The T-90 is the latest development in the T-series of Russian tanks and represents an increase in firepower, mobility and protection. It is manufactured by Uralvagonzavod in Nizhnyi Tagil, Russia. The T-90 is currently the most modern tank in the Russian Ground Forces and Indian Army arsenal. The successor to T-72BM, the T-90 uses the gun and 1G46 gunner sights from T-80U, a new engine, and thermal sights. Protective measures include Kontakt-5 ERA, laser warning receivers, the EMT-7 electromagnetic pulse creator for the destruction of magnetic mines and the Shtora infrared ATGM jamming system.
Considered by many to be a brand new design, the T-90 represents an evolution of the T-72 main battle tank. The T-90 features a new generation of armor on its hull and turret and represents a major upgrade to every system found on the earlier T-72. The T-90 was developed using the T-72BM as a basis, itself a modified T-72B tank upgraded with a third generation add-on Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) called Kontakt-5, which was already in service on T-80U. These variant was built in hopes of export orders and was later fitted with the T-80’s fire control system. This variant was renamed T-72BU. After only a couple of years since Desert Storm, mass-media images of Iraqi T-72s burning on the side of the roads were still resonating in the memories of possible costumers and thus was decided to name the new main battle tank T-90.
The T-90 entered low-rate production alongside the T-80. In 1995 the Russian Defense Ministry decided to select a single model for the role of main battle tank. Although the T-80 was considered a superior machine, the recent conflict in Grozny and the loss of many T-80 tanks made a negative impression back in the motherland. Another important factor was the T-80’s GTD-1250 gas turbine engine lacked reliability and fuel efficiency. The T-90 was selected as the sole main battle tank for the Russian Armed Forces in 1996. Currently there are some 250 tanks in service with the Russian Army and 310 in service with the Indian Army.
The T-90’s main armament is the 2A46M 125 mm smoothbore gun, stabilised in two axes and fitted with a thermal sleeve.. This is a highly modified version of the Sprut anti-tank gun, and is the same gun used as the main armament on the T-80-series tanks. It can be replaced without dismantling the inner turret and is capable of firing armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot, high-explosive anti-tank, and high explosive fragmentation ammunition, as well as 9M119M Refleks anti-tank guided missiles. The Refleks missile has semi-automatic laser beam-riding guidance and a tandem hollow-charge HEAT warhead. It has an effective range of 100 m to 6 km, and takes 17.5 seconds to reach maximum range. Refleks can penetrate almost 950 mm of steel armour and can also engage low-flying air targets such as helicopters. The T-90 also carries a Kord 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun that can be operated by the commander from inside. There is also a PKT 7.62mm machine gun. A 5.45mm AKS-74 assault rifle is carried on a storage rack.
The T-90 is equipped with the PNK-4S/SR AGAT day and night sighting system while the T-90S is equipped with the more modern 1A4GT integrated fire control system which is automatic but with manual override for the commander. This integrated fire control system contains the 1A43 day fire control system and TO1-KO1 thermal imaging sight. The T-90’s gun, the 2A46M is fed by an automatic loader thus reducing the number of crewmen needed to operate the tank by eliminating the need for a manual loader. The autoloader can carry 22 ready to fire rounds in its carousel and can load a round in 4-5 seconds.
Self protection systems for the T-90 include conventional steel armour plating, composite armour and explosive reactive armor. Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor covers the glacis and the low profile turret giving its distinctive clam shell appearence of the turret. To lower the weight ceramics and plastics are also used. In addition to lowering the weight these materials provide better protection when compared to conventional steel plates. In addition, the T-90 is equipped with the Shtora-1 countermeasures. This system includes two infrared jammers on the front of the turret, four laser warning receivers, two 3D6 aerosol grenade discharging systems and a computerized control system. The T-90 is also fitted with nuclear, biological and chemical protection equipment.
There are currently 300 T-90, 246 T-90A and 300 T-72 modernized to T-90 standards in service with the Russian Army. India placed an order for 310 T-90S tanks, of which 124 were built in Russia and the rest were delivered for assembly. The Indian assembled tanks are named T-90S Bhishma. In November 2006 India ordered another 300 units. These T-90 tanks are to be licence built and deliveries are to start in 2008. Also, Algeria placed an order for 180 T-90S tanks and Saudi Arabia is negotiating a possible contract. Produced primarily mainly due to its lower cost, the T-90 it will probably remain in low-rate production to keep production lines open until newer designs become available.
T-90 main battle tank variants
T-90K – this version is the command version of the original T-90 model
T-90E – export version of the T-90
T-90A – upgraded version of the T-90 fitted with welded turret, V-92S2 engine and ESSA thermal viewer; this version is also named T-90 Vladimir in honor of T-90 Chief Designer Vladimir Potkin
T-90S – export version of the T-90A
T-90 Bhishma – Indian assembled T-90S
BREM-72 – armoured recovery vehicle
MTU-90 – bridge layer tank with MLC50 bridge
IMR-3 – combat engineer vehicle
BMR-3 – mine clearing vehicle
T-90 main battle tank specifications
Weight 46.5 tonnes
Length 9.53 m (31.27 ft)
Width 3.78 m (9.12 ft)
Height 2.22 m (7.28 ft)
Fuel tanks capacity 1,600 l
Main Gun 125mm 2A46m – smoothbore, 43 rounds including 22 on carousel
Coaxial Machine Gun 7.62mm PKT, 2,000 cartridges
Machine Gun 12.7mm NSVT-12.7 ADA, 300 cartridges
Assault Rifle 5.45mm AKS-74, 300 cartridges
3UBK14 Weapon System With 9M119 missile
3UBK20 Weapon System With 9M119m missile
Firing Range 100m to 5,000m
Armament Stabiliser 2E42-4
AD Machine Gun Sight PZU-7
AD Machine Gun Fire Control System 1ETS29 with vertical stabilisation
Model 84 V-84 12-cylinder diesel engine, 618kw (840hp)
Maximum speed 65km/h
Range 650km on paved road, 500km offroad