According to Cryhavoc101 the export models were the best the Soviets had:Didn't make their tanks supertanks but it made them more advanced in some areas than Western Armour. It was just a bit of a shame they offered "monkey models" to their third world customers, which is what a lot of the Western attitudes to Soviet Armour are based on.
It seems to be a common refrain that 'Monkey Model' tanks were supplied to the Middle Eastern allies of Russia using paper mache for armour etc.
This was not true - aside from lacking some of the more advanced electronic systems the tanks from an armoured and gun POV were state of the art as the Russians were keen to impress their allies etc.
The ones the Israelis captured were top notch versions of Soviet armour
When the first Syrian 72s were deployed against the Israelis in the early 80s the Syrians had been told that the L7 105mm gun could not defeat the T72 across the frontal arc
So it was somewhat embarrassing when the 'Star of David' sabot rounds (named for the shape of the hole they made) started poking holes in them.
Several M48s where subsequently knocked out in 1982 and several of those tanks including both the remains of the dead and at least 1 POW were shipped by the Syrians directly to the Russians.
They found that those M48s carried the latest Sabot 'Star of David' rounds (M111 'Hetz') and got to test them on their latest T72.
They were horrified. (Sorry only link I could find)
The T72 was supposed to have made nearly all of NATOS tanks (with the exception of the Latest Leo2 and British Chieftain) obsolete due to the L7 105mm (which armed the majority of NATOS 'Tank estate') no longer able to reliably defeat the T72 across the frontal arc giving warsaw pack forces in Eastern Europe a massive advantage not just in the quantity of their tanks but the quality as well.
But here was proof that this was not the case.
They found that this round could reliably punch a hole through the upper hull mantle (but not the front of the turret) at battlefield ranges.
There was also evidence that the M111 'Hetz' was co-developed with the West Germans!
The Russian Engineers very quickly developed a new armour plate made of an improved laminate and by the Mid 80s had incorporated the new design into production of subsequent T72s and developed field kits to upgrade the existing fleet.
The first of the new tanks went to their allies in the middle east and this included the Iraqis who were in the midst of their war with Iran
The L7 and it round was once again rendered obsolete - newer ammo continued to challenge the T72 and in the late 80s another even better T72 was deployed but by this point the Leo 2 and M1A1 with their 120mm Smoothbores beign depoyed in ever increasing numbers made the exercise a pointless one.
But there were periods in the 80s where the NATO tank 'Estate' would have been found wanting in the face of the main Warsaw Pack MBT
It was these T72s that were so effective verse the L7 in the mid 80s that got slaughtered by M1A1s just a few years later in 91
Bougnas mentioned a few pages ago that NATO 120 mm HEAT even in the 1960's could penetrate 480 mm of armor- the T-64A and T-72 only had 450 mm, so that would imply the Soviets never had an answer for Western tank guns.Armor was generally better than comparable Western tanks because of size, although they didn't have an answer for Western tank guns until the T-64 and T-72 introduced the composite armor in the 1970s.