The T-64 and T-72 medium tanks are similar in appearance. Both retain the low silhouette of earlier T-54/55/62 tanks; both have a live track with six evenly spaced road wheels; and both have a drive sprocket at the rear and an idler wheel at the front. The driver’s hatch is centered at the top of a sharply sloped upper glacis. The glacis has four steel ribs and a V-shaped water and debris deflector. The low, rounded turret is centered on the hull. The commander’s cupola is on the right side of the turret; the gunner’s hatch is on the left side. The 125-mm main gun has a four-section removable thermal shield. It has two sections in front of, and two sections to the rear of, the midtube bore evacuator. A 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun is mounted to the right of the manlet. Integrated fuel cells and stowage containers give a streamlined appearance to the fenders. The tank has a toother shovel/dozer blade on the front of the hull, beneath the glacis. There are attachment points beneath the blade for the KMT-6 mine-clearning plow. Early models somtimes mounted four detachable track protection plates on the front half of each side. Later versions have shown detachable full-length stand off skirting.
There are several design differences between the two tanks. Those features peculiar to the T-64 include six small, stamped road wheels; four track return rollers; a 12-tooth drive sprocket; double-pin, rubber-bushed track; and linear-type shock absorbers. Other features are as follows:
- A gunner’s IR searchlight mounted to the left of the main gun.
- A newly designed 12.7-mm NSV AA machine gun on the commander’s cupola with a fixed mount.
- The AA machine gun, which can fire buttoned up.
- Several large external ammunition stowage boxes, normally attached to the sides of the turret.
- A long snorkel stowed on the rear edge of the turret. (A second snorkel with an elbow for attachment to the engine exhaust is stowed inside the first.)
- A small engine compartment than the T-72. Its radiator grill is near the turret.
- A command variant with an additional whip antenna and a 10-m antenna mast. The mast can be erected in the center of the turret using guy wires, with an antenna connector located in front of the commander’s cupola. It employs the same TNA-3 land navigation system found in the T-62K command tank and mounts no AA machine gun. It serves as a battalion and regimental command vechicle.
The T-64 has greater mobility than the T-62. The 5-cylinder, opposed-piston, diesel engine has an estimated output of 710 horsepower. Two 200-liter auxilery fuel drums can fit on the rear of the hull.
The T-64 has better armor protection that the T-62. Its greatly increased frontal armor protection is due to the use of improved layered armor. It can also mount track protection plates or full length skirts. Low-flash fuel storage also offers protection to the sides. The front-mounted shovel enables the tank to dig itself in within 20 to 30 minutes. It also increases the armor protection of the lower hull front when it is folded upwards.
Besides its PAZ radiation detection system and an antiradiation liner, the T-64 has a collective NBC filtration and overpressure system. It also has the same integral smoke-generating capability as earlier T-54/55/62 tanks. Variants have the same type of turret-mounted smoke grenade projectors seen on the T-72 and T-80.
The 125-mm smoothbore main gun fires a hypervelocity, armor piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding sabot (HVAPFSDS) round. The round may have a muzzle velocity of over 1,750 meters per second and an effective range of 2,100 meters. The 40-round basic load would typically include 12 HVAPFSDS, 6 HEAT, and 22 HE rounds. The cartridges are semicombustable with stub-cases. An automatic loader allows the number of crew members to decrease to three; the commander, the gunner and the driver. The gun has an automatic spent-cartridge ejection system similar to that of the T-62.
The T-64B has an onboard computer. Some variants may have a laser rangefinder.
An automatic loader has allowed to Soviets to reduce not only the number of crewmen, but also the size of the turret. Therefore, the space available in the turret has not significantly increased. The ability to depress the main gun (-5 degrees) is still limited. When using the mast antenna, the command variant is immobile, since the mast must be anchored to the ground. Even with the IR searchlight, visibility decreases to 800 meters when the night sight is used.
The T-64 entered production in 1967. It is the first of a new family of Soviet main battle tanks developed as successors to the T-54/55/62 family. The first T-64s had the 115-mm gun of the T-62; the T-64A version subsequently received the 125-mm gun.
The T-64A has an optical rangefinder. It fires normal 125-mm tank gun ammunition. It orginally had four-part fold-out track skirts. It has since received full-length track skirts, but retains brackets for the four-part skirts. Originally produced without smoke grenade projectors, many T-64As have been retrofitted with 12 of them; there are on both sides of the turret. The hull glacis armor consists of layers of steel enclosing fibreglass layers. The cast armor of the turret is reinforced with non-metalic materials. The T-64A was deployed in WGF is 1976. It replaced most T-55s in three armies; 2d Guards Army, 3d Shock Army, and 20th Guards Army. In 1980, it was introduced in the SGF. Since late 1984, the T-64B has partially replaced it in both Groups and Forces.
The T-64B, previously known as the SMT M1981/1, has a laser rangefinder. It can fire the AT-8/SONGSTER ATGM from its main gun; this is in addition to firing standard 125-mm ammunition. It has full-length track skirts, and it has four transverse ribs in front of the driver’s hatch. A radio frequency antenna in an armored housing replaces the rangefinder optic on the right side of the turret. The optic on the left side of the turret is larger, approximately twice as large as that on the T-64A and T-72 variants. The T-64B has only eight smoke grenade projectors, mounted in groups of four on both front sides of the turret.
Modified T-64Bs with reactive armor were first observed in October 1984. To accommodate this armor, the eight smoke grenade projectors are combined into two groups of four at the rear of the left side of the turret. Only two transverse ribs appear in front of the driver’s hatch. Also, stowage boxes have been relocated. These modifications allow reactive armor boxes to fit on the upper glacis, the front of the turret, and the turret roof. Applique armor has been added to the turret roof and sides, and to the left and right of the driver on the hull roof. An antiradiation liner now protects the interior of the turret.