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Russia’s T-90 Tank Is Being Destroyed in Big Numbers in Ukraine

Russian T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Legend of Russia’s T-90 Tank Died in Ukraine – One of the most advanced tanks in the Russian military’s arsenal has met the same fate as its predecessor fighting machines – it was destroyed by Ukraine forces employing hit-and-run tactics. Ukrainian war reporter Andriy Tsaplienko shared an image of the wreck of the third-generation T-90M main battle tank (MBT) on Facebook on Wednesday. Tsaplienko was seen in the photo in front of the knocked-out T-90M in the eastern Kharkiv region.

“Here’s a fresh Russian tank… to improve your mood,” the reporter wrote. “It’s hot, it’s smokin’ hot.”

Another Ukrainian reporter, Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko), also shared the image on Twitter with the caption, “I mean, who could guess that the first Russian T-90M would be hunted down within days after their much-advertised deployment to Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast.”

The image, see below, appears to show the first confirmed loss of a T-90M Proryv (Breakthrough), the latest version of the T-90 MBT that first entered service in 1992. The upgraded T-90M entered service in 2016; it is equipped with a modernized turret, a 1A45T fire-control system, an upgraded engine, and gunner’s thermal sight. Standard protective measures reportedly include a blend of steel and composite armor, smoke grenade dischargers, Kontakt-5 explosive-reactive armor and the Shtora infrared ATGM jamming systems.

In addition, the T-90M is powered by an improved 1130hp V-92S2F engine and is equipped with an environmental control system, and satellite navigation system.

A T-90 Hot Mess

Kyiv had first reported the presence of the T-90M in eastern Ukraine last month, and Russia’s military is believed to have around twenty of the modernized MBTs deployed to the region. The tank has been highly touted to be more combat efficient than its T-90 predecessor.

Despite its explosive reactive armor, which was designed to protect against shaped charges and to minimize the impact of armor-piercing munitions, the T-90M seems as vulnerable as other Russian armor to anti-tank weapons used by the Ukrainians. One notable difference is that the destroyed T-90M seemed to have its turret intact – while the older T-72 and T-90 MBTs have been plagued by the so-called “jack-in-the-box” effect that has seen the turrets blown off due to the storage of ammunition within the turrets. It is a defect that Western militaries have been aware of for decades, yet was apparently underestimated by the Russians.

“What we are witnessing with Russian tanks is a design flaw,” Sam Bendett, an adviser with the defense research group Center for Naval Analyses, told CNN. “Any successful hit … quickly ignites the ammo causing a massive explosion, and the turret is literally blown off.”

Will Losses Impact Foreign Sales?

The T-90 and its variants are currently in service with several of Russia’s foreign partners including Algeria, India, Syria, and Turkmenistan. Ukraine is also reported to have captured about ten T-90A, an earlier variant of the T-90 MBT, earlier this year. It is unclear where those captured vehicles may have been deployed.

I mean, who could guess that the first Russian T-90M would be hunted down within days after their much-advertised deployment to Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast.

Say hi to our big friend Andriy Tsapliyenko.

— Illia Ponomarenko ?? (@IAPonomarenko) May 4, 2022

Future operators of the Russian T-90 include Egypt and Kuwait, while Malaysia and Pakistan had each opted to select other MBTs. Perhaps Egypt, which had sought to license production, and Kuwait will now make a similar decision after seeing the performance of the Russian tanks in Ukraine.


Russian T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russian Invasion

Russian T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. JustLiberty

    May 5, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    There is nothing in the article to support the “big numbers” in the headline. Has 1945 succumbed to irresponsible click-bait journalism?

  2. aldol11

    May 5, 2022 at 3:52 pm

    russian sales of weapons are going to see a decline i think 🙂

  3. Fluffy Dog

    May 5, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    From the article: “…plagued by the so-called “jack-in-the-box” effect that has seen the turrets blown off due to the storage of ammunition within the turrets. It is a defect that Western militaries have been aware of for decades, yet was apparently underestimated by the Russians.”

