Russian T-90M Tanks in Ukraine: Not Going So Well? – The Kremlin has struggled with the production of its military equipment due to the economic sanctions imposed on Moscow following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February. Despite that fact, it has been reported that Russia has continued to produce its T-90 Proryv main battle tanks (MBTs) and BREM-1M tracked armored recovery vehicles for its military.
The T-90M Proryv is the latest modernization variant of the MBT that first entered into service with the Russian Army in 1994. The upgraded T-90 tank has been vastly improved in terms of protection, mobility, and firepower. The Proryv variant is armed with a 125mm 2A46M-4 smoothbore gun that is capable of firing standard ammunition as well as anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) Refleks NATO Code AT-11 Sniper-B rounds. Secondary armament includes a remotely operated weapon station armed with an NSVT 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 7.62mm PTKM coaxial machine gun.
The configuration of the Proryv is similar to the previous T-90 models, with a driver compartment at the front, a turret at the center of the hull, and a power plant located at the rear. It is propelled by a 1000mm 12-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach speeds of 60 kilometers per hour on roads and 50 off-road.
The tank is equipped with the new Relikt ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) armor fitted at the front and on each side of the turret. The T-90M was first tested during the Zapad-2017 military exercise in September 2017.
T-90M Deployed to Ukraine
An unknown number of T-90Ms had been deployed to Ukraine in the spring, and in May, the Uralvagonzavod defense manufacturer – which is part of the state tech conglomerate Rostec – even held a ceremony to mark the production of a batch of tanks.
“The preparations for and the assimilation of the mass production of these modern armored vehicles have been implemented at the enterprise in full and positive results of qualification tests have been received,” the Rostec press office told Tass, Russia’s state-run media.
Earlier this month there were further reports that Uralvagonzavod, which remains the sole production facility that manufactures the MBTs, has managed to fulfill orders from Moscow for another batch of the tanks. Those tanks could soon be deployed to the fighting.
Russia has seen hundreds of its aging T-72 tanks destroyed in Ukraine and has even had to send a number of its antiquated T-62s to the front line in the Donbas region. As the fighting intensifies, it would seem that the Kremlin wants to send in the more capable MBTs. While the T-14 Armata is considered superior to anything on the ground in Ukraine – and likely rivals even the best NATO might have to offer – Moscow doesn’t have those in significant numbers. The T-90M is the best Russia has available, but it could serve as the cutting edge in a new spearhead into Eastern Ukraine.
However, those tanks have also come under fire and aren’t exactly living up to the hype. As a result, some of the tanks already deployed to the region have been seen with ad hoc armor added over the turrets. These include elongated, hand-made, and welded grille towers – a “field modification” that is likely meant to address threats from loitering munitions such as the American-made Switchblade drones or to reduce damage from the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank launchers. The missiles can target a tank and strike above where the armor is the lightest.
The shield or cage is supposed to affect the detonation sequence, and whilst it won’t likely stop a Javelin missile, it could reduce the penetration efficiency. If this is required to improve the Russian tanks, perhaps the best the Kremlin has to offer simply isn’t all that good! Maybe that is why there was no ceremony earlier this month at Uralvagonzavod.
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, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.