The Indian T-90 Bhishma Tank

The Indian T-90 Bhishma Tank Background

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The Indian T-90S Bhishma Tank

The Indian Army has operated the Russian export model of the T-72 built under license as the Ajeya Main Battle Tank for decades. India has struggled in upgrading these tanks in the numbers it requires for current demand by the army.

The Arjun Main Battle Tank is an indigenes design that has been under development for some years and in service in low numbers. Its larger size and weight compared to the AJeya has caused logistical problems in transporting the tank.

Combining the above problems with Pakistan and China producing new tanks, it was decided to purchase the export version of the T-90, the T-90S Main Battle Tank.

T-90S were purchased in 2001 under the designation T-90S Bhishma and further purchases of an upgraded version designated the T-90M Bhishma planned to equip a staggering 20+ armoured regiments in the Indian Army.

The Indian T-90S Bhishma

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The Indian T-90S Bhishma

India’s T-90’s have come in various stats of construction and models. The first purchase was in 2001 of the T-90S. 120 were delivered assembled, 90 in semi-assembled kits and 100 un-assembled kits.

These vehicles did not have the Shtora-1 countermeasure suite, but did retain the Kontakt-5 ERA on the turret. The Russian sights were replaced with those from France and the Russian composite armour has been replaced with India’s own Kanchan composite.

These tanks were divided between five to seven regiments of the XXI (Bhopal) and II (Ambala) Strike Corps.

The Indian T-90M Bhishma

After India’s purchase of the T-90S, in 2006 330 T-90M were licensed for manufacturer in India from local sources, not in kit form from Russia. In 2007 a further 347 un-assembled kits were ordered.

The Kontakt-5 has been replaced with the superior Kaktus ERA. To cope with India’s harsh heat and its effects on tank crews, Israeli firm Kinetics Ltd’s environmental control system’s have been installed.

Changes to the fighting compartment have also been made to accommodate the cooling equipment for new THALES- Catherine-FC thermal imager.

The Indian T-90 Bhishma Tank Planned Service Numbers

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T-90 Bhishma tanks take part in a military training exercise -Click to Enlarge

India initially planed to have 310 T-90S and 1,330 T-90M tanks in service by 2020. However this number has changed. India placed an order for the latest Russian T-90SM in late 2012 purchasing 354, which will bring their T-90 fleet up to a planned 2011.

As of May 2014, the indigenous production of about 1,000 additional T-90s has been contracted, but production has not yet begun.

Indian sources are quoted as saying:

“The Russians have not provided full-scale [intellectual property rights] and are withholding some critical designs; thus, full-scale indigenization has been held up in Avadi,”

A Russian diplomat, however, said Russia is supplying all necessary technology, and that the responsibility for production delays rests with the Avadi factory.

An official of the Ordnance Factory Board, which administers the Avadi factory, said the Russians have supplied only 40 percent of the technology and nearly none since 2008.

The Indian T-90 Bhishma Tank Upgrades

Indian Army announced in 2014 that it will upgrade more than 600 Russian-built T-90 tanks by adding new features and replacing their thermal imaging sights, navigation systems and fire control systems at a cost of more than $250 million.

The upgraded T-90 tanks will have air-conditioning systems, which will be developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The tanks’ existing armour protection systems, navigation gear, thermal imaging sights and fire control systems will be replaced.

Indian sources are quoted as saying:

“The thermal imaging system of the T-90 tanks were faulty from the initial stage.”

“DRDO had earlier attempted to mount air conditioning systems on the tanks, but were stopped by Russia, citing intellectual property rights,”