Russian Army Receives First T-90M Tanks

On 13 April, the press service of the Russian Western Military District announced the delivery of the first T-90M main battle tanks to the Russian Ground Forces. The tanks were delivered to the Western Military District’s 1st Guards Tank Army’s 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division.

According to Major-General Sergei Kisel, the T-90Ms delivered have been equipped with new turrets, up-rated engines and a new multi-channel day/night sight. He added that the new tanks feature the ability to share combat information in real time with other vehicles as well.

The side profile of a newly delivered T-90M, showing off its more extensive side ERA coverage. Photo courtesy Russian Ministry of Defense

The T-90M Proryv (Breakthrough) is the domestic version of the T-90MS export proposal, which was first revealed at the 2011 Russian Expo Arms. Like the T-90MS, the T-90M features a redesigned turret, with loose ammunition and propellant charges now stowed in a new bustle at the rear of the turret instead of in the fighting compartment. Historically, Soviet and Russian designers have viewed the placement of ammunition in the turret as more of a liability than an advantage believing that location to be more vulnerable to enemy fire. No other tank in the Russian military service stores its ammunition in a turret bustle.

The blowout panel of the turret bustle and remote weapon station can be clearly seen on the elongated turret. (credit: Army Recognition)

A new Relikt explosive reactive armor package provides greater coverage of the tank compared to the previous Kontakt-5 ERA used on the T-90 and T-90A, better adapting the T-90M to urban combat. The new Relikt armor provides significantly more protection against both chemical and kinetic energy penetrators (high-explosive anti-tank – HEAT, and armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot – APFSDS respectively).
Additionally, the tank commander now has an advanced panoramic sight with a thermal imaging system for target acquisition as well as a remote controlled weapons station for the commander’s machine gun. A modernized version of the 2A46M 125mm main gun installed.

Close up of the T-90M turret. Note that the remote controlled weapons station does not currently have a machine gun installed (Photo courtesy Russian Ministry of Defense)

The tank has retained its laser warning receivers but has lost the infra-red dazzlers installed on previous T-90s as part of the Shtora-1 active protection system. To deal with the increased weight of the tank, an upgraded, more powerful diesel engine was fitted along with an auxiliary power unit which will allow the tank to operate its electrical systems without having to rely on power from the engine.

The Russian Ministry of Defence signed a contract with UralVagonZavod, the manufacturer of the T-90M, at the Army-2017 international military technical forum for 30 T-90Ms, with deliveries planned by 2019. However, deliveries have only just begun following the successful completion of trials of the T-90M in February this year.

The arrival of the new tanks. (Credit: Telekanal Zvezda)

T-90Ms were supposed to join T-14 Armatas for the Victory Day parade planned for May 9. The parade, however, has since been delayed owing to concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus in Russia.

Two T-90Ms next to a T-14 Armata (Photo courtesy Russian Ministry of Defense)

While the T-90M is described as performing close to the T-14, their procurement again highlights the technical and financial limitations Russia faces in bringing the Armata program to technical maturity. Even then, the T-90M will not be the new mainstay of the Russian tank fleet, with that honor going to the T-72B3. The Russian Ground Forces’ T-72B fleet is being gradually rebuilt to B3 standard, a decidedly less ambitious upgrade that focuses on modernising the fire control system of the tank, notably featuring the addition of the Sosna-U multi-channel gunner’s sight for better day and night target acquisition.

Additional reporting courtesy of Andras C.