In the latter half of September 2022, Ukrainian armed forces were successful in seizing a T-90M tank that was stationed close to Kupyansk. This is the most cutting-edge Russian military vehicle ever created (not counting the T-14 “Armata”), and it exemplifies the absolute pinnacle of what the Russian military-industrial complex could accomplish in its heyday.
The T-90 tank was developed in the early 1990s. Initially, the type was known as the T-72BU, as it was a significant upgrade of the T-72 tank from the 1970s. The primary characteristic of the Russian defence sector is that its origins date back to the Soviet era, virtually to the Second World War. For instance, T-series tanks continue to utilise updated variants of the T-34 engine.
Since 1992, the T-90 has been in production. For 2010, the number of T-90s was anticipated to be approximately 500 units. According to available information, it was intended to produce up to 261 more machines. Some were sent to India (where our production has operated since 2010) and other Arab and other nations. Several hundred of these tanks could potentially participate in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
The T-90 tanks are equipped with the same 125 mm 2A46M smoothbore cannon as the T-80 tanks (2A45M). The cannon can fire high-explosive fragmentation and armour-piercing projectiles and can be replaced without the disassembly of the turret. It is feasible to employ “Reflex” anti-tank guided missiles with laser guidance in the line of sight and a cumulative warhead. The effective range of a tank is between 100 metres and 6 kilometres. Maximum distance shooting requires 17.5 seconds.
The mechanical loading mechanism holds 22 projectiles and charges them in 5 to 8 seconds. The Ainet fuse permits the detonation of rounds at a distance from the tank chosen by the gunner’s laser rangefinder.
The tank commander can direct the NSV 12.7 mm remotely controlled anti-aircraft machine gun, which has a firing range of 2 kilometres and a cyclic rate of fire of 700–800 rounds per minute. It was eventually replaced by the Kord heavy machine gun and the PKMT 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun.
At the commander’s station, the T-90’s fire control system features the PNK-4S / SR AGAT day and night sighting system, which allows for the detection of armoured vehicles at a range of 700-1,100 metres at night. Early T-90 models were fitted with the TO1-KO1 “Buran” sight; however, in later variants of the T-90S, an ESSA thermal imaging sight was introduced, allowing for directed fire at a range of 5000-8000 metres from the Thales Optical Catherine FC sight.
The gunner is equipped with a 1G46 day sight that contains a laser rangefinder and a missile guiding mechanism. The sight enables tanks to spot equipment from 5 to 8 kilometres away. The driver’s seat incorporates a TVN-5 day/night sight. In 2010, Russia began producing Catherine FC thermal imagers for T-90M tanks under licence. Since 2012, Russia has begun developing and installing Agat-MDT sights and Irbis-K night sights for various tank variants.
The T-90 tank is outfitted with a three-tiered defence system. The first level consists of composite turret armour, which consists of a primary shell with aluminium and plastic inserts and controlled deformation portions.
The second level of dynamic protective blocks, “Kontakt-5” of the third generation, limit projectiles’ kinetic energy and penetrative capability. These “bricks” impart the tower’s distinctive angular look. On the roof of the tower are also defences against attacks from above. In addition to dynamic protection and steel plating, the front armour of the tower is supplied with composite protection between the top and lower steel sheets.
The complex of Shtora-1 countermeasures comprises the third level. This system comprises two active electro-optical/infrared jammers in the front of the turret, four laser-guided warning sensors, two smoke grenade release systems, and an electronic control system. The infrared jammer disables the semi-automatic line-of-sight command-and-control mechanism used by certain anti-tank-guided missiles. Automatic smoke grenades are deployed when Curtain-1 senses guidance.
The T-90 is also equipped with nuclear, biological, and chemical defence and an automatic fire extinguishing system.
The T-90 tank’s transmission and engine are located in the back. The 1000-horsepower engine is a 12-cylinder, four-stroke unit designed to run on several types of V-92 gasoline. A V-96 diesel engine with 1250 horsepower is also utilised. The tank’s peak speed on the highway is 60 km/h, while on rugged terrain, it can reach 45 km/h.
