PT-91 main battle tank against Russia.

On Monday, July 10, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the Russian army destroyed two Ukrainian tanks, a T-72EA and a PT-91 Twardy, as well as an M113 armored personnel carrier (APC). This incident marks the first confirmed loss of PT-91 tanks donated by Poland.

The devastating attack by the Russian army dealt a heavy blow to the Ukrainian forces operating in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Among the casualties were Ukrainian T-72EA tanks, famous for their battlefield capabilities, and PT-91 Twardy tanks, donated by Poland to upgrade Ukraine’s armored forces. This fact is natural in the context of the war in Ukraine, but the first destroyed PT-91 is nonetheless a significant step in the conflict.

For information, Poland had sent 60 of its main battle tanks to the Ukrainian Armed Forces for delivery from April 2023.

The PT-91 Twardy is a Polish main battle tank developed on the basis of the Russian T-72M1. It entered service in 1995, and there are currently some 285 examples.

It has the same gun as its progenitor, a 125mm smoothbore, as well as a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and a 12.7mm cannon designed to defend the tank against air attack. Like its Russian counterpart, the PT-91 features an automatic reloading system, allowing it to carry only 3 crew members, a driver, a gunner, and a tank commander.

The PT-91 also has a steel hull and various ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) systems sourced from Poland, such as the ERAWA-1 and ERAWA-2. With a weight of 45 tons and a four-stroke S-12u engine capable of developing 850 horsepower, the PT-91 is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 60 km/h, with a maximum range of 650 km. The Polish tank is capable of overcoming slopes up to 60% and side slopes up to 50%. It can also scale 0.85-meter vertical obstacles and traverse 2.8-meter-wide trenches, which may prove useful given the current combat conditions in Ukraine.

The PT-91 main battle tank is equipped with a new fire control system developed in Slovakia. It has an electronic information unit that indicates the technical state of the trolley. Four laser warning antennas are installed around the turret and alert the crew if a rangefinder or laser designator targets the tank. This system, known as the OBRA laser alert system, works in automatic and manual modes. On the right side of the turret a snorkel is mounted with which you can cross a river up to 5 meters deep. The equipment of the PT-91 includes an NBC protection system and a night vision system.

Although natural, the loss of a PT-91 tank is still an interesting fact in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict; since Ukraine only has a limited stock of this type of tank, Poland delivered 60 tanks. It remains to be seen how the rest of the tanks will be used and if there will be any further destruction or even capture in the coming days.

Alain Henry de Frahan