For the engine, see General Electric T64
|Type:||Main battle tank|
|Used By:||Soviet Union, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan|
|Designer:||Morozov Design Bureau|
|Armour:||20–450 mm of Glass-reinforced plastic sandwiched between layers of steel|
|Primary Armament:||D-81T 125 mm smoothbore gun|
|Secondary Armament:||7.62 mm PKMT coax machine gun, 12.7 mm NSVT antiaircraft machine gun|
|Engine:||5DTF 5-cyl. diesel|
|Engine Power:||700 hp|
|Pw Ratio:||18.4 hp/tonne|
|Vehicle Range:||500 km, 700 km with external tanks|
The T-64 is a Soviet main battle tank, introduced in the early 1960s. It was used solely by the Soviet Army in its front-line divisions and was a more advanced counterpart to the T-62. Although T-62 and the famed T-72 would see much wider use and generally more development, it was the T-64 that formed the basis of more modern Soviet tank designs like the T-80.
The T-64 was conceived in Kharkov (Kharkiv, Ukraine) as the next-generation main battle tank by Alexander A. Morozov, the designer of the T-54 (which in the meantime would be incrementally improved by Leonid N. Kartsev's Nizhny Tagil bureau, in models T-54A, T-54B, T-55, and T-55A).
A revolutionary feature of the T-64 is the incorporation of an automatic loader for its 115-mm gun, allowing a crewmember's position to be omitted, and helping to keep the size and weight of the tank down. Tank troopers would joke that the designers had finally caught up with their unofficial hymn, "Three Tankers"—the song had been written to commemorate the crewmen fighting in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, in 3-man BT-5 tanks in 1939.
The T-64 also pioneered other Soviet tank technology: the T-64A model of 1967 introduced the 125-mm smoothbore gun, and the T-64B of 1976 would be able to fire a guided antitank missile through its gun barrel.
The T-64 design was further developed as the gas turbine-powered T-80 main battle tank. The turret of the T-64B would be used in the improved T-80U and T-80UD, and an advanced version of its diesel engine would power T-80UD and T-84 tanks built in Ukraine.
The T-64 would be used only by the Soviet Army and never exported, unlike the T-54/55, T-62 and later T-72. It was superior to these tanks in most qualitative terms, until the introduction of the T-72B model in 1985. The tank equipped elite and regular formations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, the T-64A model being first deployed with East Germany's Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) in 1976, and some time later in Hungary's Southern Group of Forces (SFG). By 1981 the improved T-64B began to be deployed in East Germany and later in Hungary. While it was believed that the T-64 was "only" reserved for elite units, it was also used by much lower "non-ready formations", for example, the Odessa Military District's 14th Army.
With the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, T-64 tanks remained in the arsenals of constituent republics. Currently, slightly fewer than 2,000 of the old Soviet inventory of T-64 tanks are in service with the military of Ukraine and about 4,000 remain in service with the Russian Ground Forces.
Recognizing that the T-55/T-62 lineage had finally exhausted its potential for improvement, the USSR embarked upon the development of an entirely new tank design that could defeat new Western tanks like the British Chieftain and resist new Western anti-tank weapons. 
Studies for the design of a new battle tank started as early as 1951. The KB-60M team was formed at the Kharkov construction bureau of the Kharkov transport machine-building factory No. 75 named for Malyshev (Russian: конструкторское бюро Харьковского завода транспортного машиностроения №75 им. Малышева) by engineers coming back from Nizhniy Tagil, with A.A. Morozov at its head. A project named obyekt 430 gave birth to three prototypes which were tested in Kubinka in 1958. Those vehicles showed characteristics which were going to radically change the design of battle tanks on this side of the Iron Curtain. For the first time, an extremely compact opposed-cylinder engine was used : the 4TD, designed by the plant's engine design team. The transmission system comprised two lateral gears on each side of the engine. Those two innovations yielded a very short engine compartment with the opening located beneath the turret. The engine compartment volume was almost half that of the T-54. The cooling system was extracting and a new lightweight suspension was fitted, featuring hollow metallic wheels of a small diameter and caterpillar tracks with rubber joints.
The tank would keep a D-10TS 100 mm gun and frontal armour of 120 mm. As it did not present a clear superiority in terms of combat characteristics when compared to the T-55 which was entering active service, Morozov decided that production was not yet ready given the project's drawbacks. However, studies conducted on the obyekt 430U, featuring a 122 mm gun and 160 mm of armour, demonstrated that the tank had the potential to fit the firepower and armour of a heavy tank on a medium tank chassis. A new project was consequently started, obyekt 432.
