The T-62 was produced between 1961 and 1975. It became a standard tank in the Soviet arsenal, partly replacing the T-55, although that tank continued to be manufactured in the Soviet Union and elsewhere after T-62 production was halted. The T-62 was later replaced in front-line service by the T-72.
The initial requirementsEdit
By the late 1950s, Soviet commanders realized that the T-55's 100mm gun was incapable of penetrating the frontal armor of newer Western tanks like the Centurion and M48 Patton with standard armor-piercing shells. While 100mm HEAT ammo could have accomplished the task, they were considerably more expensive and required more training of tank crews for proper use. It was decided to up-gun the T-55 with a 115mm smoothbore cannon, capable of firing APFSDS rounds. Experimental trials showed that the T-55 was inherently unsuited to mount the larger cannon, and work therefore began on a new tank. The bigger gun required a bigger turret and turret ring to absorb the higher recoil. This in turn necessitated a larger hull, as the T-55 hull was simply too small to accept the new turret. The T-62 thus took shape, marking a evolutionary improvement upon the T-55.
At the time when Morozov was working on his Ob'yekt 430 tank, a young engineer, Leonid N. Kartsev, was the head of the OKB-520 design bureau of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil. He was responsible for the T-54A and T-54B modernizations of the T-54 main battle tank. After work on the T-54M modernization was abandoned he and his design team started work on a new tank, called Ob'yekt 140. The new tank had a suspension with six light roadwheels made of aluminum. The turret was cast and armed with a 100mm D-54TS tank gun with the Molniya two-plane stabilization system. The tank carried 50 rounds and was powered by a V-36 diesel engine developed by engineer Artiemejev. The engine was placed on the bottom of the hull, a solution which reduced the height of the engine compartment. The Ob'yekt 140 weighed 37.6 tonnes.
Morozov's Ob'yekt 430 tank had a hull of welded rolled steel plates and a turret of cast and forged steel. The turret had three-layer armor with an overall thickness of 185mm to 240mm. It was armed with the same D-54TS tank gun as Kartsev's Ob'yekt 140. In 1957 Uralvagonzavod built two Ob'yekt 140 prototypes which were put on trials soon after. The trials showed that because of the complicated construction of many of the tank's systems, Kartsev's tank would be expensive in serial production and hard to maintain.
Forced to abandon the Ob'yekt 140 project, he started working on yet another T-54 main battle tank modernization called the T-55 (Ob'yekt 155) in which he included one of the key features from his Ob'yekt 140 tank: the upper fuel tanks were fitted with mounts for tank gun ammunition. This increased the ammo load carried by the tank to 45 rounds.
At the end of 1958 Kartsev decided to modernize the Ob'yekt 140 turret. He fitted it with a cartridge-case ejector and mounted it onto a stretched T-55 chassis with a new suspension. He also considered that designs based on already produced vehicles had a higher chance of acceptance. The Ob'yekt 140 turret diameter, bigger than the T-55 turret by 249mm, made redesigning the central part of the hull necessary. Kartsev changed the arrangement of the torsion beams, which was necessary to keep the tank's weight balanced. The tank received the designation "Ob'yekt 165" and in Nov. 1958 three prototypes were produced.
While working on the tank, Kartsev was looking for a more powerful tank gun. The 100mm D-10T and D-54 tank guns had a fierce opponent in the form of the British L7A1 tank gun. The Soviets decided the "recaliber" the already existing 100mm D-54TS tank gun. The modifications done to the gun included removing the rifling of the gun, reducing the profile of the bullet chamber, removing the muzzle brake, lengthening the gun tube, adding an automatic cartridge-case ejector and adding a bore evacuator in the middle of the gun tube. The new 115mm tank gun was designated U-5TS "Molot" Rapira, which was the first Soviet 115mm smoothbore tank gun. When it went into serial production it received the designation 2A20. It was put on trials against the D-10TS tank gun, which armed the T-54B as well as some T-55 and T-55A main battle tanks. These trials showed that the undercaliber projectiles shot out of the U-5TS had a 700 km/h higher muzzle velocity. It became apparent that the maximum range of the new tank gun was almost double that of the D-10TS. The only serious drawback of the U-5TS tank gun was the fact that it was not as accurate as the D-10TS, because of the lack of rifling. However, the greater range of the gun and its extremely high muzzle velocity made the poor accuracy less of an issue.
