Military Review

Automatic loaders for Polish tanks. Desires and possibilities


The crew of the Polish T-72 loads ammunition into the automatic loader. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of Poland

The Polish army is armed with the main combat Tanks several types, and in the future it is expected that new ones will appear - foreign or own development. When forming plans for the development of tank forces, the command has to solve several different issues. One of the main ones is the creation of an automatic loader. In general, the military is interested in such equipment, but their desires do not always correlate with capabilities.

Soviet heritage

A significant part of Poland's tank fleet is still made up of MBT T-72 of various modifications, incl. of our own design. Such equipment was supplied from the USSR, and in 1979-1995. licensed production was carried out. Since the early nineties, several PT-91 modernization projects have been completed with different features, according to which new equipment was built and the existing one was updated.

At the moment, the army has approx. 130 T-72A / M1 tanks and over 230 PT-91. In total, more than 260 vehicles of the T-72 family continue to serve, and a comparable number of tanks of older modifications are in storage. The total number of MBT Leopard 2 of two modifications has not yet reached 250 units.

Automatic loaders for Polish tanks. Desires and possibilities

AZ design of the T-72 tank and its modifications. Russian Defense Ministry graphics

T-72 and PT-91 of all modifications have a standard Soviet-designed automatic loader (AZ). Its main element is a horizontal conveyor for 22 cassettes for single-case loading shots. With the help of a lift, they are brought to the chambering line and sent to the chamber. Despite all the upgrades, incl. of our own design, the AZ design did not undergo significant changes.

As a result, tanks retain all the characteristic advantages and disadvantages. So, there is no need for a fourth crew member while ensuring a high rate of fire. At the same time, the ammunition in the AZ is small, and its design limits the possible length of shells, primarily armor-piercing sub-caliber shells.

Concept level

Several years ago, the Polish concept of the promising PL-01 tank made a lot of noise. In this project, OBRUM proposed using an advanced solution - an uninhabited combat module with firepower at the level of modern MBT. In the automatic turret, isolated from the crew, it was planned to put a 105 or 120 mm cannon equipped with an automatic loader.

Demonstration model of the PL-01 tank. Photo Wikimedia Commons

In view of the conceptual nature of the project, the issues of creating the AZ, most likely, were not deeply worked out. The promotional materials for PL-01 lacked technical details on this topic. However, the possibility of placing automatic ammunition racks for 45 shells was mentioned.

The contours of the PL-01 prototype made it possible to assume that the ammunition load of the first stage would be placed in the aft niche of the tower, in a mechanized belt or drum type stacking. The rest of the shells had to be in the hull, and a system for their supply was required directly to the gun or to the AZ in the rear of the tower.

Despite all the bold statements, big plans and a real advertising campaign, the PL-01 project did not advance further than demonstrating a layout with a minimum set of components and assemblies. Whether a full-fledged development of an uninhabited tower and AZ for it was carried out is unknown. By now, all work on PL-01 has been stopped. Accordingly, proposals for these or those units have no future.

Drum machine from ZM Tarnów. Enterprise Graphics

For future projects

In December 2015, Zakłady Mechaniczne Tarnów announced the development of its own automatic loader project, suitable for use in various projects. It was assumed that such an AZ from the very beginning would be used to create one of the promising MBT. Also, the use of such an AZ was not excluded when modernizing Leopard 2 tanks.

The assault rifle from ZM Tarnów is made in the form of a module in an armored casing, suitable for mounting on the stern of the turret of different tanks - with one or another modification. Such a module is maximally isolated from the fighting compartment; for the supply of shells, a minimum-size hatch with an armored valve was provided.

Inside the AZ body, two drums with cells for unitary shots were placed side by side, drives and other devices were located next to them. The dimensions of the module made it possible to store and feed 16 tank shells of 120 mm NATO standard (2 x 8). Means were provided for selecting the type of shot to be fed. Estimated rate of fire - 8-12 rds / min.

Automatic loader in the form of a module for mounting on a tank. Graphics ZM Tarnów

Materials on the automatic loader from ZM Tarnów were actively discussed in the press and were shown at exhibitions. However, such attempts to promote a promising project have not been crowned with success. Over time, the developer stopped advertising the original AZ. Moreover, the materials on this project have disappeared from its official resources. Probably, the project was sent to the archive for the lack of prospects.