The gun fitted on this new tank was a powerful 115 mm D-68 (2A21). A potentially risky decision was taken to replace the human loader by an electro-hydraulic automatic system, never used on tanks before. The crew was reduced to three, which allowed an important reduction in internal volume, and consequently in weight, from 36 tonnes (obyekt 430) to 30.5 tonnes. The height dropped by 76 mm.
However, the arrival of the British 105 mm L7 gun and the US M-68 variant of it, fitted respectively to the Centurion and M60 tanks, forced the team to undertake another audacious première, with the adoption of a composite armour. The recently created process was called "K combination" by Western armies: this protection consisted of an aluminium alloy layer between two high strength steel layers. As a consequence, the weight of the prototype rose eventually to 34 tonnes. But as the engine was now a 700 hp (515 kW) 5TDF (also locally designed), its mobility remained excellent, far superior to the active T-62. The obyekt 432 was ready in September 1962 and the production started in October 1963 in Kharkov plant. On December 30, 1966, it entered its service as the T-64.
Even as the first T-64s were rolling off the assembly lines, the design team was working on a new version which would allow it to keep firepower superiority, named obyekt 434. The brand new and very powerful 125 mm D-81T gun, from the Perm weapons factory, was fitted to the tank. This gun was merely a scaled-up version of the 115 mm smoothbore cannon from the T-62. The larger size of the 125 mm ammunition meant less could be carried inside the T-64, and with a fourth crewman loader taking up space as well, the tank would only have a 25-round capacity. This was unacceptably low for the Soviet designers, but strict dimensional parameters forbade them from enlarging the tank to increase interior space. The solution was to replace the human loader with a mechanical autoloader, cutting the crew to three and marking the first use of autoloaders in a Soviet MBT.(Perrett 1987:42) The 6ETs10 autoloader has 28 rounds and can fire 8 shots per minute; the stabiliser, a 2E23, was coupled to the new TPD-2-1 (1G15-1) sight. Night driving was also adapted with the new TPN-1-43A periscope which would benefit from the illumination of a powerful infrared L2G projector, fitted on the left side of the gun. The shielding was improved, with fibreglass replacing the aluminium alloy in the armour, and small spring-mounted plates fitted along the mudguards (known as the Gill skirt), to cover the top of the suspension and the side tanks. They were however extremely fragile and were often removed. Some small storage spaces were created along the turret, with a compartment on the right and three boxes on the front left. Schnorkels were mounted on the rear of the turret. A NBC protection system was fitted and the hatches were widened.
Prototypes were tested in 1966 and 1967 and, as production began after the six hundredth T-64, it entered service in the Soviet Army under the T-64A designation. Chief engineer Alexander Morozov was awarded the Lenin Prize for this model's success.
Designed for elite troops, the T-64A was constantly updated as available equipment was improved. After only three years in service, a first modernisation occurred, regarding :
A derived version appeared at the same time, designed for the commanding officer, and named T-64AK. It comprised a R-130M radio with a 10 m telescopic antenna which could be used only in a static position as it required shrouds, an artillery aiming circle PAB-2AM and TNA-3 navigation station, all of those could be supplied by an auxiliary gasoline-fired generator.
In 1976, the weapons system was improved by mounting a D-81TM (2A46-1), stabilised by a 2E28M2, supplied by an automatic 6ETs10M. The night sight is replaced by a TNPA-65 and the engine can accept different fuels, including diesel fuel, kerosene or gasoline. The production, first carried on the B variant, stopped in 1980.
But the majority of T-64A's were still modernised after 1981, by mounting a six smoke grenade-launcher 81 mm 902A on each side of the gun, and by replacing the gill plates by a rubber skirt for a longer life. Some of them seem to have been fitted after 1985 with reactive bricks (as the T-64BV), or even with laser TPD-K1 telemeters instead of the TPD-2-49 (1981). Almost all T-64's were modernised into T-64R, between 1977 and 1981, by reorganising external storage and snorkels, similar to the T-64A.
The design team was carrying on its work on new versions. Problems with the setup of the 5TDF engine occurred as the local production capacity was proven to be insufficient against a production done in three factories (Malyshev in Kharkov, Kirov in Leningrad and Uralvagonzavod).