The new 115mm U-5TS "Molot" Rapira smoothbore tank gun was fitted into the Ob'yekt 140 turret at the end of 1960. The new tank received the designation "Ob'yekt 166". In 1960 both Ob'yekt 165 and Ob'yekt 166 prototypes passed their trials. The Uralvagonzavod was prepared to start serial production of the new tank, though the General Armored Directorate (GBTU) was paying more attention to Morozov's Ob'yekt 430, which was in development since early 1952. Morozov was supported by General Ustinov, who was in charge of Soviet military industry at the time. He didn't see it as necessary to produce the new tank from Uralvagonzavod but soon the situation changed dramatically with the appearance of a new American main battle tank, the M60. Zaloga claimed in Jan. 1961, an Iranian officer defected with his new US-made M60A1 main battle tank across the border into the Soviet Union, but it seems very unlikely considering the M60A1 didn't exist in 1961. The new American tanks were armed with the British 105mm Royal Ordnance L7A1 tank gun, the same as the earlier British Centurion main battle tanks and the later German Leopard 1 main battle tanks. The M60's armor layout and L7A1 tank gun granted superiority to the NATO main battle tanks over Soviet contemporary main battle tanks. This situation caused great concern in the Soviet armored forces. In 1961 the Soviet intelligence discovered that the British were working on a new main battle tank armed with a 120mm tank gun. Because of this, General Czujkov demanded an explanation of the "Kartsev's tanks" case. At a conference of GTBU and the Soviet ground forces committee ti became apparent that Morozov's Ob'yekt 430 tank was only 10% better than the serial T-55. Because of this, Morozov's project was deemed a complete failure. the representatives of Karkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau said that work on the new tank, Ob'yekt 432, had already started. Czujkov demanded that production of the Ob'yekt 166 be started immediately.
The OKB-520 design bureau of Uralvagonzavod provided another design, the Ob'yekt 167, which was the Ob'yekt 166 with a more powerful V-26 engine using a charger, developing 700 hp. Two prototypes were built in the middle of 1961 and passed the trials. This time the GBTU decided not to wait for the new main battle tank to pass trials and send the Ob'yekt 166 into mass production on July 1961. The Ob'yekt 165 also entered service in very small numbers, under the designation T-62A.
DesignEditThe T-62 has a typical tank layout: driver's compartment at the front, fighting compartment in the center and engine compartment in the rear. The four-man crew consists of the commander, driver, gunner, and loader. Although the T-62 is very similar to the T-55 and makes use of many of the same parts, there are some differences. Those include the hull, which is a few centimeters longer and wider, the different road wheels, and differences in characteristic uneven gaps between roadwheels. Unlike the T-54 and T-55 main battle tanks, the gaps between the last three roadwheels are larger than the rest.
ArmamentEditThe armament consists of the 115mm U-5TS "Molot" Rapira smoothbore tank gun with a two-axis "Meteor" stabilizer and 7.62mm PKT coaxial general-purpose machine gun mounted on the right of the main gun. The 12.7mm DShK 1938/46 antiaircraft heavy machine gun is mounted on the loader's hatch. It was optional until 1972 when all newly built tanks were fitted with te AA HMG. The tank carries 40 rounds for the main gun (although only 4 are placed in turret while the rest are stored in the back of the fighting compartment and the front of the hull, on the right of the driver) and 2500 rounds for the coaxial machine gun. All the vehicle's armament is mounted in or on the round cast egg-shaped turret from the Ob'yekt 140 prototype main battle tank, mounted over the third set of roadwheels. It takes more than 21 seconds for the T-62's turret to rotate through a full 360 degrees, considerably longer than the time needed by US and NATO tanks of the time. The T-62 was armed with the world's first smoothbore tank gun giving it considerably greater muzzle velocity than the Western 90mm and 105mm tank guns of its time. It can fire BM-6 APFSDS-T, BK-4, BK-4M HEAT and OF-18 Frag-HE rounds. The 115mm gun introduced the first successful APFSDS ammunition, albeit with a steel penetrator. A smoothbore gun allowed a significantly better performance (from 10% to 20%) from HEAT ammunition, which was considered the main ammunition type for fighting enemy armor at medium and long ranges. The gun can be elevated or depressed between -6 and +16 degrees. The tank has no autoloader and has to be reloaded by hand. To reload the gun it must be depressed to +3.5 degrees. Empty cartridges are automatically ejected outside the vehicles through a small hatch in the rear of the turret. The gun has a range of fire of about 4 km during day conditions and 800m (with the use of night-vision equipment) at night. The T-62's practical rate of fire is 4 rounds per minute while the vehicle is stationary and is lower when the vehicle is moving. The low rate of fire falls behind the capabilities of Western 105mm tank guns. When the tank and the target are stationary, the U-5TS has almost the same accuracty as the American M60 Patton and the German Leopard 1 main battle tanks. When the tank or the target are moving the accuracy becomes very poor due to the tank's poor stabilization system and the lack of a fire control system. Even the APFSDS-T rounds at a range of 700 meters are half as accuracte when the target is moving with a constant speed.
