The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is essentially a modernisation of the T-72B, incorporating many features of the T-80U (it was originally to be called the T-72BU, later renamed to T-90). It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry. Although a development of the T-72, the T-90 uses a 125mm 2A46 smoothbore tank gun, 1G46 gunner sights, a new engine, and thermal sights. Standard protective measures include a blend of steel, composite armour, smoke mortars, 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 is designed and built by Uralvagonzavod, in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. Since 2011, the Russian armed forces have ceased ordering the T-90, and are instead waiting for the development of the Armata Universal Combat Platform that is expected to enter service in 2016.

Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Uralvagonzavod
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1993
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Algeria View
India View
Russia (USSR) 1993 View
Turkmenistan View
Uganda View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Uralvagonzavod 1992 2251 View

By 1992, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that it could no longer afford to manufacture two main battle tanks in parallel. Since both the "quality" T-80U and the cheaper "quantity" T-72B were being built at different plants, and each plant was critical to the economy of its city, the government gave small orders to both. Omsk built five T-80Us and Nizhny Tagil built fifteen T-72s, and both built more in the hopes of winning large export orders. Nizhny Tagil had built a few T-72BAs, T-72Bs upgraded with a third generation add-on explosive reactive armour (ERA) called Kontakt-5, which was already in service on the T-80U.

To further improve the T-72's export prospects and its chances of being selected as Russia's sole production main battle tank, the T-80U's more sophisticated fire control system was also added to produce a vehicle designated T-72BU. The T-90 was developed by the Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau at the Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil. The production model is based on the T-72BM, with some added features from the T-80 series.

The T-90 with an 830 hp (620 kW) engine went into low-level production in 1993, based on a prototype designated T-88. It features a new generation of Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour on its hull and turret. Of conventional layout, the T-90 represents a major upgrade to every system in the T-72, including the main gun. The T-90S have been identified as export model. The references to a T-90E appear to be unsubstantiated. The T-90 is fitted with a "three-tiered" protection system: the first tier is the composite armour in the turret, second tier is third generation Kontakt-5 ERA and third tier is a Shtora-1 countermeasures suite.

T-90s were used in combat for the first time during the invasion of Dagestan in 1999.

The T-90's main armament is the 2A46M 125 mm smoothbore tank gun. This is a highly modified version of the Sprut anti-tank gun, and is the same gun used as the main armament on the T-80-series tanks. It can be replaced without dismantling the inner turret and is capable of firing armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS), high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT-FS), and high explosive fragmentation (HE-FRAG) ammunition, as well as 9M119M Refleks anti-tank guided missiles. The Refleks missile has semi-automatic laser beam-riding guidance and a tandem hollow-charge HEAT warhead. It has an effective range of 100 m to 6 km, and takes 17.5 seconds to reach maximum range. Refleks can penetrate about 950 millimetres (37 in) of steel armour and can also engage low-flying air targets such as helicopters.

The NSV 12.7mm (12.7x108) remotely controlled anti-aircraft Heavy machine gun can be operated from within the tank by the commander and has a range of 2 km and a cyclic rate of fire of 700–800 rounds per minute with 300 rounds available (the NSV was replaced by the Kord heavy machine gun in the late 1990s). The PKMT 7.62mm (7.62x54mm R) coaxial machine gun weighs about 10.5 kg while the ammunition box carries 250 rounds (7,000 rounds carried) and weighs an additional 9.5 kg.

Like other modern Russian tanks the 2A46M in the T-90 is fed by an automatic loader which removes the need for a manual loader in the tank and reduces the crew to 3 (commander, gunner, and driver). The autoloader can carry 22 ready-to-fire rounds in its carousel and can load a round in 5–8 seconds.[8] It has been suggested that the automatic loaders on modern T-90 tanks have been modified to take advantage of newer ammunition such as the 3BM-44M APFSDS, which like the US M829A3 penetrates armour better than the previous shorter rounds. HEAT rounds that can be fired from the 2A46M includes the 3BK21B (with a Depleted uranium liner), 3BK29 (with a credited penetration of 800 mm RHA equivalency), and the 3BK29M (with a Triple-tandem charge warhead). Additionally the T-90 features the Ainet fuse setting system which allows the tank to detonate 3OF26 HE-FRAG rounds at a specific distance from the tank as determined by the gunners laser rangefinder, improving its performance against helicopters and infantry. Accurate firing range HE-Frag-FS 10 km, APFSDS 4 km

Fire-control system T-90 showed the following features combat shooting during state testing. Heavily armoured targets at ranges of up to 5 km tank T -90 strikes on the move (up to 30 km/h) with a high probability hit the first shot. During state testing was made 24 launch missiles at ranges of 4–5 km and they all hit the target (all missile launches were made by inexperienced professionals), an experienced gunner for 54 traffic at speeds of 25 km/h, 7 real shells hit armoured targets located at ranges of 1,500–2,500.

