Ukraine Has Captured a T-90M MBT – Moscow Should be Worried: In recent weeks, the Ukrainian military has captured dozens of Russian tanks – with some sources suggesting the numbers could be as high as 200, while at least 380 tanks have been captured since the war began in February. Among the captured tanks are an untold number of T-72 and even a few T-80 main battle tanks (MBTs), and many of those vehicles will likely be refurbished and employed by the Ukrainians.
However, at least one tank that was recently captured won’t be simply sent back to the battlefield – it could even end up being shipped outside of Ukraine for study.
It is a T-90M “Proryv” (Russian for “Breakthrough”) and while it was unable to help the Russian military breakthrough during the seventh-month-long campaign, it could provide western observers with critical details about what is one of the Kremlin’s most advanced armored vehicles. It had apparently been abandoned after it lost a track.
What Do We Know?
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 MBT is also 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.
What We Don’t Know
The tank could provide valuable information that isn’t actually known about the tank. The capture of a T-90M is seen as quite the blunder for Moscow, and a coup of sorts for NATO. As The Economist had reported, seizing such a weapon can provide valuable insight into the state of an enemy’s military technology.
It further noted that American efforts to inspect the T-72 throughout the Cold War backfired on several occasions, until a rogue Romanian arms dealer sold one to American agents in 1987, supposedly as scrap metal. The deal was later uncovered and made public by the KGB.
However, it actually took the U.S. some fourteen years to inspect that T-72, by which time it had already been superseded by newer models. By contrast, the T-90M, which is considered Russia’s best tank, has only been in service since April 2020.
The first production T-90M tanks began to be delivered to the 2nd Guards M. I. Kalinin Taman Motor Rifle Division, part of the 1st Guards Tank Army, within the Western Military District, in the spring of that year.
Only a few T-90Ms have even been deployed to Ukraine, and as a result, some analysts have postulated that the 100 or so MBTs in service were being reserved for a possible escalation of hostilities with NATO on Russia’s western borders. It could appear that NATO will be able to discover crucial details about the tank that Moscow may have wanted to keep secret.
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.