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Tank Deathmatch: Russia’s T-90M vs. Carl Gustav Rocket Launcher (Who Wins?)

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

Russian T-90M Destroyed by Swedish Carl Gustav – The Ukrainian military has reportedly blown up a second Russian T-90M main battle tank – one of the most advanced MBTs currently to have been deployed into combat. The destruction of the T-90M comes just days after the first such MBT was destroyed in the conflict.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense shared a video on social media (see below) earlier this week that provided an aerial view of the tank in the far distance just before it was struck and then engulfed in flames. A Swedish-made Carl Gustaf man-portable anti-tank grenade launcher was reported to have been used to destroy the Russian T-90M near Staryi Saltiv in Ukraine’s Kharkiv oblast.

The official Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) shared the video on Twitter, with the caption, “Near Stary Saltiv, Kharkiv Territorial Defense fighters eliminated another new T-90M ‘Breakthrough’ tank. The pride of the Russian tank industry was destroyed by the Swedish hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher Carl Gustaf. We thank the Swedish people and the King for their help.”

The 20-second clip has been seen more than 650,000 times since it was posted on Tuesday.

The Not So Mighty T-90

The T-90M “Proryv-3” is an upgraded version of Russia’s most-employed MBT – the T-72, which has led the fighting in Ukraine. The T-90M is equipped with enhanced protective capabilities that include the “Shtora” (curtain), an electrical jammer fitted to MBTs that deploys smoke grenades when the tank is being targeted by a missile to make it harder to hit, as well as infrared lights designed to ‘dazzle’ the guidance system of incoming rockets.

In addition, the T-90s have also been fitted with reactive armor tiles that are similar to Russia’s other tanks and which are designed to explode when struck, and which can throw incoming projectiles off target. The advanced MBTs also feature composite armor that was designed to be tougher than its predecessors and are equipped with an improved engine that provides it better maneuverability, especially over rugged ground.

Carl Gustaf

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hunter Cross, a native of Midlands, Mich., and a combat engineer with 2d Combat Engineer Battalion, 2d Marine Division, fires an M3E1 multipurpose anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system (MAAWS) on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 9, 2021. The MAAWS, also known as the Carl Gustaf, is a man-portable, reusable, breech-loading, 84 mm recoilless rifle capable of destroying armored targets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bolin Jr.)

Carl Gustaf

Carl Gustaf Firing: Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment engaged targets with the Carl Gustaf 84mm weapon system in Grafenwoehr, Germany September 8, 2018 during Saber Junction 18. Exercise Saber Junction 18 is a U.S. Army Europe-directed exercise designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade to execute unified land operations in a joint, combined environment and to promote interoperability with participating allies and partner nations.

Carl Gustaf’s Revenge

The Ukrainian military has been relying on several anti-tank systems, including the American-made FGM-148 Javelin and the British/Swedish-developed NLAW. However, this week, it appeared that the Carl Gustaf 8.4cm recoilless rifle was proving itself quite deadly against the Russian armor.

The man-portable, multi-role weapon system provides dismounted soldiers with the ability to effectively deal with multiple challenges on the modern battlefield. It was first introduced in 1948 and has been steadily upgraded over the past 74 years. It has seen use in countless wars in that time.

Known by a number of colorful monikers including the Charlie G, Carl G and the Charlie Swede – it was developed and is produced by SAAB Bofors Dynamics at Sweden’s state arsenal Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori, which was founded by the 17th century Swedish King Charles X Gustav (Carl Gustav). Charles X Gustav was the second Wittelsbach King of Sweden, and led his nation during the Second Northern War, which resulted in the expansion of the Swedish Empire.


T-90M Tank from Russia. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The latest version of the rifle, the Carl Gustaf M4, was introduced in 2014. It can fire a wide range of 84mm munitions, including high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. It has an effective range of up to 400 meters against tanks, and 700 meters against buildings and stationary targets.

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.