Indian Army T-90S Bhishma tanks may be fighting in Ukraine for Russia

Some of India's T-90S Bhishma tanks were in Russia to install modernized systems. The tank modification was intended for India, but it may have been subsequently decided to deploy them to Ukraine.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

Mid-September saw the release of a video on a Telegram channel showing T-90 tanks with the caption indicating that the tanks were destined for the Russian Armed Forces. It was first believed that the T-90 tanks in the video were T-90A tanks that had not been modernized and had been removed from storage, but it was later determined that they were T-90S tanks, which is the export version. Specifically, the tanks had the T-90S Bhishma configuration of the Indian Army.

Recently, a picture emerged confirming that these tanks had reached the combat zone in Ukraine. 

According to reports, this tank modification was intended for India, but it was subsequently decided to deploy them to Ukraine.

As per Tass, some of India’s T-90S Bhishma Main Battle Tanks were in Russia to install modernized systems. On August 27, 2021, Tass reported that several updated Indian T-90S tank systems had passed preliminary testing. Alexander Mikheyev, chief executive officer of the Russian weapons export agency Rosoboronexport, informed the agency that numerous upgraded systems placed on ‘Indian-supplied tanks’ had undergone preliminary testing. ” Right now, we are moving toward the final tests, following which a decision will be made on installing the modernized systems on the tanks,” he said.

The T-90S Bhishma is an Indian Army derivative of the T-90S tank. The tank is equipped with additional blocks of integrated dynamic protection and powered by a V-92S2 engine (1000 hp).

This data is remarkable in light of the significant losses of Russian armoured vehicles throughout spring and summer operations in Ukraine. The Russian government preferred the provision of weaponry to its troops above export obligations. Even in Ukraine, armoured vehicles and anti-tank systems destined for Arab nations were instantly transferred to the Armed Forces during the first days of the conflict.

Indian Army T-90S Bhishma Configuration

The tanks in the video were T-90S (vehicles of export configuration), as indicated by the absence of elements of the Shtora-1 KOEP on the turret and the presence of a characteristic wide turret block of dynamic protection mounted in a “ledge”. In addition, the mortars of the 902 Tucha system are mounted at an angle of 75 degrees, which is typical for Indian T-90S.

T-90S Bhishma Tanks spotted in Ukraine
T-90S Tank with Indian configuration spotted in Ukraine

These features may imply that the tanks in this video do not belong to the Russian Armed Forces and are meant for export, or they may indicate that tanks formerly slated for sale to other nations were requisitioned to meet the demands of the Russian military.

Indian T-90S upgrade deal

In 2017, Russia and India started negotiating the transfer of technology to update around one thousand T-90S tanks previously sold to India. Under the terms of the agreement discussed, Russian firms will transfer technology for improvements to Indian partners to lessen the Army’s reliance on Russian supply.

Specifically, the modernization was intended to make the previously delivered tanks more accurate, quicker, and more pleasant for the crew. Both Indian military industries and commercial enterprises would participate in the modernization initiative.

Since 2001, India has signed contracts with Russia to supply 1,450 T-90S Bhishma tanks manufactured by Uralvagonzavod (Nizhny Tagil), of which 124 were supplied directly from Russia; the rest were manufactured under license in India.

NPK “Uralvagonzavod” developed a project for the modernization of the T-90S tank in the T-90MS “Tagil” variant (export version of the T-90AM tank). The tank has a Kalina fire control system, a 2A46M-5 gun, which is more potent than the T-90S, and a V-92S2F power plant with a capacity of 1130 hp. It is equipped with an auxiliary power unit.

Perhaps permission was sought from the Indians

Based on the conjecture mentioned above, it can be assumed that India sanctioned the use of the T-90s by the Russian Army. The T-90 Bhishma is owned by India and has been sent to Russia for modernization testing.

The Indian foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, did not mention the status of the Indian T-90s in Russia while responding to whether or not there were maintenance concerns with Russian weaponry in India.

On September 28, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told reporters during the joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that there have been no issues in recent months regarding the servicing and supply of spare parts for spare parts in recent months military equipment acquired in the past from Russia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) conference in September, the same month that the aforementioned video became public. During the discussion, Mr. Modi reportedly advised Russian President Vladimir Putin that it was not the time for war.


  1. When these tanks are easily destroyed by Ukrainian artillery and ATGMs will India demand a refund from russia?


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