This is a recent footage from Iraq. Before you go like “OMG” – nobody died in it. Thanks to Artem for the video.
We can see a T-72 ammunition burn and explode, but… what happened? The vehicle was not hit by enemy fire, the fire happened on its own. I had a short discussion about this with some of the best tank buffs I know and I think that the explanation offered by Madestcat is the best one.
It’s a widely known fact that Arab vehicles (regardless whether they are Syrian or Iraqi) are poorly maintained. This is partially due to the difficult conditions (it is a desert after all and sand does NOT mix very well with tanks), partially due to the “Arabs suck at warfare” meme but mostly because it’s war. You run out of oil, you don’t get enough time to take care of the tanks properly because you are using them 24/7.
What I think happened was this – the bore evacuator wasn’t working due to poor maintenance and some hot debris stayed in the barrel. As soon as the automatic loader inserted the next piece of ammunition, it caught fire from the smoldering remains in the barrel. The crew saw the breech on fire and immediately bailed out. They wouldn’t be able to if this was a violent combat ammo rack explosion.
I am actually surprised there are any functional T-72s left in Iraq between the massive losses in the war with the Americans and the subsequent constant fighting with various terrorist groups…