A T-64 tank on display in June 2012
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1964–present
Used by See Operators
Production history
Designer KMDB
Designed 1951–62
Manufacturer Malyshev Factory
Produced 1963–87
Number built ≈13,000
Specifications (T-64A[1])
Weight 38 tonnes (42 short tons; 37 long tons)
Length 9.225 m (30 ft 3.2 in) (gun forward)
Width 3.415 m (11 ft 2.4 in)
Height 2.172 m (7 ft 1.5 in)
Crew 3


Glass-reinforced plastic sandwiched between layers of steel. ERA plates optional

Hull & turret –
370 mm to 440 mm vs APFSDS
500 mm to 575 mm vs HEAT[2]
D-81T (aka 2A46) 125mm smoothbore gun
7.62mm PKMT coaxial machine gun, 12.7mm NSVT anti-aircraft machine gun
Engine 5DTF 5-cylinder diesel
700hp (522kW)
Power/weight 18.4hp/tonne (13.7kW/ton)
Suspension Torsion bar
500 km (310 mi), 700 km (430 mi) with external tanks
Speed 45–60 km/h (28–37 mph) depending on version

The T-64 is a Soviet second-generation main battle tank introduced in the early 1960s. It was a more advanced counterpart to the T-62: the T-64 served tank divisions, while the T-62 supported infantry in motorized rifle divisions. It introduced a number of advanced features including composite armor, a compact engine and transmission, and a smoothbore 125-mm gun equipped with an autoloader to allow the crew to be reduced to three so the tank could be smaller and lighter. In spite of being armed and armored like a heavy tank, the T-64 weighed only 38 tonnes (42 short tons; 37 long tons).

These features made the T-64 expensive to build, significantly higher than previous generations of Soviet tanks. This was especially true of the power pack. Several proposals were made to improve the T-64 with new engines, but chief designer Alexander Morozov's political power in Moscow kept the design in production in spite of any concerns about price. This led to the T-72 being designed as an emergency design, only to be produced in the case of a war, but its 40% lower price led to it entering production in spite of Morozov's objections.

Although the T-62 and the famous T-72 would see much wider use and generally more development, it was the T-64 that formed the basis of subsequent modern Soviet tank designs, such as the T-80.


The T-64 was conceived in 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, by the 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 125-mm gun, allowing one crew member'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.[3]

The T-64 also pioneered other Soviet tank technology: the T-64A model of 1967 introduced the 125-mm smooth-bore gun, and the T-64B of 1976 would be able to fire a guided anti-tank missile through its gun barrel.

The T-64 design was further developed by LKZ 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 the T-80UD and T-84 tanks built in Ukraine.

The T-64 would only be used by the Soviet Army and never exported, unlike the T-54/55. 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 Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Uzbekistan. Mid 2014, slightly fewer than 2,000 of the former Soviet inventory of T-64 tanks are in service with the military of Ukraine and about 4,000 are out-of-service and awaiting destruction in Russia.[4]

Development history

The initial requirement

Recognizing that the T-55/T-62 lineage had finally exhausted its potential for improvement, the USSR embarked on 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.[5]

Object 430

Object 430 prototype on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum in September 2008.

Studies for the design of a new battle tank started as early as 1951. The KB-60M team was formed at the Kharkiv design bureau of the Kharkiv 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 Morozov at its head. A project named obyekt 430 gave birth to three prototypes, which were tested in Kubinka in 1958.[6] Those vehicles showed characteristics that 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-piston 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. An improved cooling system and a new lightweight suspension was fitted, featuring hollow metallic wheels of a small diameter and caterpillar tracks with rubber joints.

The tank would be armed with the D-54TS and frontal armour of 120mm. 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 122mm gun and 160mm of armour, demonstrated that the tank had the potential to fit the firepower and armour of a heavy tank on to a medium tank chassis. A new project was consequently started, obyekt 432.

Object 432

The gun fitted on this new tank was a powerful 115mm D-68 (2A21). This was a potentially risky decision to replace the human loader by an electro-hydraulic automatic system, since the technology was new to Russian designers. The crew was reduced to three, which allowed an important reduction in internal volume and external visible silhouette, and consequently in weight, from 36 tonnes (obyekt 430) to 30.5 tonnes. The height dropped by 76mm.

However, the arrival of the British 105 mm L7 gun and the US M68 variant of it, fitted to the Centurion and M60 tanks, forced the team to undertake another audacious première, with the adoption of 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 700hp (515kW) 5TDF (also locally designed), its mobility remained excellent, far superior to the active T-62. The obyekt 432 was ready in September 1962 and production started in October 1963 in the Kharkiv plant. On 30 December 1966, it entered service as the T-64.