    I see this interpretation everywhere, and it’s wrong. In the minds of Americans, poor protection of a fighter’s life is a design flaw. It’s not a design flaw, it’s a feature. The Soviet doctrine of tank warfare stipulated that tanks would be deployed in large numbers. To do that, they had to be cheap, reasonably easy to repair and maintain, and easy to manufacture. Tactically, in the 50s, the size of the frontal view mattered. And that is what T-54 was. The loss was accepted. If a tank survived one battle, it paid for itself, said the doctrine. Human lives never mattered in Russia, neither enemy lives, nor Russians’. Period.

    The same design philosophy was carried to this century up to T-90.
    Russians tried to get away from this philosophy with T-14, but that did not go anywhere.

  4. Peter York

    May 5, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    so glad to see another reporter using ‘unclear.’

    almost every article features the word: it is a weasel’s attempt to shrug off not having done his/her job of gaining information for us by deceitfully giving the impression that it is ‘unclear’ to everyone.

    it is unclear if this writer will continue writing it is unclear in the future when something is unclear to him or her. not clear at all.

    as to the article: never heard of the jack-in-the-box effect, and I’ve been reading military history for 60 years. ‘pop goes the Russkie!’ HAR HAR!

  5. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 7:37 am

    Everything that happens in Ukraine massively is a lie of the Kyiv authorities.
    We all heard that Russia should have run out of absolutely all tanks 5 (!!!) times, and not just the T-90.
    However, with the help of lies, it is no longer possible to raise the morale of the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who en masse surrender and choose life, and not service, for the criminal Kyiv regime. Only Banderva Nazis, taking drugs, continue to hide behind the civilian population, like a human shield.

    • dae

      May 6, 2022 at 8:34 am

      how much money did you get for this laughable propaganda Alex? and maybe you’re not Alex but Alexey? Maybe you’re russian? That would explain a lot!

    • Lee

      June 9, 2022 at 3:53 am

      Alex, STFU, quit sucking on Pupu heads schlong I told you before he won’t give you his palace you worthless POS spreading your false lies! You Russian trollbot get the FO of here you simpleton of moronic lies and false propaganda nobody believes your Sh$t!!!

  6. Fluffy Dog

    May 6, 2022 at 8:51 am

    @peter york I never heard of the term “jack-in-the-box” until recently either. Probably an invention of some newly minted “reporter” seeing and reading about blown-off turrets.
    The effect is well known. Just look at pictures of destroyed Russian tanks throughout the Middle East.

    • John Ricci

      May 6, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      I have seen that “jack-in-the-box effect” mentioned elsewhere although I’m not sure where it came from. I also saw another video from a so-called expert (actually a very tongue in cheek video) that referred to the T-90 series as a rebranded T-72, and called them “turret launching doorstops.” It is correctly noted that this is a design feature because the Russians have always considered their troops and equipment expendable, and never designed safety features into anything. The fact that most of the T-90 ammo is contained in an autoloader, and any spare ammo is stored on top of the fuel supply is probably the reason you see so many of them with their turrets blown off. In fact, the only significant new feature of the T-90M is that the ammo is stored in compartments with blow-out doors, which probably means the T-90M is less likely to launch a turret. However, I believe the variant uses the same armor, which doesn’t stand up to current NATO anti-tank weapons as they were specifically designed to punch through Russian armor.

      • Fluffy Dog

        May 6, 2022 at 1:34 pm

        T-90M has some of the ammo in the turret compartment with blow-out doors. IIRC, autoloader has around 20 rounds, and the other half is behind the door. It’s enough to blow the turret off its hinges, but not enough to launch it 2 stories in the air. So, it does not really solve the problem. If you think it is a problem.
        The really distinguishing part of the T-90M is a different engine and French supplied Thales gun sight with a laser ranging and fire control computer. This is why you are not going to see any replenishment of T-90Ms.

  7. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 9:34 am

    And now let’s hear the truth, not Bandera’s Nazi fakes:
    The Bandera Nazis of Ukraine rejoiced that they had arrested the Ukrainian independent journalist Anatoly Shariy in Spain. Anatoly Shariy moved his member on the lips of the Bandera Nazis and is already at large! This is democracy in Europe, and not lawlessness like you have in impoverished Ukraine, Bandera pigs 🙂

  8. Oni

    June 2, 2022 at 11:30 am

    Bravo nuke the bastard Russia scum.

  9. Serge

    October 22, 2022 at 8:36 pm

    31 tanks as of October 2022 is hardly big number.

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