T-72 is higher caliber than the Leopard 2, but is larger caliber always better? – Technology Org

You could hardly find a person outside of Russia who would believe that the T-72 main battle tank is somehow better than the Leopard 2. It is not – Leopard 2 is a significantly more modern and more capable tank. However, at the same time Leopard 2 has a smaller caliber gun – does it mean that its ammunition is weaker?

The first Leopard 2 tanks were delivered to Ukraine on February 24th, 2023 - exactly one year since the beginning of the invasion.

The first Leopard 2 tanks were delivered to Ukraine on the 24th of February, 2023 – exactly one year since the beginning of the invasion. Image credit: Kmu.gov.ua via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

This is a legitimate question, because Ukraine is slowly receiving the first Leopard 2 tanks, donated by the country’s Western allies. They are likely to encounter some T-72 tanks in the wild as they are the Russian standard. Sure, there are some T-80 and T-64 and other types of tanks on the Russian side, but the T-72 has been the main tool of war for the Russian Army for decades.

Standards in the military are important. NATO standard tank caliber is 120 mm. Hence, the Leopard 2, Challenger 2, Leclerd, C1 Ariete and M1 Abrams use 120 mm ammo. Because of other military and political alliances as well as export ambitions, Japanese Type 10 and South Korea’s K2 Black Panther tanks are also relying on 120 mm ammunition.

In fact, most of these tanks, with an exception of the Challenger 2, could share ammunition. This simplifies logistics and makes the war effort smoother. However, can the 120 mm gun of the Leopard 2 match the 125 mm gun of the T-72?

Military expert, Ukrainian reserve colonel Oleg Zhdanov has a simple answer: “Leopard 2 projectiles are much more powerful than those used by the T-72. And not because of the caliber. The fact that the Leopard is five millimeters smaller in caliber doesn’t mean much.”

According to Zhdanov, Western manufacturers use higher-quality explosives, and shell casings are made of higher-quality steel.

Western-made projects have thinner walls and more explosive material. The walls of post-Soviet projectiles are thicker carbon steel – it must be brittle in order to break into more fragments, but such a projectile has less explosive material,” the expert explained.

Besides, as Zhdanov added, German gunpowder is better in its composition: “It is less natural, more synthetic. Accordingly, the direct fire range of the Leopard 2 is longer.”

In other words, the quality of the ammunition matters more than the diameter and the advantage of quality is on the German tank’s side. In fact, Leopard 2’s gun has more advantages – it is better stabilized, which allows this tank to fire more accurate shots even while on the move.

The Leopard 2 is head and shoulders superior to the T-72. However, any tanks that Ukraine can get are appreciated. The T-72 might be old, slow and weak, but Ukraine has and uses a lot of them, including the ones donated by Poland and the Czech Republic. Just that 5 mm larger caliber doesn’t mean much.

Source: Unian.net , Wikipedia

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