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Russian Orphan Thrives In South Asia
by James Dunnigan
November 1, 2013

October 12, 2013: India recently ordered another 235 T-90 tanks. These Russian designed tanks are built in India (using Indian and Russian made components) under license and cost $4.9 million each. India expects to have about 1,400 T-90s by the end of the decade. The first T-90 entered service in 1993, and India is the largest user. The T-90 is basically an upgraded T-72, which India has built some 1,900 under license since the 1980s. The T-90 weighs about 15 percent more than the 41 ton T-72. The T-90 has a better fire control system, night vision that is good out to about 1,500 meters, and electronic countermeasures against anti-tank missiles. The autoloader, which often failed in the T-72, is more reliable, and that makes the three man crew (commander, gunner, driver) more effective. The T-90 has ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) in addition to its composite armor.

The T-90 is not as lively as the T-72 and is actually slower on the battlefield than the U.S. M-1 (which has a horsepower to weight ratio of 24:1, compared to only 18:1 for the T-90). The 125mm gun of the T-90 is basically the same as the T-72. However, if you use better ammo, you stand a chance against top rated tanks like the M-1. But that is not what India expects to face. The most likely opponent is Pakistan, which is largely equipped with 1950s era T-55s (actually the Chinese T-59 copy). The Pakistanis also have 700 or so older T-72 type tanks (Chinese T-69 and Ukrainian T-80), but these would be outclassed by the T-90. India plans to have 21 tank battalions ("regiments" in the Indian army) of T-90s (with 62 tanks each) by 2020. Actually, each battalion only has 45 tanks going into combat. The other 17 are for training and replacements.

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