In Profile: Poland’s PT-91

After the end of the cold war, tank plants across Eastern Europe began competing to sell upgraded T-72s to customers around the world. However, only a few of these upgrades would actually achieve success. Poland’s PT-91 is one of those designs, being ordered both by the Polish government and a foreign customer, Malaysia.

The PT-91 is a relatively conservative upgrade, focusing primarily on fire control and survivability. The Polish tank industry already had significant experience developing its own fire control systems (FCS) having worked on the advanced ‘Merida’ FCS for the T-55, so this experience was put to work to create ‘Drawa’, a Polish T-72 FCS superior to the 1A40-1 most T-72Ms shipped with. The gunsights are also upgraded, with the gunner’s sights on the standard Polish model having thermal optics.

In terms of survivability the PT-91 also features significant upgrades, all domestic. Late Polish T-55s featured a Polish laser-warning receiver, this was also added to the PT-91. The laser-warning receiver was integrated with the PCO FCS, the turret is capable of rapidly slewing to a detected laser threat. Domestic ERAWA explosive reactive armor (ERA) also is part of the PT-91. While not as effective as the heavy Russia “Kontakt-5” ERA. ERAWA 1 is estimated to be about as effective as “Kontakt-1”. ERAWA 2 improves on that.

PT-91  (source)

PT-91s in this basic configuration were bought by the Polish government through the 1990s. The Malaysian PT-91M differs slightly, opting to mount the French SAVAN-15 FCS instead of the Polish Drawa. The PT-91M also adds a stabilized commander sight.

The Bumar tank plant has recently revealed a new version of the PT-91 at MSPO 2018, the PT-91M2A2. The upgrade builds on the existing upgrades, further increasing the situational awareness of the tank and adding some slight increases in firepower and lethality. Replacing the existing 125mm main gun is a newer design with increased accuracy, though the origin is uncertain (possibly Slovak or Ukrainian). A set of cameras is added on every corner of the turret to provide 360 degree awareness. The gunner and commander’s sights are also upgraded, and the fire control system and primary gunner’s sight are replaced with a French SAVAN FCS. Slat armor is also added to the rear of the tank to defeat basic RPGs.

If the PT-91M2A2 upgrade is bought, it will provide the Polish tank fleet with a modern tank capable of tackling everything but top-of-the-line enemy tanks. It also could also prove competitive to the T-72B1MS on the export market, as both tanks are fairly well matched in capabilities, with the T-72B1MS perhaps having a better commander sight and cannon, while the PT-91M2A2 has better situational awareness.