Here you can see the latest video of the author about the T-90M.
Table of Contents
T-90 is the first Russian tank to enter mass production after the collapse of the USSR, it’s start wasn’t really good, and it almost failed. At first, the tank was meant as an upgrade for T-72B tanks, but because of poor performance of T-72 tanks in the Gulf War, Russia feared that the tank might not be well received on the export market, so they decided to rename it to T-90. At first, the tank was made on a base of T-72B ‘89 tank, but featured a lot of improvements, one of which is the Shtora-1 soft-kill Active Protection System. Other features included remotely operated HMG and improvements to the Fire Control System. But the problem with the tank was that it did not feature any Thermal Imaging System, which were already a norm in the west and the Russian T-80UK variant. So the future of T-90 did not seem very bright, having T-80U tanks with same FCS, APS, somewhat better protection and much better mobility with their 1250 hp gas turbines, T-90 was deemed somewhat a failure and only a limited number was produced in the period of 1993-1997. But then, in 1999 a new version was demonstrated which featured a new welded turret, similar to the Object 187 prototype, but with improved protection by incorporation of improved variant “Reflecting Plates” which was the type of armor used in the turret of T-72B.
Because the Russian MoD hasn’t placed any orders for T-90 tanks, the Russian government approved the export of the tank. In 1999 3 T-90S tanks were sent to demonstrations in India, one of which had a welded turret. The Belorussian firm Peleng offered their ESSA thermal imaging sight, which was based around the French Thales Catherine-FC thermal imaging system. They also fit the tanks with the new 1000hp engine (as opposed to the 840hp one). India also requested improved firepower, therefore a new 9M119M Invar ATGM was developed. India liked the new Welded turret and ESSA system and they ordered 310 T-90S tanks. Why is all of this important? Well, Indian order saved T-90 from extinction, because of all of those improvements and Indian interest, Russian MoD also placed some interest in the new T-90 tanks with welded turret, 1000hp engine and ESSA system.
The tank would enter Russian service as a T-90A tank in 2004, originally without the ESSA system, but since the production hit the gear in 2006, all tanks started getting ESSA and the tanks made in the meantime were upgraded with it. During the production run, the tanks started receiving new 2A46M-5 guns and upgraded autoloader which could fit new 3BM59 and 3BM60 APFSDS projectiles. In 2012 UralVagonZavod presented the T-90MS tank, which was a massive improvement of the T-90 series, India placed a big interest in the tank, and other countries like Kuwait and Algeria also got interested in the tank. This again enabled to improve the popularity of the tank in Russia, and finally at Army 2017 forum the Russian MoD ordered 30 of those tanks. The tank’s original name for domestic use was T-90AM, to emphasize that it is an upgrade of T-90A tanks. But all things changed when UVZ announced that they will, on top of upgrading older T-90A tanks, produce those tanks from scratch. So the name got changed to T-90M, to emphasize that that the tank won’t be only an upgrade of older variants, but that new tanks will be produced as well. And the Russian MoD confirmed that by releasing information that 10 out of those 30 tanks will be produced brand new and that 20 would be upgrades of older T-90A tanks. At the Army 2018 Forum, the Russian MoD ordered 30 more T-90M tanks. After that, it was announced that the old T-90 tanks, produced in the 1990s, will also be used as the basis of the upgrade, and many more tanks have been produced over the years.
Unlike the T-90A tank which we’ve seen enough in the past decade, T-90M has new “Relikt” Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) which offers much better protection when compared to Kontakt-5 present on T-90A tanks.
On top of having a better ERA package, it is also much better covered in ERA, because those silly Shtora-1 dazzlers got removed and no longer take the majority of space on the turret’s front.
As you can see, the dazzlers took up a lot of space, on top of that, those ERA blocks between the gun and dazzlers could not have been made the same size as regular Kontakt-5 blocks.
T-90M only retained laser-warning receivers in the place of dazzlers, which gives a much better ERA coverage on the turret.
As you can also see on the picture, the tank now has a proper gun shield, which should protect the gun mantlet, increasing the protection in this area which is generally regarded as a weak spot.
The Upper Front Plate is also covered in “Relikt” ERA. The coverage is also slightly better than what Kontakt-5 provided.
The side of the hull is protected with panels with built-in ERA blocks. The sides can be additionally protected with 4S24 blocks mounted with bags.
The side of the turret is also protected with ERA panels, the side and rear of the engine compartment are protected with cage or “Slat” armor.
On top of external protection, T-90M has some cool features to protect the crew. The insides of the tank are covered with non-flammable aramid fabric which serves to catch fragments formed by projectiles or perforated armor. Judging from the presentation of T-90MS, the autoloader’s carousel also received additional protection to protect it against fragments. Additional protection is also ensured by moving extra ammunition to the safe ammo rack with blow-out panels placed on the rear of the turret which is additionally protected with cage armor. This was done to decrease the chances of catastrophic ammo detonations which Russian tanks are infamous for. Russian studies concluded that the majority of those detonations occur when extra ammunition outside of the carousel is hit. Therefore, the changes were done to significantly decrease the chances of such detonations occurring.
The tank has 2A46M-5 (somewhere referred to as 2A46M5-1 and even 2A46M5-2) 125mm gun, which is the latest gun from the 2A46M series. The tank received a new feature which was not previously seen on Russian tanks, and that is a Muzzle Reference Sensor (MRS) which takes the information of the barrel changing its form in cold or hot weather conditions and brings it to the ballistic computer for more accurate shooting. The ammunition it can fire is of course the best Russia has to offer for the gun, and those are 3BM59 and 3BM60 APFSDS projectiles. There are also reports of 3VOF128 HEF projectile entering service with the Russian army, which can also airburst and detonate after penetration. Other types of ammunition include HEAT-FS and ATGMs.
The Fire Control System is really nice. The main gun sight is now the Russian iteration of Sosna-U sight which used French Catherine thermal imagers. The sight is named PNM-T, which is evident from the Russian documentary on T-90M, where the sight can briefly be seen with the name “ПНМ-Т” on it. The sight now has domestic thermal imagers, which most likely incorporate FEM18M-03 3rd generation matrices. The commander has much better time, since unlike previous Russian tanks, he now has his own panoramic Thermal Viewer connected to the 12.7mm Kord HMG (unlike T-90MS’s 7.62mm MG). CITV likely also incorporates the same thermal Imaging system as the main gun sight, since they are pretty much the only thermals currently in production for Russian armored vehicles, even T-72B3 has such thermals incorporated in the main gun sight. In addition, both gunner and commander can access a back-up sight located next to the main gun sight. Commander has access to a new multifunction display which, on top of other things, shows the location of the tank. The tank has YeSU-TZ Battle Management System which allows communication with all units on the present battlefield, making warfare much easier. Another small, but important improvement is the commander’s cupola, unlike older T-90A, commander now has full 360 deg view with larger vision blocks all around the cupola. In addition, the hatch can be rotated for different purposes and there are 4 cameras for additional 360 deg view. The hatch and the cupola appear to be heavily inspired by the M1A2 cupola and hatch composition.
The tank weighs 48t and it is powered with a new V-92S2F 1130hp diesel engine, with 2000 rpm and maximum torque of 4521Nm. In addition to such a good engine, the tank received an automatic gear shifter with electric drive, which is a step in the right direction, since most of the Russian tanks still have old fully manual transmissions. On top of that, the tank received an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) which reduces the fuel consumption when the tank is idle by powering the electrical systems.