Ukrainian Forces Capture Russia’s Most Advanced Tank

Ukrainian troops on the counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast have captured a Russian T-90M main battle tank, the newest member of the Russian Army’s tank fleet.

Photographs by a Ukrainian tanker shared on the internet on Sunday show the T-90M abandoned in a forest after throwing a track. Externally, the tank is seen equipped with a Nakidka camouflage kit, designed to reduce the tank’s thermal and radar signatures. While the Russian military has never acknowledged purchasing the Nakidka kit, other T-90Ms photographed in Ukraine have been seen with the kit installed.

Ukrainian troops with the T-90M, with the thrown track visible (Shawshank Redemption)

Internally, the tank is equipped with a Russian-made PNM-T gunner’s sight, the results of Russian efforts to replace Catherine-FC thermal sights built under license from French manufacturer Thales with a fully indigenous solution. 

According to the Ukrainian tanker that uploaded the photographs and a video of it being towed away by a captured T-72B3 Mod. 2016, the tank’s anti-armor shell was the 3BM42 “Mango” armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot shell dating from the mid-1980s, as has been the case with other captured tanks. They described it as being very similar to the Ukrainian T-84 Oplot save for autoloader differences and the T-90M’s poor reversing performance (a top speed of 5 km/h in reverse like other T-90s and T-72Bs), with sensible improvements over previous T-90s and T-72Bs making it “what the T-72B3 should have been”.

Inside the T-90M’s turret, with the PNM-T gunner’s sight visible in the upper left (YouTube/Shawshank Redemption)

The T-90M only entered mass production in 2021, with manufacturer UralVagonZavod announcing the delivery of the first production tanks in March that year. As a result, they have been very rare sights in Ukraine, being first spotted in late April with one confirmed destroyed shortly afterwards. While open source trackers Oryx have previously documented what appears to have been a T-90M abandoned by its crew, this latest incident is the first documented capture of a T-90M by Ukrainian forces.

Based on the T-90MS first unveiled for the export market in 2011, the T-90M was procured by the Russian military as a stop-gap measure after technical immaturity and other difficulties resulted in a protracted state trials process for the T-14 Armata that continues to this day. However, its limited procurement has resulted in T-72B3s remaining the mainstay of Russia’s invasion force, with the B3 making up the bulk of identified Russian tank losses to date.