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The Israelis And The T-72 In 1982 - Another Look


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According to Israeli Prime Minister Begin during a TV interview (June 15, 1982): "We destroyed 300 Syrian Soviet tanks. You know they included the T-72. We destroyed nine such tanks with our Merkava. While NATO claimed that the T-72 is undefeated in one respect - it cannot be hit from the front - NATO now knows that this is not so. This is also a myth. It can be hit from any side. And we destroyed nine T-72 tanks. I wish we could take one out an examine what goes on there in its belly, but we have not succeeded till now due to battlefield reasons. But the fact is that our Merkava destroyed nine such tanks. So, the nation was cured of that trauma."

 

According to a Russian report in Tekhnicheskaya Informatsiya (no. 2-3, 1994): "more than 130 Israeli tanks tanks were disabled and only 40 were totally destroyed in the course of combat operations. It is known that during one fight, between subunits armed with T-72 tanks and enemy (Israeli) tanks, which had approximately equal numbers, the majority of Israeli tanks were destroyed while the Syrian subunits suffered minimal losses."

 

According to the Syrians, they say that not one T-72 tank was lost in the course of the fighting.

 

According to Zaloga in his book "T-72 Main Battle Tank; 1974-1993:" a Syrian tank company commander reportedly said that his tankers, "hugged the armor of their T-72 tanks in gratitude" for its capability to withstand 105mm tank gun fire. Zaloga also reports that the total Syrian T-72 losses were reported to be 19 to Merkava main gun fire and 11 to TOWs fired from M113s and Cobras, for a total of 30.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Russian report, as usual, is a blatant lie.

The Israeli report, although back then less reliable than the relatively very transparent IDF of today, is substantially more reliable and close to the truth.

 

However, there is no reasonable basis to believe T-72 were lost to Merkava tanks in direct engagements.

What we do know for a fact is that Syrian T-72 were defeated by IDF TOW missiles.

Separately we also know the 105mm M111 was capable of defeating the Syrian operated T-72, but these were available to Israeli M48 tanks as well, so despite the superior capabilities of the Merkava in all aspects compared with the Magach series, the minimum threshold to defeat T-72 was met by all in-service tanks, and therefore it's possible to assume this was a propaganda effort to justify the immense costs of the Merkava project.

 

Due to occasional Syrian gains, there is not a single clearly trustworthy report of the full events of the 1982 war. Only a collection of reports of often unsatisfactory reliability due to somewhat competently contested Israeli battlefield superiority.

 

To further demonstrate this, open the wiki and other sources on the Sultan Yakoub battle, in which Israel suffered a local defeat, and you'll see that while the IDF forces reported on their own casualties, they did not report the Syrian ones.

Edited by Mighty_Zuk
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I'm always interested when official reporting regarding a certain new technical development, critical design decision, or intelligence "coup" suddenly dissapears...as if the comment or claim was never made. There are many examples of this give and take process including whether or not the Israelis captured one or more T-72s in 1982. Shortly after the war, the Israelis apparently announced that they had captured 8 T-72s from the Syrians, but later, officially denied this reporting. To this day, I still believe the Israelis captured at least one T-72 in 1982.

 

On the other hand, there is solid reporting that says just the opposite...according to other sources, the Israelis were a little embarrassed that they failed to capture any T-72s...even after the famous "ambush" where the T-72s were KO'd/destroyed. According to the Israelis, there really wasn't any harm in not bringing back a T-72 since their commandos had managed to inspect the hulks before the Syrians had a chance to recover them.

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I cant imagine recovering a badly damaged vehicle under enemy fire was really easy, particularly in light of what we know about how well they burned 8 years later. By way of example, look at what happened to the very first Tiger the British Army recovered in North Africa They had to demolish it, because it was impractical to remove it from a place the enemy could place under direct fire.

 

There were rumours at the time that a T72 or T64 had even been recovered from Afghanistan. None of them ever seem to have been validated. The one occasion when we know we grabbed something Soviet is when a US Army Unit flew an abandoned Libyan Hind out of Chad IIRC. Not surprisingly, nobody heard anything about that at all.

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what version of T-72 did the Syrians have?

Base one with optical rangefinders in 1982. They acquired T-72M in about 1983-84, T-72M1 in 1987-89, later during '90s acquired some T-72AVs.

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Recovering a T-72 may not have yielded any meaningful gain. There was plenty of intel on it already, and the USSR kept developing it at a fast pace.

