The Russian T-90 Main Battle Tank

The Russian T-90 Main Battle Tank Background

During the 1970’s two new main battle tanks entered production and service with the Soviet Union, the T-72 and T-80.

The T-72 (built by Uralvagonzavod) was a fairly simple design that was easy and quick to build in greater numbers. It was widely deployed amongst the Russian Army and the export T-72M version was built under licence in a number of WARSAW Pact countries as well as being sold to friendly nations.

The second MBT (built by Omsktransmash) was the T-80, which was regarded as a more sophisticated design, having superior protection, firepower and increased mobility.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and creation of the Russian Federation in 1991, tank production suffered at both manufacturers.

The Russian T-90 Tank Development

Russian T-90A Main Battle Tank

The design Bureau at Uralvagonzavod set about improving the T-72B design by incorporating the T-80U armour and Shtora-1 suite as well as its fire control systems. A new engine with more Horse Power was added  and the main gun upgraded to the 2A46M type.

The upgraded tank was called the T-72BM. It entered low number production for the Russian Army in 1993 under the designation T-90.

The T-90 Main Battle Tank

Protection –

The turret and hull is fitted with composite armour and with the latest (at the time) Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armour.

It was fitted with the Shtora-1 countermeasure suite. It has 4 sensors that detect if a laser range finder (used by tanks and anti-tank missiles launchers to aim at a tank) is pointing at the vehicle, it then alerts the crew and slays the turret round in the direct the laser is coming from.

The systems two jammers aka “dazzlers” (boxes, 1 either side of the main gun that have a red circle when activated) then activate disrupting the laser or missile guidance, making the T-90 a harder target to hit. The system also fires from its smoke grenade launchers an aerosol smoke screen opaque to infrared light.

The system also ensures that the most heaviest armoured part of the tank is facing the threat and the crew can engage the threat.

The vehicle also a complete NBC system in the fighting compartment.

Firepower –

The main gun is a 125mm calibre smoothbore 2A46M. It is capable of firing 2 part APFSDS, HEAT-FS and HE-FRAG rounds. The main gun is fed by an autoloader, which has a carousel with 22 rounds. Additional 20 rounds are stored in the vehicle.

The main gun is capable of firing the 9M119M Refleks anti-tank guided missile, which has a tandem charge and semi-automatic guidance giving the T-90 an effective firing range of 6 km’s.

The Fire Control System uses the PNK-4S/SR AGAT day and night sighting system with a TO1-KO1 BURAN sight. The gunner uses the 1G46 day sighting system and the driver users a TVN-5 day and night sight.

Secondary weapons include a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and the commander can operate the NSV 12.7mm MG mounted on the turret roof from under armour.

Mobility –

Powered by a V-84MS Diesel engine generating 840 HP and torsion bar suspension, the vehicle was publicly shown jumping of high jumps at various shows and earnt the nickname the flying tank. It can be fitted with wading equipment.

T-90K Main Battle Tank

Command version of the T-90, fitted with additional communication and navigation equipment.

T-90A Main Battle Tank

Russian T-90A Main BAttle Tank
Russian T-90A Main Battle Tank

The first major upgrade, the T-90 cast turret was replaced with a new all-welded one. some changes were made to the hull’s armour and it is not known if any were made to the new turret.

A new ESSA thermal imaging sight was installed, which had an improved view range. Mobility was also improved with a new 1000 HP V-92S2 diesel engine.

Production started in 1999 and has been the main variant model in the Russian Army.

T-90AM Main Battle Tank

Though the T-90 series is operated by Russia, its been a greater success on the export market. Uralvagonzavod in 2013 unveiled there latest export model, the T-90S Modernised aka T-90SM (as stated by the manufacturer).

The T-90AM is a speculated designation started online (since the unveiling of the T-90SM) of a T-90A that would receive the same upgrades applied to the T-90S (the export model of the T-90A) that resulted in the T-90SM.

The T-90AM is not mentioned in press release or product list by the manufacturer, nor an upgrade purchased by the Russian Army. In fact the T-90A has not been ordered by Russia since 2010 and the Armata Universal Combat Platform has now been unveiled in 2015, which will be manufactured by Uralvagonzavod.