MobilityEditThe T-62 uses torsion bar suspension. It has five pairs of rubber-tired roadwheels, a drive sprocket at the rear and idler at the front on each side, with no return rollers. The first and last roadwheels each have a hydraulic shock absorber. The tank is powered by the V-55 12-cylinder 4-stroke one-chamber 38.88 litre water-cooled diesel engine developing 581 hp at 2,000 rpm. This is the same engine as the one used in the T-55. Because the T-62 weighs more than the T-55, it is less maneuverable. Like the T-55, the T-62 has three external diesel fuel tanks on the right fender and a single auxilary oil tank on the left fender. The tank carries 960 litres of fuel in its internal and external fuel tanks. Two optional 200-litre drum-type fuel tanks can be fitted on the rear of the vehicle for an increased operational range.
CountermeasuresEditThe T-62 has 5% better armor on the front of the hull and 15% better armor on the front of the turret than the T-54/55. The turret armor is 153mm thick on the sides, 97mm thick on the rear, and 40mm thick on the roof. The hull armor is 79mm thick on the upper sides, 46mm thick on the rear and 20mm thick on the bottom. Although the armor on the front of the hull is thicker than the T-55, the lower side armor and the roof armor are actually thinner.
EquipmentEditThe T-62 shares some of the T-55's limitations: a cramped crew compartment, crude gun control equipment (on most early gun models), limited depression of the main gun and vulnerable fuel and ammunition storage areas. The automatic spent-cartridge ejection system can cause dangerous accumulations of carbon monoxide and possibly actual physical injury to the crew from spent cartridge casings ricocheting against the edge of a poorly aligned ejection port and rebounding into the crew compartment. Crew members often suffer blunt force injuries and burns from ejected cases bouncing around the interior of the tank. Later designs fitted a deflector behind the commander to protect him from this, but other crew members remain vulnerable. Opening the ejection port under NBC conditions would expose the crew to contamination. Each time the gun is fired, the tube must go into detente for cartridge ejection; the power traverse of the turret is inoperable during ejection and reloading operations. Since manual elevation and traverse are rather slow and not effective for tracking a moving target, rapid fire and second-hit capabilities are limited. The turret cannot be traversed with the driver's hatch open. Although the tank commander may override the gunner and traverse the turret, he cannot fire the main gun from his position. He is unable to override the gunner in elevation of the main gun, causing target acquisition problems.
To fire the 12.7mm antiaircraft heavy machine gun, the loader must be partially exposed, making him vulnerable to suppressive fire, and he must leave his main gun loading duties unattended.
The T-62 never enjoyd the anticipated success for numerous reasons. First, the T-62 was more than twice as expensive as the T-55 and many Warsaw Pact nations passed on the new tank because they did not feel that the improvements inherent in it warranted the cost. Secondly, in 1968, a 100mm HVAPDS tank shell capable of penetrating Western armor was developed. Use of this ammo made the T-55 gun almost as effective as the T-62's, undercutting the T-62's original selling point: a bigger, more powerful gun. Third, the T-62 was almost immediately rendered obsolete upon its introduction by new Western tanks, and it became depressingly clear to the Soviets that work had to begin on an even newer main battle tank to keep pace, even though the T-62 was brand new. Finally, the T-62 was slow and could not keep up with the new Soviet BMP-the principal infantry fighting vehicle which the T-62 was supposed to accompany. All of these factors combined to ensure that the T-62 enjoyed relatively low commercial success, and only briefly served in first line Soviet units before being relegated to training, to reserve status, or being exported to Third World clients.
