Render tank T-74 (“Object 450”), source: ussrbase.narod.ru
The famous Soviet tank designer Alexander Morozov, one of the creators of the T-34 medium tank, back in the 1970s, proposed his own project of the main battle tank, which was to surpass the T-64 tank in all its characteristics. Already in those years, the design engineer proposed to equip the future tank with an uninhabited tower and in one of the options considered the possibility of reducing the crew to two people. IN history his project entered as a T-74 tank, or "Object 450". Adjusted for the time and possibilities of industry in the early 1970s, this tank can be safely called the “Armata” of its time.
How Alexander Morozov abandoned the classic layout
The promising main battle tank (MBT) T-74 was designed in Kharkov at the famous Malyshev factory on an initiative basis. The chief designer of the tank was the famous engineer Alexander Aleksandrovich Morozov, who since November 1951 was the chief designer of the Kharkov Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering. It was under his leadership in Kharkov that the T-64 and T-64A were created. Developed in the 1970s, the T-74 was to surpass the main battle tank T-64A in all respects. The chief designer Alexander Morozov made a report on the draft of the new MBT, which initially had the internal designation “Theme 101”, on May 26, 1972. Later, a new project of the Kharkov designer by the Main Armored Directorate (GBTU) was assigned the official index "Object 450".
The main goal of the work of Morozov and his design bureau was to create a tank that in all respects would surpass the machines of the previous generation. It was about improving not only the combat characteristics, but also the production and operational qualities of the new tank compared to the MBT T-64A, as well as foreign models of armored vehicles "XM-803" and "Keiler". XM-803 - an experienced American main battle tank with a 152-mm cannon, developed in the early 1970s; “Keiler” is the German program for creating the main battle tank of the late 1960s, which eventually led to the appearance of the “Leopard 2”.
Alexander Alexandrovich Morozov
Alexander Morozov imagined the ideology of promising MBT in the following solutions:
- maintaining the weight and dimensions of the MBT at the level of the T-64A2M tank (not heavier than 40 tons);
- improving the working conditions of the tank crew (habitability);
- ensuring high protective properties of the tank;
- duplication of work of crew members so that everyone can replace the other;
- more dense layout;
- increase the combat readiness of the tank in any conditions (storage of ammunition, engine start, battery operation);
- ensuring autonomy during long marches in any climatic conditions, as well as in battle.
Taking into account the ideology set forth and using all the positive experience of tank building that has already been accumulated in the Soviet Union, Morozov proposed creating a fundamentally new combat vehicle. The engineer’s analysis of the work of his colleagues from leading design bureaus specializing in creating tanks, as well as all available information on foreign developments of MBT of those years, showed that while maintaining the classic layout, further improvement of the tactical and technical qualities of the tank is not possible without a significant increase in combat weight and dimensions of MBT, as well as rising costs for the production and operation of the machine. All of the above was disproportionate to the growth of the tactical and technical characteristics of the tank. As an example, Alexander Morozov cited the projects of tanks MBT-70, Keiler, as well as Chieftain, whose combat weight already exceeded 50 tons. Despite the increase in mass and dimensions, the performance characteristics of these combat vehicles increased very moderately. At the same time, there was an increase in the cost and complexity of mass production, as well as the operation of a combat vehicle, problems could arise with the deployment of mass production itself.
Render of the T-74 tank (“Object 450”), source: ussrbase.narod.ru
Together, all this made Morozov abandon the design of the next tank of the classical design. For a new combat vehicle, it was also necessary to search for a new combat configuration, which would not only increase all the tactical and technical characteristics, but would also allow the tank to be kept within the weight and dimensions of the already existing Soviet MBTs.
The alleged design of the T-74
The main drawbacks of the tanks of the classic layout Morozov attributed to the cramped combat compartment, which reminded him of a one-room apartment or the simplest soldier's duffel bag. In this limited space, the crew of the combat vehicle was clamped on all sides by weapons, ammunition, various equipment and parts, wires, and also tanks with fuel. Some of the parts and mechanisms "in transit" passed through the fighting compartment into the engine-transmission. Such an environment was traumatic for the crew and on the march, when everything came into motion and swayed, in battle the risk of fire and explosion hazard increased. In aggregate, noise, smoke, and crowding inside the fighting compartment reduced habitability indicators, which directly affected the crew and the conditions of its combat work.