T-90 Main Battle Tank Export Models

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The Indian T-90S Bhishma Tank

T-90E Main Battle Tank

The export version of the T-90, but non were sold.

T-90S aka T-90C Main Battle Tank


The principal export model of the series, some publications state the vehicle does not have the Shtora-1 countermeasure suite. However, photographs of the vehicle and those used in recent trials in press releases by Uralvagonzavod have elements of the suite, noticeably the “dazzlers” present.

T-90S Spec’s

Combat weight: 46.5 Tonne
Crew: 3 (Commander / Gunner / Driver)
Length: 9.43m (Gun forward)
Main Gun: 2A46M or 2A46M-5 125mm Smoothbore
Rate of fire: x7 rounds per/min
Ammunition Stowage: 42 (x22 are in auto-loader)
Main gun Stabilize: Electro-hydraulic power elevation
Turret Traverse: Electromechanical
Secondary Armament: 6P7K 7.62mm (2000 rounds) coaxial and 12.7mm antiaircraft machine gun
Guided Anti-Tank Missile: 9M119M Refleks
Maximum range of fire: 5km
Commander’s sighting and vision system: T01-K04
Gunner’s range finder: 1G46
Gunner’s night sight: Thermal Imager ESSA, 4k range
Antiaircraft sight: PZU-7
Opto-electronic suppression system: Optional
NBC protection system: Yes
Top Road Speed: 60 km/h
Operational Range: 550km (with rear barrels)
Trench crossing: 2.6m
Vertical obstacle climb: 0.85m
Power Plant: 1000 HP     B-92C2 diesel
Transmission: Mechanical, Seven-forward and one-reverse
Brakes: Disk type. Oil operated
Suspension: Torsion
Shock absorbers: Hydraulic, vane-type (6pcs)
Road wheels and track support rollers: 6 road wheel 3 track support roller per side
Tracks: Rubber pads optional
Air-conditioning: Optional

T-90SA aka T-90CA


Modified version of the T-90S. Has the Shtora-1 countermeasure suite, but missing the “dazzlers”.  It is equipped with Nakidka radar-absorbent material (RAM) camouflage that reduces the infrared, thermal and radar band signatures of the vehicle. It also has air-conditioning.

T-90S Bhishma and T-90M Bhishma

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T-90S Bhishma

See separate page by clicking here

T-90SM aka T-90MS

T-90SM aka T-90MS

Latest version unveiled in 2011. Complete rework of the T-90 design. See separate page by clicking here

Russian T-90 Main Battle Tank Operators

Operates a fleet of 305 T-90SA, which entered service in 2009.

100 T-90SA ordered in 2011, final deliveries were completed in the Spring of 2014.

First orders were placed in 2001. Supplied with T-90S Bhishma and licence built T-90M Bhishma. Further upgrades are due to be made to those in service. In 2012 India wished to buy 354 T-90SM for new Tank Regiments it was creating. No order is confirmed.

Deliveries started in 1993 of the T-90 and the T-90A in 1999. Orders for the tank ended in 2010. As of 2014 there are 930 T-90A in service.

10 T-90SA ordered in 2009/10 for approximately $30 million and now in service.

44 T-90S were ordered in 2010 and delivered in 2011.

T-90 Orders Cancelled, Pending & Trialled

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T-90S in Peru for trails in 2013

Announced in 2009 that its purchasing 41 T-90’s, however this was changed to surplus Russian Army T-80U in 2010.

No firm contract signed after enquires held in 2008.

Order signed in 2010 for T-90S. Order put on hold due to trade restrictions as a result of the 2011 Civil War.

Videos of a T-90S trialled in the country during 2000 can be found on YouTube. Malaysia went with the Polish PT-91 Main Battle Tank instead.

Field trials completed in 2013 of T-90S, no further details given on manufacturers website.

Saudi Arabia:
150 T-90S were ordered as part of a large deal for helicopters and anti-aircraft equipment in 2008. No further details given, status not known.

Were rumoured to be buying T-90’s, however with the low price of oil, it could only afford to buy T-72’s.

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