Armor: Indian Built T-90s Enter Service


August 25, 2009: An Indian factory has delivered the first ten (of a thousand) T-90 tanks to the Indian Army. The Russian designed armored vehicles are being built in India under license. Many of the components are Indian made, and some of the electronics are imported from Western suppliers. The Indian made T-90s cost about $3 million each. India has already bought 700 Russian made T-90 tanks, at a cost of $3.5 million each. 

Three years ago, India adopted the Russian T-90 as its new main battle tank. That was when planning began on setting local production for the thousand locally produced T-90s. These will be built over the next 14 years. Meanwhile, the locally designed Arjun tank, which has failed performance tests many times, continues to try and displace the T-90 (which earlier displaced the Arjun as the main battle tank of the Indian Army).

By 2020, India will have 2,000 upgraded T-72s, over 1,500 T-90s, and few hundred other tanks (probably including some Arjuns). 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 can 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.

 Currently, fuel alone costs the Indian army about a dollar per kilometer traveled by each for T-72s, and a little more for T-90s. So if you want to take a hundred T-72s out for several days of training, each vehicle is going to travel, say, 200 kilometers. That's $20,000 just for the fuel. Do that four times a year, for the entire 4,000 tank force, and you're out nearly $3 million. That's for minimal training, and many countries cannot afford even that. You can more than double the fuel cost to take care of replacement parts and repairs for accidents.

 American armored vehicles cost from $15-$25 per kilometer to operate, largely because of higher personnel costs. This is why, even when poor nations get first rate tanks, they often do poorly in combat. Buying the tank, for a few million dollars each, is only a small part of the total cost of creating a competent crew to get the most out of that high tech tank. India hopes to overcome some of these problems with simulators, or even battle simulation software in the tanks themselves. But mainly, India relies on the fact that the Pakistani tank force is worse off.



Article Archive

Armor: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close