Fire-control system on the T-90 includes the PNK-4S/SR AGAT day and night sighting system mounted at the commanders station which allows for night time detection of a tank sized target at ranges between 700 and 1100 metres depending on the version of the sight. Early models of the T-90 were equipped with the TO1-KO1 BURAN sight but later models (T-90S) were upgraded to use the ESSA thermal imaging sight, which allows for accurate firing to a range of 5,000–8,000 m using the CATHERINE-FC thermal camera produced by Thales Optronique. The gunner is also provided with the 1G46 day sighting system which includes a laser range finder, missile guidance channel and allows tank-sized targets to be detected and engaged at 5 to 8 kilometres (3.1 to 5.0 mi). The driver uses a TVN-5 day and night sight. In 2010, Russia started licensed production of Thales-developed Catherine FC thermal imaging cameras for T-90M tanks, a Russian daily said. These thermal imagers are also present on T-90M "Bhishma" built in India under licence.

The Russian Defence Ministry made a selection of a single main battle tank (MBT) in 1995. The T-80 was more expensive and its delicate, fuel-hungry gas turbine engine provided a questionable advantage. In addition, the older T-80BV tanks performed poorly in urban combat in the First Chechen War.

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.

1999 saw the appearance of a new model of T-90, featuring the fully welded turret of the Object 187 experimental MBT instead of the original T-90's cast turret. This new model is called "Vladimir" in honour of T-90 Chief Designer Vladimir Potkin, who died in 1999. It is unknown how this design affects the protection and layout of the turret, or whether the tank's hull armour layout was changed.

The T-90A saw combat action during the 1999 Chechen invasion of Dagestan. According to Moscow Defence Brief, one T-90 was hit by seven RPG anti-tank rockets but remained in action. The journal concludes that with regular equipment T-90A seems to be the best protected Russian tank, especially if the Shtora and Arena defensive protection systems are integrated in it.

In 2007, there were about 334 T-90 tanks serving in the Russian Ground Forces' 5th Guards Tank Division, stationed in the Siberian Military District, and seven T-90 tanks in the Navy. Some 31 new T-90 tanks were expected to enter service in 2007, and 60 in 2008.

The Russian Federal Service for Defence Contracts (Rosoboronzakaz) announced in July 2008 that a new tank (which rumour has previously referred to as the T-95) was due to be introduced in 2009, but development was cancelled in May 2010.

Russia is developing a new Armata Universal Combat Platform (also known as Armata) to be ready for use by 2015. It is expected to have a more powerful engine, improved armour, main gun and autoloader, with ammunition storage separated from the crew.

Type Main battle tank
Place of origin Russia
Service history
In service 1993–present

Production history
Designer Kartsev-Venediktov
Manufacturer Uralvagonzavod
Unit cost $2.5 million in 1999, $2.77 – 4.25 million USD in 2011 (varies by source) T-90MS: 4.5 Million
Produced 1992–present
Number built 2,251+
Weight 47.5 tonnes (46.7 long tons; 52.4short tons)
Length 9.63 m (31 ft 7 in)
Width 3.78 m (12 ft 5 in)
Height 2.22 m (7 ft 3 in)
Crew 3
Armor Steel-composite-reactive blend
vs APFSDS: 550-650mm, with Kontakt-5 = 800–830mm; vs HEAT: 1,000mm with Kontakt-5 = 1,150–1,350mm
2A46 125 mm smoothbore gunwith ATGM capability; mainly9M119 Svir
12.7mm Kord Heavy machine gun, 7.62mm PKMT
Engine Model 84 V-84 12-cyl. diesel
V-92 12-cyl. diesel
V-96 12-cyl. diesel
840 hp (618 kW) for V-84 12-cyl. diesel engine
950 hp (736 kW) for V-92 12-cyl. diesel engine
1,250 hp (930 kW) for V-96 12-cyl. diesel engine
Power/weight 18.1 hp/tonne (13.5 kW/tonne) for V-84 12-cyl. diesel engine
20.4 hp/tonne (15.8 kW/tonne) for V-92 12-cyl. diesel engine
26.3 hp/tonne (19.8 kW/tonne) for V-96 12-cyl. diesel engine
Suspension Torsion bar
550–700 km (340–430 mi) (depending on type of engine)
Speed 60–65 km/h (37–40 mph) (depending on type of engine)

End notes