Indian Army’s T-90 Tank Lost Multi-nation Tank Biathlon Due To Engine Oil Leaks

T-90 main battle tanks during an exercise in Punjab.

The Indian Army has been eliminated from a multi-nation tank competition in Russia after both its T-90 main battle tanks developed technical problems at the Alabino ranges in the Moscow region.

The army had sent two T-90s – the main battle tank and a reserve one – and a 21-man crew for the tank biathlon at the 2017 International Army Games in Russia. Army officers said India had a good start at the biathlon but the Indian Army was disqualified from the competition after both Russian-origin tanks broke down during the penultimate round.

The officers said the main tank’s fan belt broke, while the other failed to perform after its engine oil leaked. Both Indian tanks broke down due to mechanical snags while those of Russia, China, Belarus and Kazakhstan raced to the final round. China with its Type-96B tank and Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan with different T-72 variants raced to the last round of the competition in which 19 countries took part. Other participants included Azerbaijan, Angola, Armenia, Belarus, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iran and Mongolia.

The degraded engine performance of the T-90s, the mainstay of India’s tank fleet, is a concern for the army. The tanks are unable to operate for sustained periods in high temperatures due to radiator problems, revealed a report by the army design bureau earlier this year.

India will be spending thousands of crores of rupees on upgrading its T-90 fleet in the coming years. The tanks will be equipped with more powerful 1,200-1,500 HP modular engines. The army has an estimated requirement for 2,011 such engines with each likely to cost Rs 5 crore.

The T-90 fleet will also be equipped with ‘armoured fighting vehicle protection and countermeasure systems’ at a cost of around Rs 2,500 crore. New third-generation missiles are also part of the T-90 upgrade. The T-90s are a replacement for the T-55 tanks and the older variants of the T-72s. More than 1,000 T-90s have been inducted into the army.

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