The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank and represents a moderate evolution of the T-72B, incorporating many features of the T-80U (it was originally called the T-72BU, later renamed to T-90). It is currently the most advanced tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry. Although derived from the T-72, the T-90 uses a 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore main gun, the 1A45T fire-control system, an uprated engine, and thermal sights. Standard protective measures include a blend of steel, composite armour, smoke dischargers, Kontakt-5 explosive-reactive armour, laser warning receivers, Nakidka camouflage and the Shtora infrared ATGM jamming system. The EMT-7 electromagnetic pulse (EMP) creator has been used in testing but not fitted to T-90s in active service. It was designed and built by Uralvagonzavod, in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. Since 2011, the Russian armed forces have ceased any further orders for the T-90, and are instead anticipating the development of the T-14 Armata that is expected to enter service in 2016.
The T-90 has its origins in a Soviet-era program aimed at developing a singular replacement for the T-64, T-72 and T-80 series of main battle tanks. The T-72 platform was selected as the basis for the new generation of tank owing to its cost-effectiveness, simplicity and automotive qualities. The Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau from Nizhny Tagil was responsible for the design work and prepared two parallel proposals – the Object 188, which was a relatively simple upgrade of the existing T-72B tank (Object 184), and the far more advanced Object 187 – only vaguely related to the T-72 series and incorporating major improvements to the hull and turret design, armor, powerplant and armament. Development work was approved in 1986 and the first prototypes were completed by 1988. The vehicles resulting from the Object 187 program have not been declassified to this date, but it was the lower risk Object 188 upgrade that would be approved for series production as the T-72BU.
Production and service history
An early series T-90 with cast turret during a military exercise in Russia, demonstrating deep fording.
The T-72BU was officially accepted into service on 5 October 1992 by the Russian Ministry of Defence and simultaneously renamed as the T-90 for marketing and propaganda purposes aimed at distancing the new type from existing T-72 variants.
The principle upgrade in the T-90 is the incorporation of a slightly modified form of the T-80U’s more sophisticated Irtysh fire control system, designated 1A45T and an upgraded V-84MS multi-fuel engine developing 830 hp (620 kW). The T-90 is manufactured at the Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, with low-level production being carried out since 1993 and virtually ceasing towards the end of the 1990s for the native market. Less than 200 T-90 tanks were delivered to the Russian Ground Forces before production was resumed in 2005 of an upgraded version.
By September 1995, some 107 T-90 tanks had been produced, located in the Siberian Military District. By mid-1996 some 107 T-90s had gone into service in the Far Eastern Military District.
Facing tapering domestic orders and with the permanent closure of the last turret casting line in the former USSR, owned by Azovstal in Mariupol, the designers at Uralvagonzavod together with experts from NII Stali (Scientific Research Institute of Steel) using trials data obtained from the Soviet-era created a new, welded turret to offer further improvement and attract foreign buyers for the T-90. India signaled interest in the T-90 in response to Pakistan’s acquisition of 320 Ukrainian T-84 tanks, which was an intuitive decision considering India held rights to fully manufacture the T-72M1 in Avadi, with production being easily adapted to assemble the T-90.
The first 42 complete Indian tanks were delivered in 2001 and were designated T-90S (Object 188S), still equipped with the older cast turrets of the early series (this exhausted the remaining stocks of cast turrets warehoused at Nizhny Tagil) and powered by the V-84 engine making 840 hp (618 kW). This was followed up next year with delivery of 82 vehicles, now equipped with the new welded turrets and the V-92S2 engine, generating 1000 hp (735 kW). The initial contract stipulated the following batch of 186 tanks—now officially called the Bhishma—to be completed in India from Russian-supplied kits, and then gradually replaced with domestically manufactured parts, but the low rate of domestic Indian production compelled the Indian authorities to place an additional order for 124 complete vehicles in 2007 from Uralvagonzavod.
In 2005 the Russian army resumed delivery of the T-90, requesting the “original” specification for the vehicle with a cast turret. But with the new order numbering a paltry 14 tanks, and the large capital investment required to set up production of new cast turrets, the Russian.