Import perspective

Until 2035 Poland plans to purchase 500 tanks of the new model. Together with others, the South Korean corporation Hyundai Rotem with the MBT K2PL project claims to the army contract. It was developed on the basis of the K2 Black Panther serial tank and retains its main features. In particular, a modified version of the original fighting compartment with a 120 mm cannon and an automatic loader is used.

The K2 and K2PL use a belt-type AZ. The mechanized stacking is located in a developed aft niche with upper ejection panels. In the cells of the conveyor, 16 unitary shots are located longitudinally. Another 24 shells are placed in the stowage of the fighting compartment and must be supplied by the crew manually. The maximum rate of fire reaches 15 rds / min.

Tank model K2PL. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea

The future of the K2PL project is still uncertain. Earlier it was reported about the interest of the Polish military in the South Korean MBT. In September, Hyundai Rotem presented a mock-up of the "Polish" version of its tank for the first time. Which tank Poland will eventually choose is unknown. It is also unclear when this choice will be made. The search program for a new MBT is still in its early stages.

Wishes and opportunities

In general, the Polish army has a positive attitude towards automatic loaders. Over the four decades of operating main tanks with such equipment, she has accumulated a lot of experience and appreciated all the advantages and disadvantages of such systems. In this regard, when creating new combat vehicles or when choosing ready-made projects, some attention is paid not only to the weapon, but also to the auxiliary means.

However, not everything is so simple. More than half of the tanks of the Polish army have AZ, but they all belong to the same family of equipment. At first, these were T-72s of Soviet and licensed production, and then they were supplemented with modernized PT-91s - without cardinal modifications and innovations. Newer tanks with AZ in the series and in service are not yet available. So, the newest in the army are the modernized Leopard 2PL MBT with manual shells.

Conveyor AZ tank K2. Photo

In the past decade, Polish companies have made two attempts to create automatic loaders for use in future projects. None of these developments have progressed beyond displaying promotional materials. In the foreseeable future, a foreign tank with a ready-made AZ of foreign design may enter service.

The reasons for this situation lie on the surface. First of all, it is the general difficulty of creating an effective and reliable automatic loader. Another important factor is the direct connection between the future AZ and MBT, for which it is being created. If a country has the desire and ability to produce new armored vehicles, the machine gun and other equipment for it will go into series. Otherwise, all developments run the risk of going to the archive as unnecessary.

As you can see, the real achievements of the Polish tank building so far end with the PT-91 project and various options for its development. This tank was based on Soviet design - and used a Soviet automatic loader. The next attempts to create your own tank, incl. with the original AZ have not yet ended with success, and the newest tank of the Polish army and the expected vehicles are of foreign origin. Whether it will be possible to correct this situation by restoring its own production of tanks and individual components is a big question. And a positive answer to it is unlikely.
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  1. Theodore
    Theodore 24 November 2020 18: 24
    Which tank Poland chooses - which one the Americans sell, it will be so!
    1. Constanty
      Constanty 24 November 2020 20: 54
      Unfortunately it's true. What's more, at a high price!
      1. Constanty
        Constanty 24 November 2020 22: 53
        The person who put the minus can explain why? Because I'm curious.
        I agreed with my predecessor because it is true - the Americans are now making purchasing decisions for the Polish army - and they charge too much for their products.
        1. Sergey M. Karasev
          Sergey M. Karasev 25 November 2020 01: 42
          I didn't put the minus. The real minus is not explained at all. But I can assume that the point is in the phrase

          Poland is our enemy. And to regret the problems of the enemy, to put it mildly, strange. If you are a Pole, this explains your regret, but on this site Poles are not liked for the above reason. hi
          1. Constanty
            Constanty 25 November 2020 01: 56
            Yes, I am a Pole and I write from the point of view of a Pole. However, I do not regard Russia as my enemy. The current Polish authorities are doing a lot for this, they are trying to increase disgust for your country (unfortunately, I observe this and vice versa)
            However, the authorities change, but the good of the state remains: our common good is friendly relations, because it is good to have a neighbor as a friend and as an enemy as far as possible ..
            As in 1939, we do the opposite - we believe in fleeting alliances of very distant countries that repel our neighbors. This is mistake.
            Many people will sooner or later notice this, including because of the vulgar customs of the Americans with whom we began this conversation. Hopefully as soon as possible
            1. Sergey M. Karasev
              Sergey M. Karasev 25 November 2020 02: 06
              It's good that there are still people like you in Poland! drinks
            2. Sckepsis
              Sckepsis 25 November 2020 17: 52

