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MSPO 2018: New Life for T-72 and PT-91

Bumar-Łabędy Promoting Two New Upgrade Proposals

Tanks always figure high on the agenda at MSPO: unsurprisingly, since Poland is one of the largest operators of heavy armour in NATO. Not only is Warsaw currently seeking to procure new tanks, however – it also wants to find a limited, cost-effective modernisation for the PT-91 and T-72 fleet.

The Polish Army has some 458 T-72A main battle tanks (MBT) in service (some in reserve), produced by Bumar-Łabędy in 1981-1990, and 232 of the PT-91 TWARDY family – a Polish development of the T-72M1.

All of them are obsolete and cannot match modern MBTs, including Russian T-72B3s. The Polish defence industry has in the past proposed several modernisation concepts, but the Ministry of National Defence has not selected any to date. At MSPO 2018 Bumar-Łabędy is promoting two new upgrade proposals, known as PT-91M2, available for both types, i.e. T-72s and PT-91s (the PT-91M denotes a variant sold to Malaysia). A related technical dialogue between the company and the Armament Inspectorate regarding a modernisation of the T-72s was initiated in May 2018. It is worth mentioning that the company unveiled the PT-91M2 version for the first time at MSPO 2017. It was previously labelled a cost-effective modernisation proposal and was based on mating the turret of the PT-91M and the chassis of a technology demonstrator for the PT-72U/PT-91U variant (Urban Configuration), presented for the first time in 2011.

This year the company presented two technology demonstrators. The first proposal, known as A1, is very similar to the PT-91M2 of 2017, focused on increased firepower, mobility, survivability and improvement of the ergonomics for better crew working conditions and  extended mission duration. Bumar-Łabędy proposes to replace the standard 125mm smoothbore 2A46M/2A46/2A46-1 cannon  with the Slovak 2A46MS gun, provided by ZTS-SPECIAL, mounted on the Polish tanks delivered to Malaysia, allowing the tanks to fire more advanced KE and HEAT munition. The TPD-K1 gunner day sight and TNP-1-49-23/TPN-3-49-23 night sight would be replaced by a two-axis stabilised day/night panoramic integrated gunner sight with a daylight camera, thermal camera and laser range finder. The company proposes Elbit Systems’ Thermal Imaging Fire Control System – Gunner Sight (TIFCS-GS).

Tanks upgraded to the A1 variant would also get a commander’s day-night panoramic sight for hunter-killer and killer-killer models, integrated with a 12.7 mm machinegun remote controlled weapon station (RCWS) provided by Elbit Systems, a digital fire control system, a soft-kill protection system with smoke grenade launchers, additional reactive armour (the indigenously-developed ERAWA-2), a fire suppression system with DeuGEN agent, and digital internal and external communications integrated with a battlefield management system (BMS). This upgraded proposal includes a W-46-6 (780 hp) engine modernised to the S-12U (850 hp) standard. PT-91M2 also includes a new stabilisation system – replacing the old hydraulic 2E28 digital-electric system. The tank would also receive the SSP-1 OBRA-3 Laser Warning System (provided by Poland’s PCO) integrated with 12 902A smoke grenade launchers (provided by Poland’s DEZAMET). This version would also be equipped with four additional grenade launchers mounted on the Elbit Systems RCWS.

The second upgrade proposal – A2 – will be equipped with either the Slovak 2A46MS gun or the Ukrainian KBA-3, which is similar to the Russian 2A46M-5 and is used on the T-80UD, OPLOT and some modernised T-62s, which could fire the KOMBAT anti-tank missile. It will feature a new, digital fire control system (Safran’s SAVAN-15), a two-axis stabilised day-night integrated gunner sight, commander’s day-night panoramic sight for the hunter-killer and killer-killer models, commander’s passive day-night emergency vision system, a 12.7×99 mm heavy machinegun, digital stabilisation, a soft-kill protection system with smoke grenade launchers, additional ERAWA-2 reactive armour, a fire suppression system with DeuGEN agent and a digital internal external communications integrated with the BMS system. A2 would have a new engine integrated with a power-pack: the A2 variant presented at MSPO 2018 was equipped with the 1,000hp S-1000R, which is used by the Malaysian PT-91Ms.

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