TechKuwait backs Ukraine with unique M-84 tanks: a potent variant of T-72, armed for superior defense

Kuwait backs Ukraine with unique M‑84 tanks: a potent variant of T‑72, armed for superior defense

Kuwaiti tanks M-84AB during a military parade
Kuwaiti tanks M-84AB during a military parade
Images source: © Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lic. CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons | MC1 Chad J. McNeeley

4:37 PM EST, January 30, 2024, updated: 4:37 AM EST, March 7, 2024

The journey of the M-84 tanks has come full circle. Produced in the 80s at the Djuro Djakovic factories, now located in Croatia, these vehicles reached Kuwait in the late 80s and early 90s. There, they played a crucial role in the country's defense against Saddam Hussein's forces.

While Kuwait utilizes tanks such as the M1A2K Abrams, its officials have shown a willingness to fortify Ukraine with older M-84AB tanks. These will be revamped at the Djuro Djakovic factories before they are handed over.

Since this design is based on the widely recognized Ukrainian T-72 tanks, crew, and technical staff training should be straightforward and quick. The help is substantial, as Kuwait possesses around 150 M-84 units. This number exceeds the functioning tanks that Western Europe has provided to Ukraine. So, what sets the M-84 apart from the T-72?

M-84 Tank - The Yugoslavian adaptation of the T-72

The M-84 tank exemplifies an interesting alteration to the foundational T-72 (its export version being the T-72M). With minimal design changes, Yugoslavia managed to significantly enhance the capabilities of the equipment produced under Soviet licensing.

Perhaps the most pivotal change was using different steel alloys than those used in the USSR. This change augmented the ballistic protection of the tank.

There were also significant changes to the equipment. The M-84 had a Yugoslavian fire control system, updated observation devices, communication tools, and a weather sensor. Moreover, in the M-84A model, the engine was improved; its increased horsepower of 985 compensated for the increase in the tank's weight, totaling 51 tons.

Fresh additions included the modern SKO Omega-84 fire control system, a ballistic computer, and an automatic self-defense system.

Another crucial change was implementing an additional armor modification fortified with layered segments, including boron carbide and quartz inserts. The effectiveness of this solution was demonstrated during conflicts after the dissolution of Yugoslavia - the frontal M-84A armor proved resilient against a range of anti-tank-guided missile attacks.

The M-84AB - the export variant of this tank - was ordered by Kuwait and participated in combat against Saddam Hussein's army. Despite being at a numerical disadvantage, these tanks held their own remarkably well - only two units were decommissioned in battle, repaired, and returned to service.

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