Deconstructing The T-90S
The T-90S made quite a splash when it was unveiled to the public last year. The setting was the Russia Arms Expo in Nizhny Tagil where various ground-based weapons systems were outed, including the BMPT and the controversial S-400. The focus on the T-90S obviously played a part in cementing Russia’s long-term rearmament drive in the public imagination.
Unfortunately, the initial wave of positive reviews and ogling did create a little confusion. It turns out the T-90MS ‘Tagil’ really is just the T-90S, its official designation from tank maker Uralvagonzavod, the same manufacturer who will be unveiling a next-generation MBT in the near future to replace the T-90 model.
However, in the case of the T-90S, Uralvagonzavod isn’t changing fundamentals common among Russian tanks–a ridiculously low profile, an auto-loaded main gun, creaky suspension, and the all-important NBC. According to Uralvagonzavod’s swanky [relatively new] website, the T-90S is available in two variants. What got much of the spotlight at Nizhny Tagil the previous year was the T-90S Modernized Main Battle Tank. In a remarkable display of transparency, it’s got its own product page complete with specs.
There’s no doubt a solid indicator that the T-90S is being groomed as an export darling, further proof being its recent debut at DefenceExpo India 2012. More than just a lot of hype, the T-90S Modernized MBT does possess many features that mark a clear departure form conventional tank design in Russia.
The Tank, Revealed
Since the whole package is quite extensive, let a thorough analysis begin with the chassis. The T90S Modernized MBTs most obvious difference from its siblings is the extensive RELIKT armor on its front and sides. Protection is increased by stand-off slats on its engine exhaust and behind the turret. The engine wasn’t spared an upgrade either, being the V-92S2F, producing 1,130 horsepower that propels the tank at 60 km/h across the battlefield.
Previous T-90 models are powered by the older B-92C2 diesel engine. The V-92S2F is considerably better than the original T-90, which is fundamentally a T-72 with T-80U parts when it was first introduced 17 years ago. Despite the increased performance, the T-90S Modernized MBT is still touted as lightweight, totaling a modest 48 tons.
The biggest alterations for the T-90S Modernized MBT is the turret. Gone is the conventionally operated 12.7mm anti-aircraft machinegun that has been a mainstay of Russian armor for several decades. In its place is an elevated, remote controlled 7.62mm machinegun next to a commander’s sight. Other than these add ons, the turret’s expanded layout has more in common with squarish, angular Western design—the rear end is extra storage for additional 125mm shells. In total the T90S carries 40 125mm rounds for its 2A46M5 main gun plus the unspecified ATGMs for its gun/missile system.
It’s People Friendly
Inside the tank is space for the usual three-man crew who now have the benefit of air-conditioning, which has long been absent from Russian tanks. The NBC system is complemented by the Kalina 1A45 fire control, an extensive array which covers guided missile tracking, TV observation ports, laser rangefinder, and thermal sights. For the sake of visuals, watch this short video of the T-90S Modernized MBT specifications.
The T-90S is not the only new addition to the Uralvagonzavod roster. Visiting their product page reveals three more MBTs available for export. These are the T-90S Third-Generation Main Battle Tank (more like the ‘classic’ T-90), the T-72, and the T-72S. Then there’s the fearsome BMPT anti-tank/personnel vehicle, a couple of engineering systems based on the T-72 chassis, a tank dozer, and finally the BMR-3M Armoured Deminer. Explore the site a little more and Uralvagonzavod have also got tractors—for farmers.
Having extensively scrutinized the details of the vaunted T-90S, it now becomes clear that what the Russians have come up with this time around is a premiere export product for the world market. Besides, the ground forces have a new one coming very soon. While the T-90S may stay around with other tanks for a while, the new addition is what everyone has to watch out for.