Mobile Coffins: Why India Should Worry About Its Russian-origin T-90 Junk Tanks?

Javelin ATGM destroyed 228 T-90S tank and 485 T-90MS tanks in Ukraine war. Photo twitter

The T-90 is the Russian Army’s current Main Battle Tank, and it was created from the features of the preceding T-72 and T-80 series. Russian propaganda claimed that it is to be one of the best-protected tanks in the world and one of the most heavily equipped battle systems. 

Uralvagonzavod, the Russian machine-building company, produces it. The T-90 uses an integrated autoloader, a three-person crew, and a low-profile design, all common to Soviet-era tanks. 

Because of its affordability, simplicity, and automotive attributes, the T-72 chassis was chosen as the foundation for the next tank generation. It was first named the T-72BU and then renamed the T-90 to distinguish the new type from existing T-72 variants. 

Russia tried to sale the upgraded T-72BU tank to the Indian army, but India initially refused to buy the tank. Then Russia bribed the Indian army officers and renamed the tank T-90. The development cost of the tank is to be afforded by the Indian ministry of defense.

A T-90MS tank bogged down in Kharkiv. Photo Twitter

It was officially accepted in service in 1992 and received multiple upgrades. Starting in 2004, it was named the T-90A, then in 2016, it was upgraded to the T-90M, and the last upgrade was in 2017, called T-90MS. It also has other less-popular variants. 

Syrian war 

T-90s saw service in Syria with Assad’s forces and were not found to be invulnerable in any sense of the word. While they faired well against RPG rounds and the ancient TOW missile system, Javelins destroyed at least 25 in the hands of Syrian militants. 

Shtora-1 active protective system or the Shtora-1 Defensive Aids System (DAS) is an infrared jammer equipped with a laser warning device that can deploy 81mm thermal instant smoke grenades which go out to 50 to 80 meters from the tank within 1.5 to 3 seconds; this blocks visual, thermal, and laser waveband.

Ukraine exposed captured T-90 tanks armor. Corrupt Russian officials installed rubber pads inside reactive armor instead of actual reactive armor of T-90. Photo Ukrainian MoD.

It can also hijack a missile’s command link by jamming it with modulated signals that can alter the missile’s original course away from the tank. The T-90 cannon was also equipped with auto-load features that can send high-explosive anti-tank rounds downrange. Its armor protects it from extreme damage and minimizes the impact of armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot rounds. 

Ukraine war 

The destruction of the T-90Ms, specifically the T-90M Breakthrough 3 (Proryv-3), is another source of embarrassment for the Russians and will likely be another blow to Russian morale. According to Russian defense experts, this variant was the most modern Russian tank in service, which means that the most capable Russian tanks were now being destroyed by Ukrainians with their western-supplied Javelins, NLAWs, Panzerfaust 3s, and their very own Stugna-Ps, leaving their most prized tanks vulnerable to Ukrainian hit-and-run tactics. Perhaps more recently, Russian tanks have also been destroyed by these unique Ukrainian Stug-buggies (ATVs with Stugna-Ps mounted on top). 

Israeli-made Trophy active protection system installed on the Western tanks, including M1 Abrams and Leopard tanks.

On 4 May 2022 it is now confirmed that the T-90 is involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the first T-90M was destroyed!  

Despite its on-paper advantages and promotion in Russian media as the best in the world, Russian T-90s have run into severe issues in Ukraine. According to the open-source blog Oryx, Russia has reportedly lost 485 T-90MS and 228 T-90S tanks in Ukraine. 

Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian T-90M near a village in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Vitalii Hnidyi 

While Russian media sources have pointed to the further delivery of T-90Ms to the Russian armed forces during the invasion as evidence of the resiliency of Russia’s arms industry, the discovery of French optronic technology in a T-90 captured by Ukrainian forces raises questions about the durability of the supply chains which support T-90 production. 

Russian engineers are trying to repair a T-90S tank that broke down in Ukraine. Photo Russian MoD.

Although the T-90 has not lived up to much of its hype in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, T-90 tanks have been exported to Algeria (572 T-90SA), Armenia (30 T-90S), Azerbaijan (100 T-90S), India (2078 T-90S) and Iraq (73 T-90S/SK).  

Indian T-90S Bhishma, an upgraded T-72 tanks

While the T-90A has Shtora, the new T-90MS has the Kontakt APS. Possibly to save expenses, the Indian government did not take the Shtora. “The APS is a key system that can protect a tank from incoming projectiles.

The upgraded engine caters to any weight it adds to the tank. An adversary will have to fire multiple rounds or anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) to hit it by overwhelming the APS, thereby reducing the first-round hit probability.

Thus, without the Shtora, the Indian T-90S Bhishma is an upgraded T-72, according to a report by Indian Controller and Auditor General (CAG).

Why the T-90 Tank is a Big Failure? 

There are several reasons why the T-90 is a poor tank compared to current MBTs. The first is that its design is outdated. The T-90, as we have mentioned before, is an improved version of the T-72, formerly known as the T-72B. 

A mix of T-80 and other tank pieces have been combined, and reactive armor has been put onto the end result; this is what the T-90 is. The T-72 was not built to have “box-out box-in” modifications like other tanks like the Abrams, making it difficult to update. 

Many flaws, particularly in electrical components, have been eliminated, but they still need to be addressed. Despite all of these improvements, there is still a glaring omission: The Range. 

Today’s tanks can strike opposing tanks at a range of up to 5000 meters. But due to the inability to raise the cannon, the T-90 loses this battle. 

The tank’s next problem is that it is manufactured with a low-cost mindset. When designing the t72, the Soviet Union still used the mass-attack tank tactics from World War II. Which the Russian Army is still using now in the Ukraine invasion. 

Javelin hits the most weakest point of Russian tanks.

Because the T-90 is only an update, it retains the cheap-built defects, including the armor. To achieve a penetrating shot at a modern tank’s armor, the T-90 will have to get closer to the tank, which makes it vulnerable to attacks. 

The T-90 has also been proven to be a big failure in the Syrian civil war and recently in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

When Moscow intervened in Syria in 2015, the Syrian rebels had the American TOW-2A missiles, and the big scandal happened here. Many filmed videos show the Syrian rebels firing the TOW missiles onto the T-90 tank and knocking it out completely. 

The Syrian Arab Army has also received 30 T-90 tanks from Russia. Five or six of them have been recorded to be destroyed by wire-guided TOW-2A missiles during the years 2016 – 2017. Source. 

Time had passed, but the T-90 remained the same, useless tank! During the recent invasion of the Russian Army to Ukraine, the T-90 was used. Even though it has not yet been recorded to have any T-90 shoot by Ukrainian Army, filmed videos show many Russian tanks being destroyed, and maybe the “miraculous” T-90 is among them. 

Not only that but many of the T-90 tanks and other Russian tanks have been filmed while stuck in the mud and lost their mobility completely. 

Perhaps worst of all for the Russians (and a great bonus for the Ukrainians), these T-90Ms are manufactured by Uralvagonzavod, the primary manufacturer and maintenance service provider for Russian tanks. Global Defense Corp previously reported that Uralvagonzavod had run out of parts and foreign components, so it had to stop production as it fell victim to the West’s economic sanctions. 

With the Russians mounting losses of equipment and soldiers, it’s completely relevant to ask how long they can keep up the war with their equipment being destroyed left and right and their generals are dropping like flies for the past three months. 

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