T-90 Tank: Specifications, diverse variants, and operational capabilities

The Russian government formally adopted the T-90 Main Battle Tank (MBT) in 1992, marking a substantial advancement over its predecessor, the T-72. It was designed and manufactured by the Russian company Uralvagonzavod, located in Nizhny Tagil.

The T-90 is a product of a Soviet initiative to create a main battle tank (MBT) replacement for the T-64, T-72, and T-80 series. Economical, straightforward, and automotive considerations were the main factors in the choice to base the next-generation tank on the T-72 platform. Leading the design work was the Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau in Nizhny Tagil, which put forward two competing proposals: Object 188, which was a relatively simple upgrade of the current T-72B tank (Object 184), and the more sophisticated Object 187, which was only tangentially related to the T-72 series but had major improvements to the armour, powerplant, armament, and hull and turret design. 

After development approval was given in 1986, the prototypes were finished by 1988. The vehicles that were produced as a result of the Object 187 initiative have not yet been declassified. V.N. Venediktov oversaw a team that produced the Object 188, which was first known as the T-72BM. It was a notable modification since it included the 1A45 fire-control system from the T-80U. An enhanced version, the T-72BU, was supplied starting in June 1990 after the first four prototypes were sent for testing in January 1989. The Soviet Ministry of Defence advised the Army to employ Object 188 in March 1991. Concurrently, the Object 187 project was put on hold for undisclosed reasons.

 

Specifications:

There are differences in the specifications between the several models of the T-90 series war tanks. Measuring 9.63 metres in length, 6.86 metres in width, 3.78 metres in height, and 2.22 metres in mass, the T-90 is a large truck measuring 46 tonnes. A steel-composite-reactive combination is used in the T-90 series’ armour, which offers exceptional protection. 

Against APFSDS rounds, the armour design consists of 550 mm + 250–280 mm with Kontakt-5, giving it an effective thickness of 800–830 mm. The armour protects against HEAT rounds from 650–850 mm plus 500–700 mm with Kontakt-5, for an excellent effective thickness of 1,150–1,550 mm. Each T-90 model has a different primary weaponry: the T-90 has a 43-round 2A46M 125 mm smoothbore cannon; the T-90A has a 42-round 2A46M-2 125 mm smoothbore gun; and the T-90M has a 43-round 2A46M-5 125 mm smoothbore gun. 

A 7.62mm PKMT and a 12.7mm Kord Heavy machine gun are also included in the secondary armament. Different diesel engines power the T-90 series: the V-92S2 for the T-90A, the V-84MS for the T-90, and the V-92S2F for the T-90M and T-90MS. The T-90 has 840 horsepower, the T-90A and T-90S have 1000 horsepower, and the T-90M and T-90MS have 1130 horsepower. The T-90 and T-90A have power-to-weight ratios that vary from 18.2 hp/tonne to 21.5 hp/tonne. The T-90 series reaches an operational range of 550 km without fuel drums by using a torsion bar suspension system. The T-90A and T-90MS exhibit remarkable mobility in combat, reaching a top speed of 60 km/h.

 

Variants:

There are numerous variations of the T-90 tank family, each designed to meet the demands of different nations and operating scenarios. The T-90S, an export version without the Shtora-1 countermeasures system, is noteworthy among them and has been used in wars like the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. 

The locally manufactured T-90 Bhishma, which lacks the Shtora-1 system but has 9K119M Refleks ATGM capability, is available in India. With improvements to the fire control system, a V-92 diesel engine, and Shtora-1M  countermeasures, the T-90A is an upgraded Russian Army model that is being used in Syria and Ukraine. The T-90SA is operated by Algeria and is specially designed to meet its requirements. Recent improvements include the composite armour, updated turret, and V-92S2F engine of the T-90MS Tagil. Incorporating parts from the T-90MS Tagil, the T-90M is an improved variant of the previous Russian Army T-90A tanks. It has a more accurate 2A46M-4 cannon. 

The T-90 series is further enhanced by a variety of support vehicles, such as the BREM-1M Armoured Recovery Vehicle, the MTU-90 Armoured Bridgelayer, the IMR-3 Armoured Engineer Vehicle, the BMR-3M Mine Clearing Vehicle, and the UBIM Armoured Engineer Vehicle, which is intended for use in a variety of engineering applications including mine clearing. Overall, the T-90 series represents flexibility and adaptability in contemporary armoured combat with its wide range of specialised versions and support vehicles.

 

Operations:

With its flexibility for different types of terrain, the T-90 tank is a versatile main combat tank. Owing to its design, it can operate effectively on broad fields, where its firepower and speed make it ideal for engaging targets that are far away. The tank can be used to provide armoured support during close-quarters battles in urban settings due to its small size and agility. 

Dunes and intense heat are no match for the T-90’s strong build and powerful engine, which allow it to perform well in desert environments. Navigation across heavily forested terrain is made easier by the tank’s mobility in woody areas and forests. Although it is not designed for use in mountainous terrain, the T-90 may nonetheless function thereby utilising its firepower and mobility. With its treads providing traction, the tank can even manage icy situations to some degree. By enabling river crossings and extending its operational range, specialised variants such as the MTU-90 Armoured Bridgelayer further enhance its capabilities.