T-90 vs M1 Abrams – How good are Russian developed, India operated T90 Bhishma Tanks in comparison to US M1 Abrams? The US recently admitted that its tank technology has fallen behind the achievements of other nations, especially with the emergence of German and Israeli tanks.
So, how does India’s T90 tanks, developed by Russia, compete against American M1 Abrams Tanks?
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Indian And The Russian T90 Tanks
Recently, the US Army Deputy Chief of Staff raised concerns over Russian, British and Israeli tanks surpassing the US’ tank technology. The T90 tanks are the third generation Russian tanks which entered military services in 1993. India imported 310 T90 tanks from Russia in 2001. India decided to import a large fleet of battle tanks for there were delays in the indigenous tank programmes of India.
India now plans to have more than 1600 tanks in service before 2020 after acquiring licenses from Russia to produce the T90 tanks in India itself. 10 Indian built T90 Bhishma tanks were inducted into the defence forces on August 24, 2009. These tanks were manufactured at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Tamil Nadu. As EurAsian Times reported earlier India is planning to have 20 regiments of the T90 Bhishma Tanks, to bolster its defence against Pakistan and China by 2020.
The Ageing M1 Abrams
The US Army Deputy Chief of Staff stated that the M1 Abrams might still be the best in class tanks but the T90 tanks are pretty close to it. The M1 Abrams tanks were inducted in the 1980s and the US official also highlighted the fact that they have now exhausted their upgrade potentials. Defence experts suggest that the US might look to replace the M1 Abrams and have a new generation tank programme.
Why Iraq Swapped M1 Abrams for T90 Tanks?
The 35th Brigade of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division replaced its M1A1M Abrams main battle tanks with Russian T-90s. The US media claimed that the decision was the result of Washingtons concerns about the MI Abrams falling into the hands of Iranian-backed militias. According to Russian experts, the Abrams-T-90 swap has less to do with geopolitics than it does with economics and combat capabilities in Iraqi conditions.
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According to Tuchkov, a single M1A1M costs Iraq an estimated $6 million, compared to $2.5 million for a T-90S. So economically, the T-90 is definitely better than the US Tank.
Secondly, given the fact that the M1A1M lacks the Israeli “Trophy” active protection system, which would enable it to defend against modern rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missile systems. As per the secondary research conducted by EurAsian Times, the standard T-90S, in comparison comes with the Kontakt-5 explosive-reactor armour suite, which “copes perfectly well with modern TOW 2 anti-tank tandem rockets. This makes the US tanks more vulnerable compared to the Russian tanks.
Lastly, there is the mobility factor. With the Abrams stacking up to nearly 70 tons against the T-90’s 46 tons, the US tank is furnished with a 1,500 hp gas turbine power plant against the T-90’s 1,000 hp diesel engine.
Theoretically, the US tank has an advantage, with a power/weight ratio of 23.8-26.9 hp/t compared to 18.2-20.4 hp/t for the T-90. However, in the desert conditions of the Middle East or Thar desert between India and Pakistan, Abram’s gas turbine engine is believed to have been a major problem for tank operators, requiring constant cleansing of its filters to prevent the engine from stalling. In contrast, the T-90’s power plant is simpler, smaller, cheaper and most importantly, more reliable.