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Get the T-90s Out of the Kitchen
by James Dunnigan
June 24, 2006

Discussion Board on this DLS topic

Despite years of effort, India still cannot get its French thermal imaging systems to operate reliably on its T-90 tanks. Most of the thermal imagers on the T-90s are down at any one time. The problem is heat, and the 100 degree (Fahrenheit) heat is unavoidable because it's a desert area where they have to be stationed. The Indians paid $2.6 million for each tank (half the price of the U.S. M-1). Some 20 percent of the cost is for the thermal sight, similar to the one that makes the U.S. M-1 tank so effective on the battlefield. Unfortunately, tests of the T-90 revealed that the thermal sight system could not handle the heat of Indian summers. Much of the border between India and Pakistan is desert, and most of India's armored units are stationed there. The problem is that, while the T-90 has air conditioning (something new in Russian tanks), it cannot handle the 100+ degree heat in tropical India, and there is no room inside the tank to install a more powerful cooling system. The American M-1 air conditioning has been able to handle extreme heat. 

The T-90 went into low level production in 1993, but was too expensive for the Russian army to buy more than a few of. The T-90 is based on the T-72, but has composite armor (plus reactive armor) and better electronics. The 50 ton tank uses a 125mm smooth bore gun, and can also fire the 9M119M Refleks-M missile (to 4,000 meters) at ground or air (helicopter) targets. The tank carries 43 tank shells or missiles, 22 of them in the autoloader carousel. India agreed to buy 310 of them, with 124 delivered assembled and the rest assembled in India using Russian made parts. Problems with assembling the Ukrainian Fire Control System have delayed Indian assembly of complete T-90s. Indian firms are also supposed to build the 125mm gun and the 1,000 horsepower engine. All these problems are supposed to be taken care of this year. 

One big reason India bought the T-90 is the 9M119 (AT-11) anti-tank missile that can be fired via the tanks 125 mm smooth bore tank gun. The missile weighs 52 pounds, has a range of 100-4,000 meters and uses semi-automatic laser beam guidance system (the gunner keeps his sight on the target and the missile homes in on that.) Maximum time of flight is about 12 seconds. While the missile has a tandem warhead, making it useful against tanks with reactive armor, it can also be used against helicopters. The missile warhead can penetrate about 700mm of armor. The guidance system is quite accurate, hitting the target 80 percent of the time at maximum range in tests. The guidance system is also easy to use, making less well trained crews more effective. However, India insisted on building the missiles under license. This has created problems, as the Indian manufacturer has not been able to achieve sufficient quality control levels. 

India deployed it's first T-90 Regiment of 45 tanks, in May, 2002. The first T-90s were delivered to India in late November 2001.


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