Obyekt 447 at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Kiev, Ukraine
The T-64 has a characteristic exhaust vent in the rear
T-64AK at the T-34 Tank History Museum in Russia

Even as the first T-64s were rolling off the assembly lines, the design team was working on a new version, named object 434, which would allow it to maintain firepower superiority. The brand new and very powerful 125mm D-81T gun, from the Perm weapons factory, was fitted to the tank. This gun was merely a scaled-up version of the 115mm smoothbore cannon from the T-62. The larger size of the 125mm ammunition meant that 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.[7] 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. Snorkels 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 designation T-64A. Chief engineer 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 10m 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 these could be powered 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 was replaced by a TNPA-65 and the engine could 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-64As were still modernised after 1981, by mounting a six smoke grenade-launcher 81mm 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-64AV), or even with laser TPD-K1 telemeters instead of the optical TPD-2-49 optical coincidence rangefinder (1981). Almost all T-64s 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 Kharkiv, Kirov in Leningrad and Uralvagonzavod).

From 1961, an 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 1970s, 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 3 September 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 7.62mm 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.

Modernisations in Ukraine

Ukrainian T-64BM Bulat on parade

After the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine carried on the development of T-64 modernization, as the original and main factory was in this country. Two different upgrade packages were developed in 1999[8]

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 re-motorised with the 6TDF 1,000hp (735kW) engine.

In 2010, the Kharkiv Malyshev Factory upgraded 10 T-64B tanks to T-64BM "Bulat" standard, and a further 19 will be delivered in 2011. These T-64B [Т-64Б] tanks were originally produced at Kharkiv in 1980. These 29 tanks are being upgraded under a ₴200 million ($25.1 million) contract signed in April 2009. As of October 2011, Ukrainian Army has 76 T-64BM "Bulat" [Т-64БМ "Булат"] in service. According to Constantin Isyak (chief engineer of Malyshev Factory), the T-64BM "Bulat" is armoured to the level of modern tanks. They have 'Knife' [Нiж] reactive armour, and the 'Warta' [Варта] active defence system. The T-64BM "Bulat" weighs 45 tonnes (44 long tons), and with its 850 hp (630 kW) 5TDFM multi-fuel diesel engine can do 70 km/h (43 mph), and has a range of 385 km (239 mi). It retains the 125mm smoothbore gun with an autoloader for 28 rounds, some of which can be guided missiles. It has a 12.7mm AA machinegun, and a 7.62mm coaxial machinegun.[9][10]

Production history

Different sources differ on the initial production date of the tank that is set between 1963 and 1967. However it is normally agreed that the T-64 formally entered service with the army in 1967 and was publicly revealed in 1970.[11][12] 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 the Soviet tank and mechanized forces, as well as 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 115mm smoothbore gun as the T-62, the ones put in full-scale production had the 125mm 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. In light of Soviet doctrine, the superior T-64s were kept ready and reserved for the most important mission: a potential outbreak of a war in Europe.

In Soviet times, T-64 was mostly in service with units stationed in East Germany. No T-64s were exported. Many T-64s ended up in Russian and Ukrainian service after the breakup of the Soviet Union.







Service history

According to David Isby, the T-64 entered service in 1967 with the 41st Guards Tank Division in the Kiev Military District,[17] 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. It appears that the tank remained secret to the West for some years between its entry into production in the first half of Sixties and the official acceptance in the Soviet Army in 1967. The West often confusing it with the originally less-evolved T-72 tank.

It is normally reported that the T-64 was not used in the Soviet War in Afghanistan since the 40th Soviet Army that was deployed there used T-54/55 and T-62 tanks, possibly due to the limited use of tanks in mountain warfare. However it is possible that a small number of T-64 tanks were tested in Afghanistan.[18]

A Soviet T-64 in Perleberg (GDR) in the 1980s

The Russian T-64 tanks belonging to the 59th Guards Motor Rifle Division in Moldova saw a limited combat experience in May 1992, this being the first confirmed combat deployment of the tank.[19] While Russian T-80 tanks participated in the First Chechen War, any use of T-64 in Chechnya is not clearly documented, but it is possible in limited numbers.

The T-64 was finally used in large scale combat in mid 2014 during the War in Donbass, with the Ukrainian Army deploying T-64 tanks as the main battle tank in the offensive against pro-Russian separatists. Also, towards the end of August 2014, over 20 T-64 tanks were documented as being operated by Military forces of Novorossiya.[20] Ukrainian and NATO officials claimed that these T-64s were supplied to the separatists by Russia.[21] By the end of August 2014, over 70 T-64 tanks of various configurations, including at least three T-64 BM BULATs, were documented as destroyed[22] in the war in Donbass.

