At the tank-net forum, user “dyankov” pointed out this Russian youtube video showing how the autoloader in the T-72 tank works. We thought it was worth sharing. those interested to see how the T-72’s autoloader differs from the T-64’s, this video includes some brief shots of both systems. The video is in Russian so it’s a bit difficult to follow for non-Russian speakers (putting youtube to translate Russian subtitles into English would make for some real comedy.) T-64 auto truck operation and T-72 can be seen starting at 5:15 in the video. The T-64’s automatic loader is the one that rotates the bullet from vertical to horizontal while the T-72’s system keeps the projectile horizontal during the entire process.
The T-72 tank is all over Ukraine during the ongoing conflict – and Russia has plenty of them: It may not be as iconic as the T-34, but the main battle tank (MBT) The Soviet T-72 remains a packhorse around the world, despite its increasing age. The tank has been produced in six countries and is in service with the militaries of those countries. The T-72 has also been used in almost every major conflict over the past two decades – and upgrades continue to be made to prepare it for the rigors of modern warfare.

A true product of traditional Soviet design philosophy, the T-72 was first produced in 1971 and it was officially put into service two years later. The Soviet Union sought a cheaper and more reliable alternative to the T-64, which, although ambitious, proved too complicated and as a result completely unreliable.

Thus, the T-72 is developed using proven components where possible but also improving components as needed, while it only equips with brand new components when necessary. The result was a tank that could be described as an “evolutionary” rather than a “revolutionary” tank.

The trade-off is that the mechanical gear breaks frequently, while the autoloader is actually slower than the crew. However, despite the shortcomings, the T-72 proved to be a reliable MBT and it was used in many conflicts starting with the Iran-Iraq War. A total of 17,831 T-72 series tanks were originally produced in the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1990. The Russian military then operated about 9,000 aging T-72s.