From 1961, and alternative to the obyekt 432 was studied, with 12 V-cylinder V-45 engine : the obyekt 436. Three prototypes were tested in 1966 in the Chelyabinsk factory. The order to develop a model derived from the 434 with the same engine gave the obyekt 438, later renamed as obyekt 439. Four tanks of this type were built and tested in 1969, which showed the same mobility as the production version, but mass production was not started. They served however as a basis for the design of the T-72 engine compartment.
In the beginning of the 70's, the design team was trying to improve the tank further. The T-64A-2M study in 1973, with its more powerful engine and its reinforced turret, served as a basis for two projects :
For the latter, the order was given to start its production under the name T-64B, as well as a derived version (which shared 95% of its components), the obyekt 437, without the missile guidance system for cost reasons. The latter was almost twice as much produced under the designation T-64B1. On September 3, 1976, the T-64B and the T-64B1 were declared good for the service, featuring the improved D-81Tm gun (2A46-2) with a 2E26M stabiliser, a 6ETs40 loader and a 1A33 fire control, including:
Its ford capacity reaches 1.8 m without equipment. The T-64B had the ability to fire the new 9M112 "Kobra" radio-guided missile (NATO code "AT-8 Songster"). The vehicle then carries 8 missiles and 28 shells. The missile control system is mounted in front of the tank leader small turret and has many changes. The T-64B1 carries only 37 shells and has 2,000 7.62 mm rounds, against 1,250 for the T-64B.
They were modernised in 1981 by the replacement of the gun by a 2A46M1, the stabiliser by a 2E42, and the mounting of a 902A "Tucha-1" smoke grenade launcher in two groups of four, on each side of the gun. Two command versions are realised, very similar to the T-64AK: the T-64BK and the T-64B1K.
The decision, in October 1979, to start the production of the 6TD engine, and its great similarity with the 5TDF engine, allowed after some study to fit it in versions B and B1, but also A and AK, yielding the new models T-64AM, T-64AKM, T-64BM and T-64BAM, entering service in 1983.
The production ended in 1987 for all versions. The total production has reached almost 13,000.
The two variants are also protected by Kontakt-5 modular reactive armour, able to resist to kinetic energy projectiles, as opposed to the first models which were efficient only against HEAT shaped-charge ammunition. Those two variants could also be remotorised with the 6TDF 1000 hp (735 kW) engine.
The T-64 first entered production in 1967, shortly before the T-72. (Serial production begin in 1963. T-64 formally entered service in army in 1967.) The T-64 was KMDB's high-technology offering, intended to replace the IS-3 and T-10 heavy tanks in independent tank battalions. Meanwhile, the T-72 was intended to supersede the T-55 and T-62 in equipping the bulk of Soviet tank and mechanized forces, and for export partners and east-bloc satellite states.
It introduced a new autoloader, which is still used on all T-64s currently in service, as well as all variants of the T-80 except the Ukrainian T-84-120. The T-64 prototypes had the same 115 mm smoothbore gun as the T-62, the ones put in full-scale production had the 125 mm gun.
While the T-64 was the superior tank, it was more expensive and physically complex, and was produced in smaller numbers. The T-72 is mechanically simpler and easier to service in the field, while it is not as well protected, and its manufacturing process is correspondingly simpler.
The T-64 was never common in Soviet service, except with those units stationed in East Germany. Only a few thousand T-64s were built, and none were exported. Many T-64s ended up in Russian and Ukrainian service after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The tank remained secret for a long time, the West often confusing it with the less-evolved T-72 tank. The T-64 was never exported, and has seen only limited combat experience—in the campaigns against Chechen separatists.
According to David Isby the T-64 first entered service in 1967 with the 41st Guards Tank Division in the Kiev Military District , the suggestion being that this was prudent due to the proximity of the division to the factory, and significant teething problems during induction into service that required constant presence of factory support personnel with the division during acceptance and initial crew and service personnel training on the new type.
T-64s belonging to the 59th Guards Motor Rifle Division in Moldova deployed in combat in May 1992, this would be the first combat deployment of the T-64 tank. http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_281.shtml
The USSR deployed it with its high-readiness units, independent tank regiments, and divisions based in the GDR and Hungary, and also in many lower-readiness units. In case of conflict with Western Europe in the 1970s or '80s, it would have been a great threat to Western tanks. Modernized, it remains very efficient, like the Ukrainian T-64U.
The T-64 did not share many drawbacks with the T-72, even if it is often confused with it :
The T-64 suffers from two usual weaknesses of Soviet tanks:
Additionally, the adoption of the autoloader was highly controversial for several reasons: