Ukrainian armed forces struck a Russian Armored Unit this week which wrecked Russia’s most advanced tank, the T-90M Main Battle Tank (MBT), in the north-eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv Oblast.
On May 2, the Ukrainian military released drone footage showing strikes on the Russian Armored Unit.
“In the Kharkiv region, during reconnaissance operations, our soldiers discovered clusters of enemy equipment, including heavy armored and lightly armored vehicles,” said the Command of the Special Operations Forces (SSO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
“An hour after the priority targets for the strike were determined, soldiers of the Resistance Movement coordinated a unit of one of the artillery brigades and adjusted the fire on enemy targets.”
“As a result of joint work of soldiers of the Defense, Forces of Ukraine, the losses of the Russians amounted to, T-90 tank – destroyed. T-80BVM tank – destroyed. MTLB – destroyed. MTLB – damaged,” they added.
The claims of the Ukrainian military were confirmed on May 4 after Illia Ponomarenko, The Kyiv Independent’s defense reporter, shared an image on social media of what appeared to be the remnants of a destroyed T-90M tank.
I mean, who could guess that the first Russian T-90M would be hunted down within days after their much-advertised deployment to Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast.
Say hi to our big friend Andriy Tsapliyenko. pic.twitter.com/1GaFuHcgR8
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) May 4, 2022
The T-90M is considered the most technologically advanced and capable tank within Russia’s military arsenal, and reports suggest that it was absent from the frontlines in Ukraine until recently, probably because Russia was holding the MBTs back.
According to recent estimates, there are only about 100 T-90Ms currently in service, as they have only just begun to join the Russian Army in early 2020, with the initial batch of production T-90M tanks joining the 2nd Guards M. I. Kalinin Taman Motor Rifle Division of the 1st Guards Tank Army in the spring of 2020.
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The early evidence that Russia may have deployed some of its limited number of T-90Ms to the conflict started emerging in April. A video released by the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardia) on April 25, which has been doing rounds on social media, revealed a crudely concealed T-90M tank in Kharkiv Oblast.
Upgraded T-90M Main Battle Tank
The Uralvagonzavod-designed T-90M is an upgraded version of the T-90 Tank, first introduced in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the T-72, featuring improvements in terms of protection, mobility, and firepower. The tank is also sometimes referred to as “Proryv-3” (Breakthrough-3).
Reports suggest the upgrades to the tank were derived from the combat experience of the Russian Armed forces gained in Syria. The Russian Army tested it during the military exercise Zapad-2017.
The upgraded T-90M tank has improved armor protection with Relikt built-in Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) in place of the previous Kontakt-5, designed to protect shaped charges and significantly reduce the impact of the impact armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) rounds.
In addition to that, the Tank features net armor on the lower part of its turret and slat armor at its rear to improve its defenses against rocket-propelled grenades by disrupting the fusing of the warhead.
The tank also has a countermeasures system, which triggers smoke grenade launchers that can help conceal the vehicle if it is being illuminated by a laser beam, thereby minimizing the chance of being hit by enemy anti-tank guided weapons semi-automatic guidance.
It is fitted with NBC (Nuclear, Biological & Chemical) protection and automatic fire suppression systems. The tank’s interior is lined with spall liner to stop projectiles and small fragments and minimize the damage inside the vehicle in case of a hit by an overmatched threat.
The T-90M boasts an improved 2A46M-4 125mm smoothbore main gun, which has a longer range and is said to be 15-20% more accurate than the standard 2A46M gun of the T-90. The gun can fire APFSDS, HE, and HE-FRAG rounds, plus the 9M119 Refleks anti-tank guided missiles that have a range of 4-5 km and can also engage low-flying helicopters. A total of 43 rounds, including missiles, are carried for the main gun.
While the secondary armament includes a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and a roof-mounted remotely-controlled weapon station armed with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun.
The turret is equipped with an automatic carousel loader mounted on the turret floor and on the turret’s rear wall. The carousel carries 22 ready-to-use projectiles.
At the heart of the upgrades to the tank are the major sensor and fire control enhancements. The new Russian Tank has a hunter-killer engagement capability.
Tank commander uses a panoramic sight with a thermal vision to search for targets and once the target is selected, the gun is laid on the target automatically and the gunner completes all the aiming and firing process.
Meanwhile, the commander can look for the next target. Also, the target acquisition system tracks selected targets automatically.
Are Upgrades Ineffective?
That said, all these upgrades do not appear to have prevented the destruction of the T-90M in question, which represents the first confirmed loss of the type.
This may help explain why Russia might have chosen to hold back from deploying these vehicles on the battlefield for such a long time and instead rely largely on older Soviet-era tanks, such as the T-72 and T-80 models.
As EurAsian Times reported earlier, the Soviet-era T-72 and T-80 models have been widely fielded by the Russian Army in Ukraine. However, they have suffered public humiliation due to their ‘jack-in-the-box’ flaw, where the turret of the tank gets decapitated from the main body.
Now, the latest images of the most advanced T-90M tanks destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces will only add to the humiliation of the Russian Army, which had long been considered a formidable combat force until the onset of the Ukraine War.