Armor: The Frugal T-90




October 4, 2008: India has announced that it is paying $3.2 million each for 347 T-90 tanks it is importing from Russia. This is about a third less than a new M-1, with similar capabilities, would cost.

Two years ago, India adopted the Russian T-90 as its new main battle tank. There will be local production of about a thousand T-90s over the next 14 years. India already has imported 310 T-90s. Under this plan, by 2020, India will have 2,000 upgraded T-72s, over 1,500 T90s, and few hundred other tanks. This will be the most powerful armored force in Eurasia, unless China moves ahead with upgrades to its tank force. The border between China and India is high in the Himalayan mountains, which is not good tank country. India's tank force is mainly for use against Pakistan.

 The T-90 is a highly evolved T-72. Originally, the T-90 was done as a fall-back design. The T-80 was supposed to be the successor to the T-72. But like the T-62 and T-64 before it, the T-80 didn't quite work out as planned. So the T-72, with a much improved turret and all manner of gadgets, was trotted out as the T-90. Weighting 47 tons, it's 23 feet long, 11 feet wide and 7.5 feet high. Same package, better contents. And with well trained crews, it could be deadly.

India doesn't have to worry about facing M-1s. The main enemy is Pakistan, which has T-72s, a few T-80s and many older T-55s (the Chinese version.) Training remains a problem for the Indian army, because of rising fuel costs. Again, it's all relative, for the Pakistanis are even less able to pay for the vast quantities of fuel needed to move a tank around for training.


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