Soviet UnionEditThe T-62 entered service with the Soviet Army in July 1961. Because of the firepower of the new 115mm gun, it was considered to be a formidable tank for the time despite its drawbacks. Along with the T-55, the T-62 was one of the most common tanks in the Soviet inventory. The two tanks together once comprised approximately 85% of the Soviet Army's tanks.
Sino-Soviet border conflictEditThe T-62 saw combat for the first time during 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflicts during which one was disabled and captured by the People's Liberation Army. The T-62 (No. 545) was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from the Type-56 (Chinese copy of RPG-2) RPG launcher on the morning of 15 March 1969 during a PLA counterattack. The RPG penetrated the left side of the hull, killing the driver. This tank was later studied and the information gathered from those studies was used for the development of the Type 69 MBT.
Soviet war in AfghanistanEditDuring the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the T-62 was a primary tank used by the Soviet Army. The Soviets used tanks in a similar was to what the US Army did in Veitnam, with the use of many in fire support bases. Towards the end of the war, using the BDD applique armor, they appeared in large numbers. Numerous T-62s fell victim to Mujahideen attacks, especially from antitank landmines. Others fell into the hands of the Afghan Mujahideen after they were left behind by withdrawing Soviet forces.
The T-62 and T-55 are now mostly Russian reserve tanks, utilized for a possible secondary mobilization while some are kept in storage. The active duty and primary mibilization units mainly use the T-80, T-72, and T-64, with a smaller number of T-90 tanks in service in active units.
War in ChechnyaEdit
The Russian Army used both T-62s and T-62Ms in combat in Chechnya. The T-62M is still being used for counterterrorism operations in this region.
2008 South Ossetia warEdit
T-62s were used in the war agains Georgia.
The only other Warsaw Pact nation to operate T-62s on a mass scale was Bulgaria, which bought 250 T-62s, which were delivered between 1970 and 1974. After the war in Afghanistan, Bulgaria received a number of T-62s from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. These were modified, but due to several problems, they were quickly drawn out of service and some were sold to Angola and Yemen. Many were converted into TV-62 and TV-62M armored recovery vehicles and their turrets were scrapped. The TV-62M is the standard armored recovery vehicle of the Bulgarian Army.
Other Warsaw Pact membersEdit
Both Poland and Czechoslovakia evaluated the vehicle but refused it because of the high price and low update value compared to the T-55.
IsraelEditDuring the Yom Kippur war, the T-62 was an effective adversary for Israeli Patton and Centurion main battle tanks armed with 105mm tank guns. The T-62 had an advantage in its better night fighting capability, but Syrian losses were heavy. The Israelis captured several hundreds of these tanks from the Syrians in 1973, and put some of them into service as the Tiran-3. About 120 Tiran-3s were modernized and received the designation Tiran-6 Only a small number was converted because the new US made M60 tanks started arriving in Israel. A small tank brigade consisting of two enlarged tank regiments, each equipped with 46 Tiran-6 tanks, was formed. The Tiran-6 is used by reserve units. The Israelis have sold the rest to assorted countries, mainly in Latin America.
Libyan-Chadian WarEditIn 1982, when Libya invaded Chad, the T-62 tanks were faced with militamen who had made technical fighting vehicles from Toyota pickup trucks, most of them still in their civilian paint. The technicals were essentially makeshift tank destroyers, as the militiamen had mounted MILAN ATGM firing posts and welded tripod mounts for assorted recoilless rifles onto the beds of the trucks.
The first T-62s arrived in Cuba in 1976. Currently approximately 400 are in service with the Cuban armed forces and about 100 are in storage. They are modernized to the T-62M standard with additional armor, laser equipment and fire control systems.
Angolan Civil WarEditIn 1988 Cuba sent its T-62s to Angola to support its MPLA allies in the fight against UNITA (who was supported by South Africa) in the Angolan Civil War. During fighting after the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988, they were used to stop the South African armored forces armed with Olifant MBTs. Tanks were also used during Cuban attempts to make an offensive towards the Namibian border. They had limited success due to the unsuitability of the terrain to tank warfare, and were easily countered by the South Africans' use of anti-tank missiles and wheeled anti-tank vehicles.
Ethiopian Civil WarEdit
The Ethiopian Army purchased T-62s and used them against guerillas.