The T-90 Tank: Russia’s First Main Battle Tank

When Russia launched its “particular navy operation” into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, its offensive was spearheaded by tanks, primarily drawn from its Soviet-built Chilly Warfare shares of T-72s and T-80s. Two months later, nonetheless, a more recent tank was noticed amongst their forces transferring in Kharkiv Oblast. Designated the T-90, it was apparently extra superior … as one might need anticipated of the primary tank to enter service because the Soviet Union broke up.


When the Chilly Warfare resulted in 1991, the Soviet military had three major battle tanks, comparable in look and common conception however differing of their degree of technical development. The best and least costly was the T-72, of which 22,096 have been constructed on the Uralvagonzavod Ural Rail-car Plant, or UVZ, in Nizhny-Tagil and the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant between 1973 and 1990. Probably the most superior, the T-64, proved to be forward of its time but additionally each unreliable and harmful, having an auto-feed for its major cannon that gained a status for devouring the left arms of careless gunners. By the point the T-64’s technical quirks have been sorted out, the town that manufactured it, Kharkov, had been renamed Kharkiv, and it grew to become a mainstay of the Ukrainian military.

Additional up the evolutionary ladder from the T-72 — however much less refined than the T-64 — was the T-80, of which 7,066 have been inbuilt Leningrad’s Kirov plant and the Transmash plant in Omsk from 1976 to 1990.


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After the Soviet breakup, solely the UVZ and the Transmash vegetation have been nonetheless working, stored afloat by modest manufacturing orders and export to international nations. From these roots the Russian military ordered a brand new kind, basically an evolutionary improve of the T-72. Designated the T-72BM, it integrated the 1A45 Irtysh fire-control system from the T-80 with the most recent in reactive armor. Additional enhancements led to acceptance by the Russian Ministry of Protection on March 27, 1991.

Due to the poor efficiency of T-72s in Iraqi service throughout Operation Desert Storm and its possible impact on worldwide gross sales, the builders redesignated the latest manufacturing mannequin because the T-88, then modified it once more on Oct, 5, 1992 to the T-90, to counsel a brand new tank for a brand new decade. When its chief designer at UVZ, Vladimir Potkin, died in 1999, the tank was unofficially nicknamed the Vladimir (the present irony of that identify can solely be appreciated with the advantage of hindsight).


For all of the hype, the T-90 is actually a T-72 filled with a brand new era of expertise already acquainted to its Western counterparts. Its 48 metric tons are powered by a 1,130-hp V84S2F V-12 diesel engine, which gave it a highway velocity of 37 miles per hour — slower than the T-72 or the turbine-powered T-80 however extra economical and dependable than both. Armament consists of a 125 mm 2A4M5 smoothbore cannon with 40 rounds, in addition to a coaxial and a versatile turret-mounted 7.62 mm PKTM 6P7K machine gun. As with its predecessors, the crew consists of a driver, a commander and a gunner working a still-hazardous auto-loader to fireplace seven rounds per minute. The vary is 340 miles.

Probably the most touted parts of the T-90’s armament are its defenses. Its welded turret features a frontal cavity for mounting a laminate of 20 modules of nonenergetic reflective armor, or NERA, along with which the tank is roofed with Kontakt 5 common reactive armor, or UDZ, which pre-explodes to degrade the efficiency of antitank warheads. Moreover, the tank’s Shtora 1 (“Curtain”) antimissile safety system, first put in on the T-80UK, combines TShU-17 infrared dazzlers on both aspect of the primary gun to disrupt an antitank missile’s steering system with a tracker that prompts antilaser smoke emitters to confound the missile’s infrared, whereas turning the tank and its gun 3.5 to five levels to straight face the oncoming menace.


As of 2018, greater than 2,700 T-90 tanks or autos constructed on its chassis have been produced for the Russian military, in addition to a number of former Soviet republics, India and Algeria, amongst others. Some 100 are believed to have been deployed to the japanese offensive in Ukraine, however for all its touted improvements, the T-90 has been doing little higher than the T-72s and T-80s that it has joined there.

First contact was reported on April 25, when Ukrainian infantry encountered a T-90 exterior of Kharkiv and destroyed it with a Javelin antitank guided missile, together with an MT-LB prime mover and an infantry combating automobile that accompanied the tank.

Whereas a single encounter is nothing from which to attract common conclusions, the result has parallels with the fates of scores of the T-90’s predecessors. For one factor, the digital counter weapons haven’t labored constantly. For an additional, the American FGM-148 Javelin, German Panzerfaust 3 and different antitank missiles have tandem warheads, one to pre-detonate the lively armor and the second to penetrate the tank’s hull. A 3rd issue is an choice within the Javelin’s repertoire to show upwards because it approaches its goal after which dive nearly vertically on it from above, the place the armor is thinner.

A last weak point is tactical: a penchant of the Russian tankers to advance independently, fairly than in live performance with accompanying infantry. Given the best way Soviet combined-arms ways had been perfected by the top of World Warfare II, this retrograde tendency appears inexplicable, but it surely has denied the Russian tanks, no matter mannequin, important infantry help and left them weak to Ukrainian tank-killing groups.

 How the T-90 performs in future stays to be seen. It would, nonetheless, take some studying on the a part of its crews to enhance its efficiency over that first encounter.

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