Main Battle Tank T-90

Main Battle Tank T-90

The T-90 is a third-generation Russian main battle tank developed from the T-72. It uses a 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore main gun, the 1A45T fire-control system, an upgraded engine, and gunner’s thermal sight. Standard protective measures include a blend of steel and composite armour, smoke grenade dischargers, Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour (ERA) and the Shtora infrared anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) jamming system.

The T-90 was designed and built by Uralvagonzavod, in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. It entered service with the Russian Army in 1992.


The T-90’s main armament is the 2A46M 125mm 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 can fire armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS), high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT-FS), and high-explosive fragmentation (HE-FRAG) ammunition, and 9M119M Refleks anti-tank guided missiles. The Refleks has semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) laser beam riding guidance and a tandem shaped 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 rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) and can also engage low-flying air targets such as helicopters.

The NSV 12.7mm (12.7×108) 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 (7.62×54mmR) 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. 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 800mm 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 of the HE-Frag-FS 10 km, APFSDS 4 km.

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

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 5,000–8,000m during day and 3,300m during night, 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 cameras for T-90M tanks, a Russian daily said. These thermal imagers are also present on T-90M “Bhishma” built in India under licence.

In 2012, the Russian-made combined sample of commander supervisory-sighting system T01-K04DT/Agat-MDT was presented to the public. According to Krasnogorsky Zavod (plant), Agat-MDT has the ability to be installed (for further modernization) in the sight of the newly developed domestic UPF format 640×512 by 15 microns, which is possible in the future to extend the range of target identification at night to 3.5–4.0 km without sight modifications. In 2016, the Krasnogorsk plant finished testing the Irbis-K night-vision gunner’s sighting system for the T-80U and T-90, with first deliveries in 2018. Completion of the Irbis-K, the first Russian-produced mercury-cadmium-telluride (MCT) matrix thermal sight, will bridge a gap with the leading NATO countries in this area. The Irbis-K can identify tank targets at ranges up to 3,240 meters during day and night.

The Russian-made thermal imaging device not only meant that Russian tanks would no longer need to be equipped with foreign parts, but it also meant that complete tank modernization was cheaper. Furthermore, there will be no decrease in demand for the T-72 and the T-90 in the next few years. The new tank gunner’s heat-vision sight Irbis-K and the commander’s combined sighting and observation system Agat-MDT can be supplied to T-72, T-80 and T-90 upgraded versions (T-72B3M, T-80BVM, T-90M…), replacing the Thales Catherine-FC thermal camera.


The prime mover is the V-92S diesel engine, built in the ChTZ. Different models of the T-90 tank are powered by various motors in its initial models, like the V-84MS 618 kW (840 hp) four-stroke V-12 piston engine, uprated 1,000 hp (750 kW) engines and 1,250 hp (930 kW) engines made by Uralvagonzavod and are delivered by Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. The Т-90S with 1,000 hp (750 kW) engine can attain a top speed of 60 km/h on the road and up to 45 km/h on rough terrain. The T-90 tank has a typical drivetrain arrangement, with a rear placed engine and transmission. The 1,000 hp (750 kW) engines are V-92 four stroke, 12 cylinder, multi-fuel diesel while the 1,250 hp (930 kW) engine is V-96. The T-90 export version i.e. modified T-90S is fitted with an increased power multi-fuel 1,000 hp (750 kW) diesel engine with turbochargers. The tank has an air conditioning system for work in hot places.


The T-90 has a “three-tiered” protection system. The first tier is the composite armour in the turret, consisting of basic armour shell with an insert of alternating layers of aluminum and plastics and a controlled deformation section.

The second tier is third generation Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour (ERA) bricks which degrade the penetrating power of kinetic-energy APFSDS ammunition. These bricks give the turret a distinctive angled “clam shell” appearance. ERA bricks are also located on the turret roof to protect against attacks from above. The turret’s forward armour package, in addition to the ERA and steel plating, includes Russian composite armour sandwiched between upper and lower steel plates. Composite armour offers lower weight and better protection than steel-only armour.

The third tier is a Shtora-1 (Russian: Штора-1 or “curtain” in English) countermeasures suite, produced by Elektromashina of Russia. This system includes two electro-optical/IR “dazzlers” (i.e. active infrared jammer) on the front of the turret (which gives the distinctive “Red Eyes”), four laser warning receivers, two 3D6 ‘smoke’ grenade discharging systems and a computerised control system. The Shtora-1 warns the tank’s crew when the tank has been ‘painted’ by a weapon-guidance laser and allows the crew to slew the turret to face the threat. The infrared jammer, the TShU1-7 EOCMDAS, jams the semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) guidance system used by some anti-tank guided missiles. The smoke grenades are automatically launched after Shtora detects that it has been painted. The smoke grenades are used to mask a tank from laser rangefinders and designators, and the optics of other weapon systems. Indian T-90S tanks are not equipped with the Shtora-1 countermeasures suite. They will be equipped with the Land Electronic Defence System LEDS-150.

In addition to the passive and active protection systems, the T-90 is also fitted with nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection equipment, KMT mine sweeps and an automatic fire suppression system. The EMT-7 electromagnetic-counter mine system can also be installed on the T-90. EMT-7 emits an electromagnetic pulse to disable magnetic mines and disrupt electronics before the tank reaches them. The Nakidka signature reduction suite is also available for the T-90. Nakidka is designed to reduce the probabilities of an object to be detected by infrared, thermal, radar-thermal, and radar bands.

