Ural” by

Stephen Zaloga (Osprey Publishing, 2009); “Leopard 2 Important Battle Tank 1979–1998” by

Uwe Schnellbacher and Michael Jerchel (Osprey Publishing, 1998); Federation of American Scientists

WILLIAM NEFF/THE WASHINGTON POST

Sitting on a powder keg:

The T-72 tank’s deadly flaw

Different tanks on the trendy battlefield usually retailer their ammunition away from the crew, behind armored partitions. The Russian T-72 principal battle tank’s ammunition sits in a carousel-style computerized loader straight beneath the primary turret and members of the crew.

If a penetrating hit on the tank’s comparatively skinny facet armor detonates one in all these rounds, the explosion can set off a sequence response, killing the crew and destroying the tank.

M1 Abrams (United States)

Sources: “M1 Abrams vs. T-72 Ural” by Stephen Zaloga (Osprey Publishing, 2009); “Leopard 2 Important Battle Tank 1979–1998” by Uwe Schnellbacher and Michael Jerchel (Osprey Publishing, 1998); Federation of American Scientists

WILLIAM NEFF/THE WASHINGTON POST

Sitting on a powder keg: The T-72 tank’s deadly flaw

Different tanks on the trendy battlefield usually retailer their ammunition away from the crew, behind armored partitions. The Russian T-72 principal battle tank’s ammunition sits in a carousel-style computerized loader straight beneath the primary turret and members of the crew.

If a penetrating hit on the tank’s comparatively skinny facet armor detonates one in all these rounds, the explosion can set off

a sequence response, killing the crew and destroying the tank.

M1 Abrams (United States)

Sources: “M1 Abrams vs. T-72 Ural” by Stephen Zaloga (Osprey Publishing, 2009); “Leopard 2 Important Battle Tank 1979–1998”

by Uwe Schnellbacher and Michael Jerchel (Osprey Publishing, 1998); Federation of American Scientists

WILLIAM NEFF/THE WASHINGTON POST

In Ukraine, destroyed Russian tanks are the latest roadside attraction

“For a Russian crew, if the ammo storage compartment is hit, everyone seems to be useless,” mentioned Robert E. Hamilton, a professor on the US Military Battle Faculty, including that the power of the explosion can “instantaneously vaporize” the crew. “All these rounds — round 40 relying on in the event that they’re carrying a full load or not — are all going to cook dinner off, and everybody goes to be useless.”

British Protection Secretary Ben Wallace this week estimated that Russia has misplaced at the very least 530 tanks — destroyed or captured — because it invaded Ukraine in February.

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“What we’re witnessing now’s Ukrainians profiting from the tank flaw,” mentioned Samuel Bendett, an adviser on the Heart for Naval Analyzes, a federally funded nonprofit analysis institute. Ukraine’s Western allies have offered antitank weapons at excessive quantity.

Ukraine, too, has been utilizing Russian-made T-72 variants, which face the identical subject. However Russia’s invasion has associated on the large-scale deployment of tanks, and Ukraine has been capable of battle again higher than anticipated.

The flaw speaks to a broader distinction in approaches between Western militaries and Russia’s, analysts say.

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“American tanks for a very long time have prioritized crew survivability in a approach that Russian tanks simply have not,” mentioned Hamilton. “It is actually only a distinction within the design of the ammo storage compartment and a distinction in prioritization.”

Ammunition in most Western tanks might be saved underneath the turret ground, protected by the heavy hull — or behind the turret, mentioned Hamilton. Whereas a turret-placed ammunition storage compartment is probably weak to a success, built-in options can stop the identical degree of decapitating devastation seen within the case of the T-72.

Even the early variations of the American M1 Abrams tanks within the Eighties have been fitted with robust blast doorways separating the crew inside from the saved ammunition. These tanks have a crew of 4, together with a loader who opens the ballistic door manually. These have been designed to be stronger than the highest armor, in order that if ammunition is cooked off, the explosion could be channeled upward by blowout panels, somewhat than into the crew compartment, Hamilton mentioned.

On the battlefield, Ukraine makes use of Soviet-era weapons in opposition to Russia

However, Russian tanks depend on mechanical computerized loaders, permitting them to be manned by a workforce of three.

The design of Russian tanks prioritizes price of fireplace, firepower, a low profile, pace and maneuverability vs. total survivability, mentioned Hamilton. Russian tanks are typically lighter and easier, and have thinner, less-advanced armor than Western tanks. The design vulnerability was most likely “simply cheaper and lighter,” Hamilton mentioned.

Newer Russian fashions have come out because the T-72, which was produced within the Seventies by the Soviet Union. One in all them, the T-14 Armata, has been described as a complicated battlefield game-changer because it debuted at a 2015 army parade. However the Armatas haven’t but seen a lot use exterior parades. Newer variants of the T-72 have include higher tank protections, Bendett mentioned, however the prevailing precept has been the identical: a three-person crew with a decrease profile, and shells in a circle throughout the turret.

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For the US army, Hamilton mentioned, “If the tank is destroyed and the crew survives, you may make one other tank extra rapidly than you possibly can practice one other crew.”

For Russia, “the individuals are as expendable because the machine,” he mentioned. “The Russians have recognized about this for 31 years — it’s a must to say they’ve simply chosen to not cope with it.”

Claire Parker contributed to this report.

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