In the new project of the T-74 tank, the layout was fundamentally different. It was the fighting compartment that underwent a radical change to Morozov. If all classic tanks were, in fact, a combination of a combat and engine-transmission compartment, then Alexander Morozov proposed a design of five airtight and isolated compartments from each other: crew compartment, MTO, ammunition compartment, fuel and weapons. Such a layout, according to the designer, allowed to improve the working conditions of the crew, as well as its protection. At the same time, it was assumed that the increased ammunition and fuel volume would also increase. These improvements were achieved by reducing the frontal silhouette of the tank by 5 percent, and the internal volume by 7,5 percent compared to the T-64A.
Model of the T-74 tank, source: btvt.narod.ru
The gun, ammunition and main components of the tank were completely removed from the fighting compartment, while the crew was located in the body of the combat vehicle. The crew compartment was completely airtight and soundproofed. Removing the main armament into an uninhabited module automatically solved the problem of gas contamination of the fighting compartment. The frontal reservation was more than impressive: 700 mm of armor installed at an angle of 75 degrees. It was believed that this would be enough to protect against ammunition of all calibers and all types. It was also possible to additionally install dynamic protection on the tank, and it was planned to put a mesh screen on the stern, which increases protection against cumulative ammunition. In sum, this could allow us to abandon the use of very complex Shater and Porcupine defense systems on the tank.
The crew of the tank consisted of three people: the driver, the weapons operator and the tank commander. All of them sat in a row shoulder to shoulder in an isolated compartment and were free to talk and communicate with each other. The design of the T-74 tank was supposed to work out the duplication of functions of crew members so that they could replace each other if necessary. Also, designers in Kharkov worked out the option of reducing the crew to only two people. This decision was promising in terms of saving personnel. A regiment of approximately 100 tanks would then require not 300 crew members, but only 200 tankers.
The chassis of the promising tank was completely unified with the chassis of the MBT T-64A, consisting of 6 road wheels, the suspension is torsion bar. This decision was aimed at unifying and simplifying the serial production of the future tank. Designers from Kharkov considered a new gas turbine engine developing a power of up to 1250 hp as a power plant. At the same time, the engine and transmission compartment was also planned to be implemented with the wide use of components and assemblies of the T-64A serial tank, but its volume should be reduced by about 1/5. All this looked good on paper, in fact, the designer did not have a perfect 1000-horsepower engine, which hindered the work on the project.
Model of the T-74 tank, source: btvt.narod.ru
But the main element and the Achilles heel of the tank was a separate uninhabited combat module. On tanks, such a solution was planned to be applied for the first time. A 125-mm smoothbore gun was considered as the main weapon, but the option of installing a promising 130-mm gun was also discussed. The gun was supposed to work together with the loading mechanism, which was also borrowed from the T-64A, ammunition - up to 45 shells. In addition, it was planned to install two 7,62-mm machine guns in an uninhabited tower, and a variant was also worked out with the placement of a 30-mm automatic gun, which was planned to be used as an anti-aircraft gun.
The decision to install an uninhabited tower on the tank required serious coordination of work and the use of advanced optics, a fire control system, on-board equipment, sensors, and electronics. For the 1970s, this was a daunting task. And the set of equipment proposed for installation was impressive: from laser rangefinders and sensors of a laser irradiation warning system to infrared observation devices, a navigation system (a complex of inertial numbering of coordinates) and an on-board information system that would work on the basis of an on-board digital computer manufactured by the Scientific Research Institute Argon ".
The fate of the "Object 450"
We can say that the T-74 project was the last major project of the famous Soviet designer, his swan song. This project was never implemented in metal.
For its time, a tank with an uninhabited tower was too complex, breakthrough, but expensive, it was not possible to realize it with the help of the capabilities of Soviet industry in the 1970s. However, many experts believe that the "Object 450" was the first project with which the history of the creation of a promising Soviet tank began.
Model of the T-74 tank, source: btvt.narod.ru
Despite the fact that the concept of the main battle tank T-74 proposed by Morozov at the time of his presentation combined the most advanced and promising ideas in tank building, it was not possible to put them into practice, and largely because of the futuristic nature of the project. Those technical solutions that were supposed to provide the new main battle tank with an advantage in all basic characteristics over the previous generation combat vehicles did not allow to establish mass mass production and put the tank into service.
In the mid-1970s, many elements of the fire control system of the proposed tank, as well as avionics, could not be implemented by the Soviet industry with a given level of reliability and with the required set of characteristics. In this case, the project "Object 450", of course, is interesting and significant and serves as the first step to the tanks of the new generation. The reserve created by Alexander Alexandrovich Morozov was subsequently used in the development of promising Soviet and then Russian main battle tanks.