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PT-91 Twardy Main Battle Tank

The PT-91 Twardy (Hard) is a Polish attempt to field an equivalent of the T-80 at a lower cost. Poland acquired small numbers of T-80 tanks in the late 1980s and began negotiating license production rights to shift production from the T-72M1 to the T-80. This never transpired; instead Poland continued to develop improved versions of the T-72M1.

Polish T-72s had not been equipped with Soviet-pattern ERA. As a result in 1986, a design team under Adam Wisniewski at the WITU (Wojskowy Institut Technologie Uzbrojeniej = Military Institute of Armament Technology) in Zielonka developed a protective package designated ERAWA-1 and ERAWA-2. ERAWA stands Explosive Reactive Armor- Adam Wisniewski. Wisniewski holds Polish Patent No. 156,463 for its design. The difference between the two versions is that the latter type uses a double layer of tiles. This system is noticeably thinner and lighter weight than earlier first-generation reactive armor packages, and may work in a modified fashion.

The ERAWA Armor was also developed to reduce the radar signature of the tank against common battlefield surveillance radars, apparently through the use of a radar-absorbing material (RAM) on the surface. This armor can be retrofitted to older T-72s, but its main application appears to be oriented towards an upgraded T-72 called the PT-91 (Polski Tank-91). On the Twardy, there are 394 tiles (compared with 227 Kontakt bricks on Russian T-72s). These include 108 on the turret, 118 on the hull and 84 on either hull side, totaling 9 square meters of protected area.

The PT-91 (Twardy = hard) tank is a modernized version of the Russian T-72 built in Poland through Russian license. There are a number of domestic improvements like reactive armor, a laser warning array, and a thermal sight. The laser warning array for the PT-91 was designed and produced by Radwar and PCO, two Polish electronics firms. The thermal sight was developed in cooperation with the Israeli company El-Op.

Polish industry produced the T-72M1Z and Wilk upgrades and went on to build the PT-91 Twardy development. This has now entered service. PT-91 and its version T-72M1Z MBTs were derived from T-72 MBT through modernization, replacing and upgrading of its systems. They were designed to be a highly reliable systems having superior firepower, improved crew protection and impressive mobility. They still keep outstanding, optimally small silhouette to minimize the ballistic surface. The design concept creates very wide modernization field, as it can be done with everyone T-72 family MBT pratcically, almost without major changes in its shell.

Thus, the construction of the new tank was based on the T-72 model, and it is equipped with thermoyision equipment for directing fire. The PT-91 has so-called active armor, and its "skin" is covered with special plates that are to weaken the force of the projectiles striking it. Further, it also has a special sensor to detect a laser aimed at the tank, which causes the firing of a special shell to produce a smoke screen. The technical data of the PT-91 from the beginning have been public. It has an 850-horsepower engine that produces speeds up to 70 km/h, weighs 42 tons, and, without adding fuel, can travel 650 km and take 40-44 shells for its 122-mm gun.

To keep the required horsepower and speed, PT-91 and T-72M1Z are equipped with turbocharged 850 hp diesel engine. With upgraded transmission they can attain a maximum road speed of 60 km/h. However, for low speed maneuvering, the low gear provides a continuous speed up to 7 km/h. They still enjoy excellent cross country ability. Their design creates the fording ability of water obstacles up to 5 meters depth using fording kit, however the water obstacle of 1,2 meters depth can be crossed without any preparation.

The PT-91 MBT is equpped with the Fire Control System consisting of Gunner Station. It basis on modernized TPDK-1 sight for day channel and optionally passive PCN-A sight or thermal imagine sight, which create night fighting capability. The fire solutions are calculated by the ballistic, digital computer which processes mixed set of information generated by set of sensors and input manually by the gunner.

The T-72M1Z MBT dual axis stabilized Fire Control System, with both Gunner and Commander stations is equipped with day and night vision capabilities, which, in conjunction with electro-hydraulic gun stabilization system, makes it capable of acquiring a target accurately within a minimum time. Gunner Station consists of 2 axis stabilized sight platform with thermal imaging and daylight visual imaging subsystems, laser range finder which permits the gunner to detect, identify, acquire and track a target during day and night combat conditions.

Commander Station consists of panoramic sight mounted on the turred roof which provides day vision and night imaging through 2 axis stabilized head mirror assembly with 3600 panoramic viewing independent of turret orientation. Combined with the GS, the CS provides the hunter-killer capability which allows the crew of T-72M1Z to acquire rapidly and destroy multiple targets. Additionally system allows commander to override gunners decisions. The digital, ballistic computer provides solutions for 6 types of ammunitions, by processing information generated by up-to-date set of sensors or input by the gunner or commander.