 

Yes, but in 1982 that wasn't known and just getting the hands on the gun and the turret would yield good intel.

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The Israeli report, although back then less reliable than the relatively very transparent IDF of today, is substantially more reliable and close to the truth.

Which one is the Israeli report, the 9 or the 30?

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what version of T-72 did the Syrians have?

Base one with optical rangefinders in 1982. They acquired T-72M in about 1983-84, T-72M1 in 1987-89, later during '90s acquired some T-72AVs.

 

No laser rangefinders? were lasers expensive at that time?

Edited by lucklucky
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The Israeli report, although back then less reliable than the relatively very transparent IDF of today, is substantially more reliable and close to the truth.

Which one is the Israeli report, the 9 or the 30?

Might be both. Israeli historians/former commanders are not unified in their accounts. But in my comment I was referring specifically to the 9 tanks report.

I am convinced it was more, since that's roughly the number destroyed in just a single TOW missile ambush.

Total losses to Syria were roughly 130 tanks versus 30 Israeli tanks. Good testament to the importance of combined warfare and aerial superiority.

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were lasers expensive at that time?

The Soviet Union withdrew in great numbers the older T-72 with optical RF from service.  And so these tanks could probably be sold at a very attractive price.

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On 9/7/2020 at 5:55 PM, lucklucky said:

No laser rangefinders? were lasers expensive at that time?

In the west Lasers were the most expensive equipment in a tank till thermals imagers came along it was probably the same for the soviet union.

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The Syrians did not receive any improved variants of the T-72, especially the T-72AV which they were the first customers to receive, until they gave Russia Israeli M48 with M111 rounds. That is, they only got tanks equal to Russia's best, as a consequence of events of 1982's war.

That is, at least, the commonly known story. Cannot corroborate it.

 

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On 9/7/2020 at 6:03 AM, Jim Warford said:

Two photos reportedly showing Syrian Army recovery operations to retrieve KO'd/destroyed T-72s in 1982...

 

 

 

 

last time i tried to get proves of this engagement ended with fact that israelis simply can't distinguish T-62 from T-72, and only "maybe T-72 destroyed" was killed by firing everything they got at "some tank"

 

this does not negate the possibility of the loss of anything by the arabs

Edited by Wiedzmin
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8 hours ago, Mighty_Zuk said:

The Syrians did not receive any improved variants of the T-72, especially the T-72AV which they were the first customers to receive, until they gave Russia Israeli M48 with M111 rounds. That is, they only got tanks equal to Russia's best, as a consequence of events of 1982's war.

That is, at least, the commonly known story. Cannot corroborate it.

 

And as often, common story does not make any sense. They have transferred M48 and M111 to USSR in 1982-83. and got... T-72M in 1983-84. By that time WP nations, India, Iraq and Yugoslavia already had T-72Ms. USSR by that time was introducing upgrades to T-72A production that made it equal to early T-72B (and let's not talk about T-64/80s...).

They only got T-72AVs in 1990s (from Ukraine IIRC, but I am not 100%, could be Russia also), when you could buy any tanks you wanted if you had a cash.

Story that sometimes appear that they had T-72A in 1982. (or got it immediately after) is a case of mixing USSR and western designations, "T-72A" being only western designation for a base model T-72 with optical rangefinder.

Edited by bojan
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Was T-80 exported to them?

No, USSR never exported T-80s. Pakistan and Cyprus acquired T-80UDs and T-80Us respectively in 1996. South Korea also received T-80Us as part of a package that compensated Soviet debt to this country.

In 1992 the UK managed to get one though Morocco in a shady deal (apparently).

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14 hours ago, bojan said:

And as often, common story does not make any sense. They have transferred M48 and M111 to USSR in 1982-83. and got... T-72M in 1983-84. By that time WP nations, India, Iraq and Yugoslavia already had T-72Ms. USSR by that time was introducing upgrades to T-72A production that made it equal to early T-72B (and let's not talk about T-64/80s...).

They only got T-72AVs in 1990s (from Ukraine IIRC, but I am not 100%, could be Russia also), when you could buy any tanks you wanted if you had a cash.

Story that sometimes appear that they had T-72A in 1982. (or got it immediately after) is a case of mixing USSR and western designations, "T-72A" being only western designation for a base model T-72 with optical rangefinder.

Hence why this story is quoted many times but appears in only one source.

By the way, does anyone know exactly and from whomst did Syria get its T-72AV and in what numbers?

 

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