I was hoping I could let this go but I just can’t so before I lose my mind seeing people erroneously pointing out practically any tank as a T-72BM, I feel that it’s warranted to put out a brief piece here for clarification.
Before we begin, I will be pointing out three real types of tanks involved in this wealth of opinions and misconceptions:
The T-72BA, the tank most commonly associated with with the BM designation, this tank can most easily be characterized by its IR light on the front right side. In terms of armor the BA designation is characterized by the Kontakt-1 ERA lined on the top of the turret and Kontakt-5 on the side and front
The T-72B2, what you’re actually saying when you say T-72BM is one of the newest and arguably the most advanced of the three. With the Rogatka upgrade suite this is also the most easily distinguishable tank of the three, the B2 distinguishes itself largely with the Relikt ERA type with attached metal skirts. Relikt is the newest ERA to enter service in the Russian army. The B2 is reportedly seeing service in Chechnya currently and is advertised by the Russian media as the T-72BM in this context – the root of the original confusion.
The T-72B3, although similar in appearance to the BA, has no IR light. Certainly there are other internal differences, however for identification purposes this is the only real thing to look out after.
The Russian MoD enjoys this confusion and likes to use it as an umbrella term for the similar T-72BA and B3 models. The pictures shown on government websites match exactly those of BA and B3 models on different pages and the descriptions show no notable difference.