T-90 is the most modern main battle tank currently in service with the Russian Army
The T-90 Main Battle Tank (MBT) is a further development of the T-72. It was adopted by the Russian Army in 1993 and its low-rate production commenced in 1994. Currently Russian Army operates around 750 – 1 000 of these MBTs of all variants. It is the most modern tank currently in service with the Russian Army, which has a requirement for around 1 500 of these tanks. Also currently it is the only mass-produced MBT in Russia. The T-90 is considered to be among the 10 best main battle tanks in the world. Currently it is the most commercially successful main battle tank on the global market.
Export operators are Algeria (305), Azerbaijan (114), Turkmenistan (40) and Venezuela (50~100). The largest export operator is India which ordered 1 657 T-90S tanks. This Indian order included 248 tanks delivered from Russia, 409 tanks assembled locally from knock-down kits and another 1 000 tanks are being license-produced in India. Production was planned to be completed in 2020. Iraq recently ordered 73 of these Russian main battle tanks. Deliveries commenced in 2018. Vietnam ordered another 64 units.
The T-90 saw action during the military conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
The T-90 MBT uses a well proven chassis of the T-72 and turret with all ωɛλρσɳ systems of the T-80U.
It has a welded composite armor hull with a built-in Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor blocks. Early production T-90 tanks had a cast turret. Eventually production switched to welded turrets.
Protection of the T-90 isenhanced by Shtora-1 countermeasures system. This system emerged in the 1980s and was originally designed to counter the threat posed by the Western anti-tank missiles like TOW, HOT and MILAN. It is also effective against anti-tank missiles like Soviet Konkurs and Chinese HJ-8.
The Shtora-1 emits infrared signals that block guidance signals and jam controls of incoming anti-tank missiles. The system is also fitted with laser warning receivers, that can trigger smoke grenades once the tank is illuminated by laser. This countermeasures system was first publicly unveiled in 1995. Some Russian sources claim that this system proved to be effective in Syria.
The US TOW 2 and Chinese HJ-8 anti-tank missiles fired by Syrian militants were reportedly not effective against the T-90 tanks equipped with Shtora-1 system. Though the Shtora-1 system is not effective against the top attack missiles, such as the Javelin. Currently this system is considered out dated. Latest Russian tanks no longer use infrared jammers of this system, though its laser warning receivers are still used to trigger smoke grenades.
The T-90 main battle tank is a armed with a fully-stabilized 2A46M 125 mm smoothbore gun. Effective range of fire with APFSDS round is 2 000-3 000 m day and 2 000-2 600 m at night. Armor penetration is around 590-630 mm at 2 000 m range.
This tank can also launch 9M119M Refleks (NATO designation AT-11 Sniper-B) anti-tank guided missiles, in the same manner, as ordinary munitions. These missiles have a range of 4-5 km and can also engage low-flying helicopters. Missiles use a semi-automatic laser guidance and have a claimed hit probability of 80% at 4 000 m range and 70% at 5 000 m range.
Maximum rate of fire is 6-8 rounds per minute. However judging by recent tank biathlons in Russia it turned out that these guided missiles have a hit probability against stationary targets of only around 50%. These missiles will be even less accurate against moving targets.
Main gun of the T-90 is completed with a carousel-type autoloader. A total of 22 rounds are carried in the autoloader and are ready to fire. However remaining ammunition is stored in the main compartment, rather than a separate compartment with a blow-out panels. This drawback was common to all Cold ധąɾ era Soviet main battle tanks. Once the armor is penetrated it can trigger detonation of onboard ammunition.
Secondary armament consists of a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and a roof mounted remotely-controlled 12.7 mm machine gun, used against both ground and air targets.
Fire control system of the T-90 was adequate for the 1990s. However currently it can not match similar systems of modern main battle tanks. The T-90 lacks advanced sights with thermal vision, as well as panoramic commander’s sight, which would allow to detect and engage targets faster.
This tank is operated by a crew of three, including commander, gunner and driver.
Initially production T-90 tanks were powered by a V-84MS multi-fuel diesel engine, developing 840 horsepower. However soon after the introduction, production switched to improved versions, powered by a V-92 engine, developing 1 000 hp. This Russian MBT is also completed with an auxiliary power unit, which powers all systems, when the main engine is turned off.
It is worth mentioning that the original T-90 has a lower power-to-weight ration than most current MBTs, hence its vague mobility performance. Vehicle is fitted with a deep wading kit, that can be installed by tank’s crew within 20 minutes. The T-90 is also fitted with a self-entrenching blade.
This main battle tank has undergone continuous upgrades since it was first developed in the early 1990s.