Soviet tank development took another major step forward with the design of the T-62 tank, which was a derivative of the T-55 but armed with a 115mm smooth bore gun that fired arrow-like projectiles instead of the traditional, full calibre projectiles that until then were the standard armour-piercing ammunition of the Soviet tanks. Its projectiles, which came to be known as Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot or APFSDS projectiles, were fired with a muzzle velocity of 1,680m/s, which was higher than that of any other tank gun ammunition in use at the time, and this, together with the slender shape of the projectiles, resulted in greater armour penetration.
Soviet tanks, including the T-34-85, continued to rely on clutch-and-brake steering well into the Second World War, in spite of it being one of their weak points. However, in 1943 a geared steering system with two-speed epicyclic gearboxes was developed for the KV-13 experimental heavy tank that led to the IS or Stalin tanks, and they became the first Soviet tanks to go into service with such a system. 20 After the war a similar system was used on a large scale in T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks.
Development of the T-62 began in 1958 and was almost concurrent with that of the 90 and 105mm smooth bore guns firing APFSDS projectiles that were being developed in the United States for the T95 tank. But whereas the results obtained in the United States were unsatisfactory and the development of the T95 was terminated in 1961, the T-62 was developed successfully and was accepted for use in that year. It was produced in its original form until 1972 and with modifications until 1983, by which time as many as 20,000 are believed to have been built. Most went to the Soviet Army but a significant number was delivered to the Egyptian and Syrian armies, which first used them in combat during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. They were also supplied to Iraq and to North Korea, where the T-62 has been developed further.
The T-62 was the first tank to come into use armed with a high-pressure smooth bore gun firing APFSDS, and as such ushered in the worldwide adoption of this type of armament, which superseded almost all other types of tank guns and kinetic energy ammunition during the 1980s and 1990s. In spite of having an advanced gun armament, the fire power of the T-62M was augmented in 1983 by the provision of guided missiles that could be launched from its gun. The missiles were the 9M117 Bastion laser beam-riders, which were the same as those launched from the 100mm gun of the T-55M and significantly increased the range at which both tanks could engage targets. However, the T-55M and T-62M were not the first to be provided with gun launched missiles in addition to conventional ammunition.
The Soviets commenced quantity production of the T-62 in 1962. The major difference was in the introduction of the 115-mm 2A20 Rapira smoothbore gun with a bore evacuator. The can fire HEAT-FS, HE-FRAG and APFSDS rounds at a maximum rate of 4rpm. The flat trajectory of the APFSDS round coupled with the tank’s stadia rangefinder means that a T-62 can effectively engage targets out to 1600 metres.
The APFSDS projectiles fired by the T-62 looked like a scaled down version of the Peenemunde Arrow Projectiles that were being developed in Germany during the Second World War for long range artillery. 14 Their penetrators were only of steel, but they were fired with a muzzle velocity of 1,615m/s and were capable of penetrating 240mm of armour at 1,900m, which made them as good in this respect as the contemporary 105mm APDS projectiles.
Although housed in a larger turret the 115-mm gun leaves little room for the crew so an automatic shell ejection system has to be added, this ejects spent shell cases out of a hatch in the turret rear. The system requires the gun to be elevated slightly during unloading with the power traverse shut off, thus limiting any rapid fire and second round hit capability. Also the ejection system must be perfectly aligned with the ejection port otherwise a spent shell case bounces around the inside of the turret.
The T-62 can create its own smokescreen by injecting diesel fuel into its exhaust system. The tank is equipped with the PAZ radiation detection system and can use KMT-5/6 mine clearing gear.
TheT-62 has seen combat in a number of wars including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the 1980- 88 First Gulf War, the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Second Gulf War. In practically all these instances its combat record has not been exactly brilliant by any standards. Many examples of T-62 have turned up in the West and those captured by the Israelis have been modified to their own requirements as the Tirdan 6.
T-62M Model 1984 – passive horseshoe shaped shields of homogeneous spaced armour fitted around the gun mantlet and turret sides frontal arc plus an optical belly armour package for mine protection. Developed especially for Afghanistan.
T-62M Model 1986 – fitted with the KTD-2 laser range finder, an upgraded diesel engine and the horseshoe armour package. Internally the vehicle is fitted with a ballistic computer fire control system to considerably improve the first round hit probability at 1600 metres range, a full weapon stabilization system, night vision sights for gunner and commander, a laser guidance package for the 4000 m range 115-mm calibre Sheksna anti-tank missile and an improved model infra-red searchlight.
T-62MK – command version of T-62M variants with additional radio and land navigation system. Only 37 rounds 115-mm ammunition carried. T-62MV – the T-62M Model 1986 fitted with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) boxes.
The Iraqis also modified a number of their T-62 Model 1962, T-62 Model 1967 and T-62K by fitting the loader’s turret position with aDShK cupola ring from a T-55 MET. These vehicles and later T-62M series versions were also provided with sheet metal protective covers for the 800-m range LunaL-2G infra-red/whitelight searchlight that is mounted coaxially to the right of the main gun and the commander’s OU-3G infra-red searchlight mounted at the front of his cupola.
A form of slat or the very similar bar armour was first used in the 1960s by the US Navy on the gun boats that it operated in the Mekong delta during the Vietnam War. 19 It was also used by the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Chechnya in 1995 on T-62 tanks, and it was also fitted to the turrets of some Chinese-built Type 69 tanks used by the Iraqi Army in 1991 during the First Gulf War.
The Russians were also the first to develop a much more sophisticated type of protection against anti-tank guided missiles in the form of the Drozd active protection system. This appeared for the first time in 1983 on a T-55AD and consisted of a millimetre wave radar to detect incoming threats and a cluster of four launchers on each side of the turret with 107mm rockets, one of which would be fired at a threat missile at the appropriate moment determined by the system’s computer to shower it with fragments and thereby damage or destroy it. In contrast to other active protection systems developed elsewhere several years later that provided all-round protection, Drozd’s rocket launchers only covered a frontal arc of 80º, but this would have been sufficient for tanks used for frontal assaults. In addition to T-55AD, Drozd was also installed on some T-62D tanks, but its use has been limited, other Soviet tanks continuing to rely on ERA to augment their built-in passive armour protection.