              However, the authorities change, but the good of the state remains: our common good is friendly relations

              So it was with Ukraine three days before the revolution ... Unfortunately, it is worth noting that the state's long and persistent policy is fraying the opinion of the people.
            3. kartalovkolya
              kartalovkolya 26 November 2020 12: 30
              Your trouble (for Poland) is that the main trait of your character is NOT GRATEFUL and a mean attitude towards your real benefactors, thanks to whom you have preserved your statehood!
              1. Constanty
                Constanty 26 November 2020 12: 41
                Many Poles find it difficult to ignore the fact that Poland often lost statehood due to Russia / USSR - for example, due to partitions or the Ribentropp-Molotov Pact and September 17, 1939 ...
                The situation here is not so obvious. Yes, there are things for which we should be grateful to Russia or the USSR, I do not deny this, but there are many things that it is better not to talk about.

                Nevertheless, this is history - one must remember this, but lives in the present, looking into the future.
                1. paul3390
                  paul3390 14 February 2021 12: 30
                  Many Poles find it difficult to ignore the fact that Poland often lost statehood due to Russia / USSR - for example, due to partitions or the Ribentropp-Molotov Pact

                  It's a strange thing - Rzecz Pospolita was divided by Russia, Austria and Prussia, and you only hate Russia for that .. And by no means she was the initiator of the partitions .. But with the two then divisors you are now in close alliance, and you have claims to them for those for some reason there is no event. Only to us.

                  Pay attention - in 1939 we did not take an inch of land inhabited by ethnic Poles. They just returned to themselves what you grabbed from us in 1920 .. But - we gave you all the lands that you merged to the Germans for 1000 years, and which you would never have received without the USSR. And it seems to me - that industrial Silesia and Pomorie are much more valuable lands than western Ukraine and Belarus. Where is your justice? You have been honestly settled, and with interest. Although - they could get everything back for free.
                  1. Constanty
                    Constanty 14 February 2021 15: 22
                    Pay attention - in 1939 we did not take an inch of land inhabited by ethnic Poles. You just got back what you grabbed from us in 1920.

                    there were no ethnic Russians there either

                    The borders between our countries were established by the Peace of Riga, also signed by the RSFSR.
                    The inviolability of the Polish borders was also guaranteed by the Non-Aggression Pact between Poland and the USSR (1932), which was violated by the USSR. I recommend reading - there is also in Russian.

                    You confuse politics with feelings.
                    I agree that the current official policy of Poland is anti-Russian (which I personally think is a big mistake), but I would not equate this with hatred of Russia (and of the Russian people in general).
                    Yes, many Poles are afraid of Russia and see it as a threat; a marginal, abnormal handful of people feel hatred.
                    There are also people (like me) who can be called Russophiles. People who love and are interested in Russia.
                    I will say more - personally, I do not know anyone who hates Russians - they rather express sympathy for the Russians they met in private.
                    1. paul3390
                      paul3390 14 February 2021 15: 32
                      Why should we sympathize? It seems that there is no reason yet .. And - I absolutely do not understand, why be afraid of us? Do you really believe that Russia certainly wants to conquer Poland ??? Holy, holy, holy, God forbid us .. I assure you - there are no such psychos in Russia. No offense - but we twice had the experience of power over you, the third time - we will not agree for anything, even if they give a lot of money! Enough with us. Now letting in Europe puffs out .. So - I see no reason for concern .. If you yourself do not give a reason ..

                      And as for the contracts - there were a lot of them in our history. So what? You did not observe them in the same way. So what are the claims? In 1920, you were temporarily stronger by taking advantage of our civil war. In 1939 - we. Consider quits ..