During a reported test conducted by the Russian military in 1999 the T-90 was exposed to a variety of RPG, ATGM, and APFSDS munitions. When equipped with Kontakt-5 ERA, the T-90 could not be penetrated by any of the APFSDS or ATGM used during the trial and outperformed a T-80U which also took part. During combat operations in Dagestan, there were witness accounts of one T-90 sustaining seven hits from RPGs, and remaining in action.

T-90M and T-90MS mounts the more advanced “Relikt” ERA. Relikt defends against tandem warheads, while reducing the penetration of APFSDS rounds by over 50 percent. It can be installed instead of Kontakt-1 or Kontakt-5.


  • T-90 (Object 188) – The first production version. Object 188 (1989), production 1992. Also known as T-72BU. 46 tons.
    • T-90K – Commander’s version of the T-90, with additional communication (R-163-50K station) and navigation equipment (TNA-4-3).
    • T-90A – Russian army version with welded turret, V-92S2 engine and ESSA thermal viewer. Sometimes called T-90 Vladimir, in honor of its chief designer Vladimir Potkin.
    • T-90AK – Command version of the T-90A.
    • T-90AM (“Proryv-2”) – Upgrade of T-90A which was later developed into the T-90MS. Featured a new turret developed in the “Proryv-2” program. Revealed in 2011. 48 tons. Not in service.
  • T-90M (“Proryv-3”) – Heavily upgraded version of the T-90, first appearance in public in 2017. The main feature is modernisation of turret design (“all welded”) with the new advanced fire control system Kalina (with integrated combat information and control systems), new Irbis-K gunner`s sight and four video cameras that provide a 360° view of the environment for the commander, new upgraded gun 2A46M-5 with coaxial machine gun 7,62 mm, weapon station “UDP T05BV-1” with remotely controlled machine gun 12,7 mm “Kord”. There is improved armor on the ammunition carousel. Each side of the hull is fitted with additional armor plates at the front and bar-slat armor at the rear. The new version also includes brand new Relikt ERA on turret and hull, “soft kill” APS Shtora-1 and “hard kill” APS Arena-M. ERA on the front of the turret is made of one “cast” and is easily replaceable in the field by a crew. Other improvements include a new 1130 hp V-92S2F engine coupled with automatic transmission, an enhanced environmental control system and GLONASS satellite navigation systems. It also features an upgraded autoloader AZ-185M2 which allows for longer (and thus more effective) APFSDS ammunition Svinets-1 and Svinets-2. Much of the ammunition stored outside the autoloader has been moved from around the hull to the rear of the turret.
  • T-90S – Export version of the T-90, later adopted by the Russian Armed Forces as the T-90A. These tanks were made by Uralvagonzavod and were updated with 1,000 hp (750 kW) engines made by Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. These tanks carry an export version of the Shtora-1 passive/active protection system which lacks the infra-red dazzlers carried on the turret, however this area was covered with more Kontakt-5. These were initially supplied with cast turrets of the early T-90, and when stocks were depleted, new, welded turrets were fabricated.
    • T-90SK – Commander’s version of the T-90S, with additional communication and navigation equipment. It differs in radio and navigation equipment and Ainet remote-detonation system for HEF rounds.
  • T-90MS / T-90SM – Export variant of T-90AM (“Proryv-2”),[ first time showed in Abu Dhabi IDEX-2013. It is equipped with a 1,130 hp engine, a PNM Sosna-U gunner sight, a UDP T05BV-1 RWS with a 7.62 mm machine gun, GLONASS, inertial navigation systems, new Relikt explosive reactive armour (ERA) that covers more of the tank, and a steering wheel. A new removable turret bustle is included, which provides storage for eight additional rounds. The T-90MS is ready for serial production. Four video cameras provide a 360° view of the environment, while the tank is more connected to command. The T-90SM has an upgraded thermal imager that can detect tanks over 3,300 meters away. The same autoloader as the T-90M “Proryv-3” is used.


Mass 46 tonnes (45 long tons; 51 short tons)
Length 9.63 m (31 ft 7 in) 6.86 m (22 ft 6 in) (hull)
Width 3.78 m (12 ft 5 in)
Height 2.22 m (7 ft 3 in)
Crew 3

Armor Steel-composite-reactive blend APFSDS: 550 mm + 250–280 mm with Kontakt-5 = 800–830 mm
HEAT: 650–850 mm + 500–700 mm with Kontakt-5 = 1,150–1,550 mm
2A46M 125 mm smoothbore gun with 43 rounds (T-90)
12.7mm Kord Heavy machine gun, 7.62mm PKMT
Engine V-84MS 12-cyl. diesel (T-90)
Power/weight 18.2 hp/tonne (13.3 kW/tonne) (T-90)
Suspension Torsion bar
550 km (340 mi) (without fuel drums)
Maximum speed 60 km/h (37 mph)


  • Algeria: Operates a total of 572 tanks T-90SA.
  • Azerbaijan: 200 T-90S tanks in service.
  • India: Currently operates approximately 1100 T-90S ‘Bhishma’ tanks, both built locally and delivered by Russia. A total of 2078 T-90S ‘Bhishma’ which were procured in three separate orders.
  • Iraq: 73 T-90S/SK tanks ordered in 2016. 
  • Russia: 417 T-90/T-90A and T-90M in active service. 200 T-90/T-90A and T-90M in storage.
  • Uganda: 44 T-90S.
  • Vietnam: 64 T-90S/SK in service.

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