Features of the T-90M “Breakthrough” model
There are around eight variants of the T-90, with the T-90M being the most sophisticated in the Russian army. In 2011, the T-90MS export version of this tank modification was introduced for the first time.
The main feature of the tank’s modernisation was the replacement of the old turret with a new combat module fitted with an improved fire control system, “Kalina”, an integrated combat information and control system of the tactical level, a new automatic charger, and an upgraded 2A46M-5 gun, as well as a remotely controlled anti-aircraft gun UDP T05BV- 1.
Relic, a more powerful dynamic protection system, is installed on the T-90M and T-90MS. This armour protects tandem warheads, decreasing bullet penetration by more than fifty per cent. Alternatively, the Kontakt-1 and Kontakt-5 systems may be utilised. In addition, the Cape visibility reduction system was implemented.
Particular focus was placed on enhancing the search for targets and fire control at all times of the day. For the first time, steering wheel control and an automatic transmission with manual shifting capability were utilised. In addition, a new Sosna-U night/day sight and a rearview camera were added. The ammo was moved outside the crew compartment to maximise the crew’s crew survival.
The new version weighs about 48 tonnes. The tank is fitted with a V-93 monoblock engine with 1130 horsepower that was derived from the V-92S2F2. The anti-radiation lining has been replaced with fire-resistant, anti-fragmentation Kevlar, and the fire suppression system has been enhanced. The tank’s firepower, security, and mobility have significantly increased while maintaining the same proportions and weight.
T-90 M versus T-73B3
Compared to the T-7B3M, the T-90M has numerous useful features. It boasts outstanding cross-country performance, is agile, and shows data on an electronic screen, which is a significant advantage.
A generator allows the T-90M to be prepped for cold-weather starting. In the past, it was a nightmare for tankers to start diesel engines in cold weather, especially if the batteries were old and degraded. The engine’s power and the tank’s manoeuvrability have increased.
The T-90M has an unusual appearance, despite its similarities to the iconic T-72. It is covered in additional camouflage, a substance that decreases its visibility in the infrared spectrum and to laser navigation devices on its outside. Due to their superficial resemblance to artificial Christmas trees, tank personnel refer to fuzzy protection as Christmas trees.
With the inclusion of anti-cumulative grilles and dynamic defensive components, the protection against grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles has been vastly enhanced.
Old, outdated tanks with poor visibility cannot locate and engage the enemy in time. The T-90M “Breakthrough” 360-degree cameras have radically altered the situation. In addition, the new tank has a fully remote-controlled turret equipped with a powerful machine gun, allowing users to fire at enemy anti-tank teams without leaving the armoured compartment.
Capabilities of the T-90 M for locating and detecting the enemy include infrared imagers.
The T-90M tank commander enjoys a significant edge. If the gunner was incapacitated, the commander could flip the switch to assume control of the tower and the entire system. In addition, if a tank’s primary ammunition supply is depleted, the commander can control the machine gun entirely from the interior, making the withdrawal easier to conceal. The tank fires upon the opponent as it retreats to prevent him from raising his head. Previously, the tanker had to emerge from the tower almost to the waist, exposing himself to small arms fire.
With the assistance of the commander’s 360-degree cameras, he can now, utilising only his instruments, provide the tank driver with significantly more precise movement instructions or positions to the gunner on the battlefield.
The tank performed exceptionally well in urban warfare – very manoeuvrable and controlled.
Even though the turret of the new tanks is considerably larger, it still has a very modest surface area. During the conflict, two individuals – Commander and the gunner – interact shoulder-to-shoulder in the tower. A 125 mm gun between them fires specific rounds.
The interior of the tank is notable for its spaciousness and stillness. According to the combat vehicle crew, the new tank is substantially more comfortable than its predecessors. It is easy for the commander to communicate with the gunner without raising his voice, and shooting is scarcely audible from the commander’s position. As there is a considerable quantity of electrical equipment within, all resemblance to prior tank types is eliminated.
The T-90M “Proryv” is equipped with a defensive device that detects laser radiation and provides a signal to the headset if someone is aiming a laser at the tank.
Russian tankers perceive the T-90M as a beast compared to the T-73B3M.