During the Soviet period, the T-64 was never exported.

Capabilities and limitations

The T-64 did not share many of the drawbacks of the T-72, even if it is often confused with it:

Additionally, the adoption of the autoloader was highly controversial for several reasons:


Map of T-64 operators in blue with former operators in red

Current operators

Former operators

T-64BV technical information




Three men:






See also

Tanks of comparable role and era


  1. T-64A Main Battle Tank Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building
  2. Soviet Tank Programs page 12 published by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act
  3. Три танкиста (Three Tankers)
  4. 1 2 Adrian Croft (14 June 2014). "NATO says images raise suspicions that Russia moved tanks into Ukraine". Reuters. Retrieved 14 June 2014. phased out of service and were slated for destruction
  5. Perrett 1987:42
  6. http://www.meshwar.vistcom.ru/tech/t-64.htm Main battle tank T-64 (Основной боевой танк Т-64)
  7. Perrett 1987:42
  8. "KMDB - Armoured Vehicle Upgrade Projects". morozov.com.ua. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  9. 1 2 wknews.ru Украинская армия получила десять модернизированных Т-64, 28 October 2010
  10. 1 2 "Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau Main Characteristics of the Upgraded BM Bulat Battle Tank". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  11. ARG. "T-64 Main Battle Tank | Military-Today.com". military-today.com. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  12. "T64 Tank". fas.org. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  13. Sewell, Stephen, CW2 (rtd). "Why Three Tanks?" (Armor, July–August 1998), p. 45.
  14. 1 2 Т-64: Чи піде «під ніж» унікальна техніка? (T-64: Will Unique Technology go "Under the Knife"?) at Військо України (Ukrainian Army)
  15. "KMDB - Vehicles Based on the MT-T Prime Mover Chassis". morozov.com.ua. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  16. Armoured Ukraine: results, potential prospects … Results for the 15 years of "independence" [2006 article] Tank capacity – Steel and Fire: modern and future tanks (Article is in Russian) Accessed 8th of April 2014
  17. p. 13, Isby, per Victor Suvorov
  18. Reddy, L.R. (2002). Inside Afghanistan: End of the Taliban Era?. APH. p. 57. ISBN 9788176483193. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  19. "War in Moldova, 1992". acig.org. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  20. "Lostarmour: Database of Documented Losses of Armored Vehicles in Civil War in Ukraine". lostarmour.info. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  21. Marcus, John. "Russia and Ukraine's mystery tanks". BBC.com. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  22. "Lostarmour: Database of Documented Losses of Armored Vehicles in Civil War in Ukraine". lostarmour.info. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  23. Perrett 1987:43
  24. Perrett 1987:42
  25. Perrett 1987:42
  26. Perrett 1987:42-43
  27. Perrett 1987:43-44
  28. "Ukroboronprom Enters Foreign Markets with T-64". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  29. "Ukroboronprom to supply 50 T-64 tanks abroad". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  30. "Lostarmour: Database of Documented Losses of Armored Vehicles in Civil War in Ukraine - spoils". lostarmour.info. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  31. "Ukrainian Authorities Claim Gains in Fight Against Separatists". Daily Sabah. 14 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  32. "Pro-Russia Rebels Shoot Down Ukrainian Military Plane, Killing All 49 Aboard". Business Insider. 14 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  33. "Ukraine Mourns 49 Troops Killed When Rebels Down Army Plane". Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. 14 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  34. Ukraine crisis: Kiev forces win back Mariupol, BBC News (13 June 2014)
  35. "Ukrainian Forces Seize Crucial Port City From Pro-Russia Separatists". mashable.com. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  36. "http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2014/06/12/7028863/". pravda.com.ua. Retrieved 25 October 2014. External link in |title= (help)
  37. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/ukrainian-officer-becomes-internet-hero-after-saving-russian-soldier-s-life/515165.html
  38. "Ukraine captures 'Russian' T-64 MBT near Donetsk - IHS Jane's 360". janes.com. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  39. Vladimir Tretyakov. http://asker.kz/blog/sluzhba_v_army_kazakhstan/suxoputnye-vojska-kurs-molodogo-bojca.html. Retrieved 23 January 2015. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  40. John Pike. "Ground Forces Equipment – Ukraine". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  41. John Pike. "Uzbek-Army Equipment". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  42. "NATO Releases Imagery: Raises Questions on Russia's Role in Providing Tanks to Ukraine". ACO – Allied Command Operations. 14 June 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  43. "Daily Press Briefing: June 20, 2014". U.S. Department of State. 20 June 1014. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  44. 1 2 3 4 T-64BV Main Battle Tank at KMDB.


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