The Legend of Russia’s T-90 Tank Died in Ukraine – One of the most advanced tanks in the Russian military’s arsenal has met the same fate as its predecessor fighting machines – it was destroyed by Ukraine forces employing hit-and-run tactics. Ukrainian war reporter Andriy Tsaplienko shared an image of the wreck of the third-generation T-90M main battle tank (MBT) on Facebook on Wednesday. Tsaplienko was seen in the photo in front of the knocked-out T-90M in the eastern Kharkiv region.
“Here’s a fresh Russian tank… to improve your mood,” the reporter wrote. “It’s hot, it’s smokin’ hot.”
Another Ukrainian reporter, Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko), also shared the image on Twitter with the caption, “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.”
The image, see below, appears to show the first confirmed loss of a T-90M Proryv (Breakthrough), the latest version of the T-90 MBT that first entered service in 1992. The upgraded T-90M entered service in 2016; it is equipped with a modernized turret, a 1A45T fire-control system, an upgraded engine, and gunner’s thermal sight. Standard protective measures reportedly include a blend of steel and composite armor, smoke grenade dischargers, Kontakt-5 explosive-reactive armor and the Shtora infrared ATGM jamming systems.
In addition, the T-90M is powered by an improved 1130hp V-92S2F engine and is equipped with an environmental control system, and satellite navigation system.
A T-90 Hot Mess
Kyiv had first reported the presence of the T-90M in eastern Ukraine last month, and Russia’s military is believed to have around twenty of the modernized MBTs deployed to the region. The tank has been highly touted to be more combat efficient than its T-90 predecessor.
Despite its explosive reactive armor, which was designed to protect against shaped charges and to minimize the impact of armor-piercing munitions, the T-90M seems as vulnerable as other Russian armor to anti-tank weapons used by the Ukrainians. One notable difference is that the destroyed T-90M seemed to have its turret intact – while the older T-72 and T-90 MBTs have been plagued by the so-called “jack-in-the-box” effect that has seen the turrets blown off due to the storage of ammunition within the turrets. It is a defect that Western militaries have been aware of for decades, yet was apparently underestimated by the Russians.
“What we are witnessing with Russian tanks is a design flaw,” Sam Bendett, an adviser with the defense research group Center for Naval Analyses, told CNN. “Any successful hit … quickly ignites the ammo causing a massive explosion, and the turret is literally blown off.”
Will Losses Impact Foreign Sales?
The T-90 and its variants are currently in service with several of Russia’s foreign partners including Algeria, India, Syria, and Turkmenistan. Ukraine is also reported to have captured about ten T-90A, an earlier variant of the T-90 MBT, earlier this year. It is unclear where those captured vehicles may have been deployed.
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
Future operators of the Russian T-90 include Egypt and Kuwait, while Malaysia and Pakistan had each opted to select other MBTs. Perhaps Egypt, which had sought to license production, and Kuwait will now make a similar decision after seeing the performance of the Russian tanks in Ukraine.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes