The T-72 main battle tank has been the butt of a lot of jokes. The reason behind most of those jokes is obvious: In Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom it had "performance issues," to put it lightly. We're talking firing at an Abrams from 400 yards and having the round bounce off. Or to put it bluntly, the T-72 sucked.
Nonetheless, the Soviet Union foisted the T-72 on many European client states who were coerced into joining the Warsaw Pact. It also was purchased by a lot of folks, predominately in the Middle East, before the design's issues became as obvious as a turret being blown high into the air in 1991. As a result, many who had them needed to find a way to make the best of the junk they had.
A view of an Iraqi T-72 main battle tank destroyed in a Coalition attack during Operation Desert Storm near the Ali Al Salem Air Base. Pretty much sums up the T-72's combat record. (DOD photo)
The Czech Republic was one of those who had the unenviable task of dealing with these rolling disasters. Thankfully, then-Czechoslovakia was smart enough to get a license to build the T-72 themselves and not depend on Russian manufacturing.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Czech Republic began looking at upgrading their T-72s. Ultimately, the Czechs adapated an Italian fire-control system to enable the tank to fire on the move and hit its target, an American transmission, and a British power pack. The Czechs called this the T-72M4.
A Czech Army T-72M4. (Wikimedia Commons)
The problem was that the Czech Republic soon had little budgetary room. All in all, out of plans to originally modernize 340 tanks, only 35 got the upgrade — barely enough for a battalion. Still, the Czechs do deserve credit for making one of the biggest pieces of crap in the world of battle tanks somewhat functional.