Originally developed as the export version of the Russian T-90 main battle tank (MBT), which first entered production in 1992, the T-90S was also adopted by the Russian Armed Forces as the T-90A. This MBT was a further development of the Soviet Red Army’s T-72.
Manufactured by Uralvagonzavod in Nizhny Tagil, Russia, the T-90 had its origins in the Soviet-era program, which was aimed to develop a new MBT that could replace the T-64, T-72 and T-80 series.
An updated version was developed for export, and in early 2001 the Indian military signed a contract to acquire 310 of the new T-90S models. In the end, 124 were fully completed in Russia, while according to Army-Technology, were delivered in a “knocked down” form for final assembly in India. The first batch of the modernized T-90 tanks arrived in India in January 2004 and the new model was dubbed “Bhishma.” The tanks were outfitted with the Russian-built Shtora self-protection system, along with Catherine thermal imagers from Thales of France and Peleng of Belarus. An additional 1,000 T-90S MBTs were also produced through 2020 under license in India.
Apparently, Moscow liked what it saw in the improved T-90 export version and adopted the model for its own armed forces. As of late 2007, it was estimated that the Russian Army had acquired around 200 of the T-90A versions.
Well Armed and Armored
The armaments of the T-90S includes a 125mm 2A45M smoothbore cannon that is stabilized in two axes and fitted with a thermal sleeve. This allows the gun tube to be replaced or repaired without dismantling the inside of the turret. The main gun can fire a range of ammunition including APDS (Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot), HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank), and HE-FRAG (high-explosive fragmentation), as well as 9M119 Refleks (NATO designation AT-11 Sniper) anti-tank guided missile system. The missiles have a range of 100m to 4,000m. Additionally, the gun can fire shrapnel projectiles with time fuses.
The T-90S is equipped with a 1A4GT integrated fire control system (IFCS). Secondary weaponry includes a 7.62 PKT machine gun along with a 12.7mm air defense machine gun. The crew members are also provided 5.45mm AKS-74 assault rifles.
The T-90A lives up to the “armored vehicle” moniker as it is fitted with both convention plating and explosive reactive armor. As with the Indian versions, the T-90 is equipped with the Shtora-1 system, which features an infrared jammer, a laser warning system with four laser warning receivers, and a grenade discharging system. The MBT is also outfitted with NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection equipment.
The original T-90’s powerplant was a V-94 12-cylinder diesel-fueled engine, which provided 840 hp. The system has been upgraded to the V-92 12-cylinder diesel series that upped the horsepower to 960; while the latest T-90s are outfitted with the V-96 12-cylinder powerplant, which provides a massively upgraded 1,250 hp. The maximum speed is 40 miles per hour and the tank has a range of 430 miles.
While the T-90 was developed over 30 years ago, it remains a versatile and capable tank. It has proven itself in numerous conflicts in the War of Dagestan, the War in Donbas, and the Syrian Civil War. T-90s were even used in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, proving it is well suited to the modern battlefield. Although, the T-14 Armata tank is coming.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.