The crew survivability was improved by the adoption of very effective ERA in major areas, which offers better protection against chemical energy projectiles. With up-to-date Automatic Fire Suppression System any fire in the Crea Compartment is automatically detected by IR Detectors and suppressed by Halon 1301. The Engine Comparment is protected by separate, also automatically operating system which bases on Temperature Sensing Firewire and suppresses any fire with Halon 1211.

Newly added Laser Warning System provides information about laser beams of sights range finders and missiles guiding systems and reacts automatically firing smoke grenades from two, 6 launchers banks. The system can be overridden by the commander who can fire these grenades manually in personally selected sequences or use backing, manual system also consisting of two, 6 launchers banks.

The Ministry of National Defense ordered 10 such tanks from Labedy. According to the contract, they were to leave the production line and reach the military by 24 December 1993. The PT-91 MBT is to cost about 14 billion zlotys [Z]. The M1A2 tank costs the most, more than $10 million. The French Leclerc costs about $5.5 million, the Israeli Merkava $2.5-3 million, and the Japanese TK-X, which is comparable to the Twardy, $8 million.

At first, it was written that Labedy would stand on its feet, thanks to a favorable contract with Pakistan. "There will be exports; there will be orders; there will be a profit!" Optimism dripped from the headlines. After a few days, the issue left the headlines, and, in Gliwice, they were peeved because... several months passed and nothing. There are no exports to Pakistan.

In September 1996 U.S. special Balkan envoy James W. Pardew Jr. visited Warsaw on 6 September to determine what Poland can do to help the "Train and Equip" program aimed at strengthening Bosnia's Moslem-Croat Federation military forces, Polish media reported. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Robert Mroziewicz said Poland would like to participate in the "Train and Equip" program "at the lowest possible level." The U.S. asked Poland to sell T 72 tanks to be financed by a NATO fund; however, Poland declined in line with the policy of many EU states of equal distance from all sides in the Bosnian conflict. The U.S. will sell M60A tanks.

In March 2002 Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad declared that his country will buy modernised PT-91 Twardy tanks. The contract may be worth approximately 250-300 million dollars depending on the equipment Malaysia would buy together with the tanks. Poland proposed a several dozen vehicles of technical support. The Malaysian PM watched Polish tanks at the training grounds in Wesola near Warsaw.

Drawa fire control system

The PCE (Przemyslowe Centrum Opryifci=Industrial Optics Center) in Warsaw developed the Drawa fire control system upgrade in cooperation with the IEK WAT (Electronic Systems Institute of the Military Technology Academy). This includes a new wind sensor, a new active/passive PCN-A gunner's night aiming sight, a new commander's POD-72 night sight, a new driver's PNK-72 Radomska night vision periscope, improved ballistic computer and other features.

The system gives the PT-91 an effective night range of 1,200 meters and boosts its overall night firing capability by 2.3 to 2.7 times according to Polish sources. The package can also incorporate a TS 32D thermal imaging night vision system in lieu of the usual image intensification system, although Poland is studying other options apparently including a joint Polish-Israeli effort. The 2E28 stabilization system has been upgraded to 2E28M standards by its manufacturer, PZL Hydral, and a PDSU-1 display was added in the commander's station.

The driver also has a digital USDK-1 diagnostic display which provides data on the powerplant. The Drawa system usually includes the OBRA laser warning system as well. The OBRA system is linked to two sets of smoke dischargers, 12 Tellur anti-laser smoke dischargers and 12 standard Russian 902A Tucha smoke dischargers. The normal V-46-6 engine, produced at the PZL Wola plant, has been modernized as the S-12U, boosting its power by 10 percent to compensate for the increased weight of the tank. The Poles have also been discussing the addition of the Refleks guided antitank projectile to the PT-91 during negotiations with the Russians. Some of these upgrades can be retrofitted in a modular fashion to older T-72 tanks.

Tiger Fire Control System

In 1994, the Poles announced that a new fire control system had been developed for T-72. The 1994 fire control system was designated Tiger. The Tiger fire control system was developed in South Africa under the leadership of the LIW Division of Denel who designed the G-5/G-6 artillery systems and all the Rooikat turrets. The two main additions of the system are the GS-72T, where the GS stands for gunner's sight, and the CS-65N, where the CS stands for commander's sight with a panoramic observation capability.

The GS-72T gunner's sight contains an integral LE-72 Nd:YAG laser rangefinder and a TS-72 thermal imaging sight operating in two bands. It operates in 1 times for target acquisition and in 8 times for targeting and aiming. The commander's CS-65N is a day/night sight (with image intensifiaction for night observation). Unlike the normal fixed TKN-3 commander's sight in the standard T-72 cupola, the system has a rotating head to provide 360-degree coverage.





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