                      Moreover, these are not our territories .. Make claims against Ukraine and Belarus .. However, I do not advise the latter, she has an alliance with us. And take the Banderlog! Only then don't complain ..
                      1. Constanty
                        Constanty 14 February 2021 15: 45
                        I also think Russia's fears are exaggerated.
                        In Poland, probably, there are no serious people who would like to take away its territory from someone.
                        The lands of western Belarus and Ukraine have already changed their ethnic character. Yes, in Belarus and Lithuania there is also a small Polish minority (including a part of my family), but these are different countries, different people. No territorial disputes, This should allow us to live in peace. Everyone will benefit from it - both you and us

                        And Banderlog ...
                        I prefer not to write what to do with them. I will say this - the world would be better without them
                      2. paul3390
                        paul3390 14 February 2021 15: 52
                        Here I am about that. We have no reason to gore. We don't need anything from you, I hope - and you are not going to put your prince in the Kremlin again ... wink So what's the problem then? what

                        I assure you that we, too, are not very fond of Poles, there is a reason. But you can just live peacefully, without yapping constantly from behind the fence and not trying to do nasty things to your neighbor? Moreover, when there is something profitable to trade. Why, then, does your government behave as if we are not Russia but the Third Reich headed by Aloizievich?
                      3. Constanty
                        Constanty 14 February 2021 16: 03
                        Well - I will not evaluate the Polish authorities, because it is not political, although the word stupidity comes to mind.

                        However, this is often cynicism - a search for an external enemy in order to escape from one's own awkwardness and mismanagement. He plays on the grievances of a group of older people.
                        And the media are pitting us against each other. It's so simple because people are often afraid of the unknown - and today's Russia is de facto unknown to Poland - only myths, stereotypes and manipulations are shown. It is sad
                        If we got to know each other better, there would be less room for fear and enmity.
                        And you have an amazing country - beautiful and diverse, full of attractions, including a tourist one. And exceptional people!
                      4. paul3390
                        paul3390 14 February 2021 16: 04
                        Everything is as always - the tops earn money, and we, sires, have to fight each other. Although for what and why - it is completely incomprehensible ..

                        With the Finns, we are also not enthusiastic about each other, and we also have a huge number of historical claims. But - somehow you learned a mutually beneficial existence? Why not take as an example?
  2. LastPS
    LastPS 26 November 2020 23: 03
    I think they will choose Leopards, that would be the most adequate decision. There are already a lot of leos in the park, why take a Korean, which is essentially an abrams with AZ, it is absolutely incomprehensible - unification will be extremely bad, and a Korean does not differ from a leopard so impressively as to change the park. If you really need AZ, you can do it yourself, or in cooperation with the Koreans for these leopards, and the rheinmetal nearby will help with the modernization and bringing the tanks to any standards.
  • anclevalico
    anclevalico 25 November 2020 08: 05
    The F-35 will be bought, they will buy other things that they say from across the ocean. They will say to shoot in the leg, they will do that too. Independence, she's so ...
  • The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 24 November 2020 18: 25
    The author, it seems, forgot to mention the development of Kharkovites - an automatic loader in the aft niche for the T - 72. And for a NATO member, this is generally just a godsend, because it is designed for 120 mm shells.
    1. Holgerton
      Holgerton 24 November 2020 19: 08
      That is because the Poles are such Poles, they think of themselves as "part of the West", like and goons, and instead of taking something cheap and working as a basis and working on their own, they want everything expensively-bohato, like the same one " gold "by modern standards K2.
      They had, of course, something sensible in this regard, when they presented the RT-17 project in hardware with the participation of Polish enterprises, where this Kharkov conveyor AZ was integrated with the corresponding modifications from a local private company, but apparently the Korean Abrams smells more of democracy for them than their armored personnel carriers.
    2. Constanty
      Constanty 24 November 2020 21: 06
      Are you writing about this? yes
      1. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins 24 November 2020 21: 53
        I - about it. T 72 with a 120 mm gun.
        1. Constanty
          Constanty 24 November 2020 22: 02
          My photo showed a demonstrator of a Polish PT-17 tank using a Ukrainian assault rifle, or rather the entire tower, with a KBM-2 cannon from the Yatagan.

          There was also a PT-16 with a Ukrainian, though closed, turret.

