T-64 Rhino Main Battle Tank
Country: Union of Soviet Socialist Republic/ Russian Republic
Other Users: Ukraine, Islamic Union, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Cuba, Mexico, Pakistan, African nations, Republic of China
Builder: Morozov Design Bureau
Armament: 1x D-81T 125mm (Smoothbore)
1x NVST 12.7mm HMG
1x 7.62mm MGs (1x COAX)
Unlike the Western Powers the Soviet Union had to rebuild its armed forces from nearly scratch. Due to the Treaty of Geneva signed by the Allied powers and USSR at the end of World War II, the Red Army was severally restricted. It was only allowed to have enough divisions to maintain a proper defense of the Soviet Union. Heavy weapons particularly tanks were limited to only a few divisions. Neither the United States nor European Alliance ever wished for the USSR to threaten them again.
These restrictions left a bitter taste in the senior Soviet military leadership. However the rebuilding of the Soviet industry and agricultural centers following the war was the main priority for CPSU leaders. From the 1950s till the early 60s the Red Army was forced to use the IS-2 Heavy Tank and other AFVs left over from World War II. Things not might have changed if not for the bickering amongst the Allies.
Europe too needed to rebuild following the Second World War. The massive damage across Eastern Europe, Poland, and Germany was their primary concern following the war. The Alliance wanted a quick withdrawal from the USSR so their money could be spent on reconstruction. Leary of maintaining sole responsibility for the Soviets; the United States began a pullout shortly after the start of the European one. More control was handed back to the Soviet Union and eventually the CPSU leadership was able to operate without restrictions. As a result the Soviet Union was able to move freely to secure its borders in the late 50s.
Unrest that had begun in the former Soviet Republics was spilling over into the USSR itself. Eager to stop the unrest and to regain control of their former states, the leadership in Moscow announced it was sending in the Red Army to restore order. The Europeans and Americans, not willing to go in and aid the former republics themselves allowed the Soviets to carry out their incursion. Sensing weakness and distrust among their former enemies, the Red Army began as series of small modernization and research programs for their armed forces.
True re-armament of the Soviet military did not occur till the rise of Alexander Romanov as General Secretary of the CPSU in 1960. Romanov had worked in the postwar government. He had played a critical role in protecting the Communist Party from being dismantled by the Allies following the war. Now as General Secretary he informed the armed forces that he intended to seek re-armament. Much of the work began in secret but once it was known that the Europeans and Americans would not protest Soviet rearmament it was pushed into the open.
Among the first things addressed by the Red Army was the creation of a new main battle tank. The end result was the T-64. As with pervious Soviet tanks it focused on firepower and armor. There were however a number of interesting changes. First was the abandonment of a circular round turret. Designers opted instead to build an angular western style turret including the use of blow out panels with an ammunition bay in the turret. One major complaint by veterans of the Great Patriotic War was the tendency of Soviet armor to explode its ammunition when the turret was breached by a round. Although the T-64’s system was not up to Allied standards, it was better then nothing.
A very new idea for the T-64 was the addition of big 125mm smoothbore cannon. Western designs used rifled tank barrels. The smoothbore feature doubled the range of the gun and increased muzzle velocity. Later models of the T-64 would be able to fire anti-tank missiles from their cannons. The fourth crewmember, the loader, was eliminated from the tank. A new electric automatic one took his place. Good armor protection combined with the powerful gun did lead to a slower tank. When shown the first production models General Secretary Romanov remarked, “Look at this gun, a fine gun. Very long like a Rhino’s horn.”
The comment by the Secretary was not forgotten by the Soviet Defense Minster or his deputies. As a result the T-64 was soon called the Rhino much to Romanov’s delight. First revealed to the Western Powers in 1963 during a parade in Red Square, the Allied observes were dismayed to see how far the Soviets had come in such a short time. An American military officer working in the Embassy in Moscow wrote that the T-64 incorporated a series of new features while maintaining a low silhouette.
Rhinos first saw combat in the hands of Soviet clients in Africa. The formation of the World Socialist Alliance gave the USSR a number of allies and weapons testing ground around the world. T-64 Rhinos in the hands of Libyan tankers and some Soviet ‘advisors’ saw combat against Egypt during a border dispute in 1965. It was quite superior to the M48s in Egyptian hands. Numerous teething problems with the engines were found during the combat in Africa. New production versions of the Rhino corrected the problem.
Even though the T-64 could not outclass the latest Western designs, the sheer numbers produced combined with their firepower and armor protection would ensure victory according to leaders of the Red Army. All the Soviet Motor Rifle and Tank divisions were using Rhinos by the time of World War III.
American Grizzly tanks were overwhelmed by Soviet numbers and surprise in 1975. Many of the attacking Rhinos also included a new defensive armor. Explosive Reactive Armor was something the Russians had been experimenting with in-between the World Wars. A block of explosives the ERA was designed to defeat HEAT warheads. Soviet tankers were thrilled as American TOW and Dragon missiles failed to kill them. The ERA did not always protect the T-64s nor did they stop the sabot rounds fired by M61s. In a series of crushing battles the Rhinos swept into the American plains and devastated U.S. forces in early battles.
The T-64 was the mainstay of Soviet forces throughout the war. It’s heavier and more complicated cousin, the T-72 Apocalypse Tank never entered the war in sufficient numbers to phase out the Rhino. As the Americans rallied and began their counterattacks during the war they did so with increasingly effective equipment. The Soviet research and development departments found it hard to keep up with their Western counterparts. As a result the Rhino began to fall behind the curve of new tank improvements. In the end the sheer number of T-64s produced worked against the USSR. The Soviets simply couldn’t afford to add thermal sights, new electronics, and other high cost upgrades to the thousands of Rhinos that had been made. Still the T-64 served till the end with the fall of Moscow.
Although many were destroyed during the war, numerous T-64 Rhinos lay in storage for the reserve divisions of the new Russian Republic. Others were used to equip the armies of countries like the Ukraine, China, and Islamic Union. Cuba, Iraq, and other former WSA members are still using T-64s ensuring that the Rhino will be in service into the 21st Century.
Okay my take on Red Alert 2’s Rhino Tank. I decided to use the T-64 as a designation and hull of the tank. The turret though is pretty much the angular one from the Chinese Type 90 and 96 MBTs. Since a plain hull is boring I added ERA to the hull to spice it up. Plus ERA did show up in the 70s so in the increased technology universe of Red Alert, it can arrive earlier. I thought about doing camo for it but decided to stick with pea soup green.
I really do like this one so please share what you think. My next tank shall be the Prism Tank of the Allies. Like I have with the others I’m going to try and do it ‘realistically’.