In a proxy war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine, Western tanks are ready to engage their Russian counterparts in a fight that will make history. Modernised versions of the same Tanks from the post-World War II era are expected to engage in combat on the battlefield. Frontier India has already reported how the Russians are prepping their T-72 tanks of the second generation, which constitute the majority of Russian armour on the battlefield. This article will discuss how the third-generation Russian tank T-90M Proryv, an evolution of the T-72 tank, compares to the most recent evolution of Western tanks.
What is the T-90 Main Battle Tank?
The T-90 is the first Main Battle Tank (MBT) series to be produced almost entirely in the post-Soviet era. The tank was planned in the middle to late 1980s and was a thorough redesign of the mass-produced Soviet T-72B tank. It featured enhanced dynamic protection, an active protection system of the Shtora series aimed to disrupt anti-tank missile systems’ laser designator and rangefinder systems, superior sloped alloy and composite armour, and a new engine. In the most recent iterations of the concept, a welded turret was incorporated. According to reports, the tank was dubbed the T-90 due to Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s desire to declare the birth of the “first Russian tank” created after the Soviet era.
The T-90 has dimensions of 9.6 metres in length, 3.78 metres in width, and 2.22 metres in height, and weighs between 46 and 48 tonnes. Comparable to its predecessors, the T-90 is considerably smaller and lighter than 1980s and 1990s NATO tanks. In comparison, NATO tanks have evolved to weigh between 62 and 74 tonnes and stand approximately 3 metres tall.
The T-90’s smaller size and low profile help it navigate tight spaces such as forests and mountains, a perceived superior ability to entrench itself, and a smaller, simpler overall design, which allows for the production of more tanks with fewer resources.
A more diminutive stature does not equate to diminished firepower. The T-90’s secondary armament consists of a 12.7 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun. The main gun is the 2A46 125 mm/L48 smoothbore cannon used by numerous Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese tanks. The primary cannon and its variations are estimated to be superior to the Rh-120 L/44 120 mm smoothbore installed on the German Leopard 2 because they can shoot projectiles up to 4,000 metres, i.e., 500 metres further than the German gun.
A more compact profile also results in a greater operational range, up to 550 km without the optional rear fuel drums – compared to 425 km for the Abrams – and improved bridge and river crossing capabilities.
The interchangeability of some components with the older generation of tanks should result in superior logistics and repair capabilities; however, a major headache for NATO today is coordinating the large number of distinct and incompatible weapons sent to Ukraine, a problem that is expected to worsen with the arrival of Western tanks.
What about the T-90M Proryv?
The T-90M Proryv (“Breakthrough”) is the most recent model in the T-90 line. The tank features a new turret module with multi-layer armour, enhanced crew safety due to the location of its ammo rack outside the crew compartment, and an improved main gun – 125 mm 2A82 – the same armament mounted on upcoming next-generation tanks like as the T-14 Armata.
The T-90M is equipped with a Kalina automated fire control system, a remotely controlled 12.7mm Kord machine gun, a Relict dynamic defence system, and a fifth-generation digital communication system. Firsts in Russian tank design include air conditioning, steering, and transmission with enhanced driver usability. T-90Ms are also equipped with Arena-M, a sophisticated, active protection system for anti-tank and anti-missile defence.
In 2020, deliveries of the tank to the Russian military commenced. The latest version is T-90M Proryv-3.
How many T-90 tanks does Russia possess?
Since 1992, around 1,000 T-90s with various variants have been manufactured. In 2022, Russia owned approximately 350 T-90As, up to 100 T-90Ms, and an additional 200 T-90s in storage. The military said in 2018 that all T-90s would be upgraded to T-90Ms by 2025.
How many T-90s do other nations possess?
India, not Russia, is the largest operator of T-90 series tanks, with an inventory of 1,100 T-90S ‘Bhishma’ MBTs, many of which were manufactured under licence by Indian manufacturers. Algeria, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Vietnam are also users.
T-90 Battle record
Over the course of more than 30 years, the T-90’s versions have accumulated operational experience in various settings, beginning in 1995 in Chechnya, where a small number of T-90s proved “practically invulnerable” against anti-tank missiles thanks to their onboard active protection system.
In 2015, between 30 and 40 T-90s with various modifications were deployed to Syria and used by Syrian tankers in violent clashes against Islamist extremists backed by the West, the Gulf, and Turkey. The ATGM defence of the tanks has repeatedly proven its effectiveness against the US TOW anti-tank missiles. Three to six T-90s were irreparably damaged or destroyed throughout the war, with one falling into the hands of militants. Others sustained damage but were repaired to continue fighting. T-90s in Syria were superior to Leopard 2 tanks, which sustained up to a dozen losses during Turkey’s operations in the country’s north beginning in 2016.
Azerbaijani forces also utilised T-90S tanks during the 2020 Karabakh War, losing between one and four to Armenian militants in the disputed territory.
The Russian Army has made extensive use of T-90s in the conflict in Ukraine. Due to the continuous fighting, claims, and counterclaims, the findings are now unclear.
Most of the tanks promised to Ukraine by the West are equal to the T-72 generation. The only modern tanks expected to arrive in Ukraine are the M1A2 Abrams and the most recent models of the Leopard 2 tank. When these tanks are slated to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2023, it will be fascinating to compare them to the T-90s. By then, the configurations will be known.