    3. The comment was deleted.
  • Ros 56
    Ros 56 24 November 2020 18: 32
    But do the Poles really have tanks, what the hell is an automatic loader? This is the prerogative of the tank manufacturers.
  • Hwostatij
    Hwostatij 24 November 2020 18: 34
    They are going to produce tanks ... Can anyone name at least one Polish high-tech brand?
    1. Admund
      Admund 25 November 2020 00: 07
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      1. Hwostatij
        Hwostatij 25 November 2020 17: 43
        Dear, if you want to say something, speak Russian - you are still on a Russian-language site.
    2. The comment was deleted.
      1. Hwostatij
        Hwostatij 26 November 2020 08: 10
        And why is this miscarriage of verbiage?
  • tank64rus
    tank64rus 24 November 2020 18: 49
    What the Americans sell is what they will have. They will also scare us that now they have only one cat jump to Moscow, like their predecessors in the Wehrmacht in 1941. In general, they must not forget what they ended up with.
    1. Sergey-8848
      Sergey-8848 24 November 2020 19: 16
      In the opposite direction - the same distance
      1. Constanty
        Constanty 25 November 2020 02: 21
        You are wrong - because it is far from the border to Moscow, but not far to Warsaw winked
    2. The comment was deleted.
  • Reserve buildbat
    Reserve buildbat 24 November 2020 19: 55
    "At the moment, the army has about 130 T-72A / M1 tanks and more than 230 PT-91s. In total, more than 260 T-72 vehicles continue to serve, and a comparable number of tanks of older modifications are in storage."
    Can I clarify the data? More than 360 vehicles or 130T-72 and 130 RT-91? Or something else?
    1. Constanty
      Constanty 24 November 2020 20: 53
      The Polish army has 232 PT-91 tanks and about 380 T-72M1 tanks. Depending on the source in the ranks there are from 159 to 232 T-72M1 (4 battalions of 58 tanks in each - 1 battalion in the 20th mechanized brigade Bartoszyce, 2 battalions in the 34th armored cavalry brigade from Zagan, 1 battalion of the 19th mechanized brigades from Lublin) A contract was signed for the cosmetic modification of 318 T-72M1 units to the level of T-72M1R.
      1. Reserve buildbat
        Reserve buildbat 24 November 2020 21: 31
        Thanks for clarifying. I was just puzzled by the inconsistency of the numbers in the article. With your explanation, the question disappeared smile Now I can somehow imagine the situation.
        1. Constanty
          Constanty 24 November 2020 22: 09
          Interestingly, the CIA reports that Poland should have had 2018 tanks in 1065 !!!
          The number of "Leopard-2" - only 247 and PT-91 - for sure 232 - then the T-72M1 would have a huge number - 586 tanks!
      2. The comment was deleted.
  • Rostislav
    Rostislav 24 November 2020 20: 01
    Whether it will be possible to remedy this situation by restoring its own production of tanks and individual components is a big question. And a positive answer to it is unlikely.

    This is true. It is necessary to sell their weapons to "senior comrades", so that in the post-Soviet space production falls apart more often than new ones are created. Among the Poles and Hungarians, this is not as pronounced as among the Balts, but the trend is the same. There are many examples, the same "Ikarus", for example.
  • 7,62h54
    7,62h54 24 November 2020 20: 08
    In general, Poland has a positive attitude towards AZ, but you have to get used to manual loading.
    There is no AZ on the master's tanks.
  • Constanty
    Constanty 24 November 2020 20: 37
    Probably, the author forgot about one thing. In Poland, a demonstration model of the Anders "fire support vehicle" was developed several years ago. It was equipped with a turret with a crew under the hull ring, equipped with a 120mm RUAG cannon and a fully functional OBRUM Gliwice autoloader with 12 rounds if I remember correctly.

    1. Evil Booth
      Evil Booth 25 December 2020 15: 39
      12 shells and armor around a cannon with a diameter of 120 judging by the photo, all 12 mm. laughing and mono to clarify the chot prevented in such a high case to put a full-fledged AZ for more than 22 shots? and where did they put everything else from the tank, leaving nothing. and read the radiator forward with holes. and of course this is not Nona or its new replacement, but only direct fire. wassat gloomy Swedish genius only explanation HOW
  • sav
    sav 26 November 2020 15: 06
    Poland is saved by the fact that no one needs them as an "object of conquest".
    1. onstar9
      onstar9 12 December 2020 08: 08
      Well, who needs Japan, for example? For all its "pfuf-pfaf", there is nothing real there .... Capture it ... and everything will go through your hands like sand ... So also Poland ... There are no mines and gas ... But, these countries develop, unlike others ... Other countries, much larger, do not even have the money to "modernize" something there ....
  • Yellow bubble
    Yellow bubble 31 January 2021 14: 02
    Psheki, if you received a tank, the robot does not need to be spoiled, but rather do something yourself.