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T-72BU / T-90 (Obiekt 188) Tank

The T-90 is considered a modern unit, with only the elite Kantemirovskaya and Tamanskaya tank divisions equipped by 2010. Derived from the T-72, the GPO Uralvagonzavod T-90 main battle tank is the most modern tank in the army arsenal. The successor to T-72BM, the T-90 uses the gun and 1G46 gunner sights from T-80U, a new engine, and thermal sights. Protective measures include Kontakt-5 ERA, laser warning receivers, and the SHTORA infrared ATGM jamming system.

The price of a T-90 main battle tank (MBT), manufactured by Russia's Uralvagonzavod plant is $4-7 million, while the price of a T-72 model is $1-2 million. A Russian tank battalion comprises 31 tanks. In 2008 Uralvagonzavod produced a total of 165 T-90 tanks. Over half of the vehicles were exported, and the remaining tanks replaced some of the T-72s in the Russian Armed Forces.

There was initially considerable confusion over this tank. In 1988, Nizhni Tagil upgraded the T-72B to the T-72BM by substituting the Kontakt-5 applique armor for the earlier Kontakt ERA. The T-72BM and T-90 are almost identical in external appearance since the Kontakt-5 applique armor covers most of the turret details.

The only obvious distinguishing feature between the two types is the use of the Shtora tank protection system on the T-90. This system, developed at VNII Transmash in St. Petersburg, is an integrated defensive suite, including an electro-optical jammer opposite the IR searchlight on the left side of the tank gun tube, and laser detector boxes on the turret roof.

Several subdesignations of the T-90 have been mentioned in the Russian press or in sales material, including the T-90S (probably indicating Svir missile features) and T-90E (probably indicating an export derivative).

Of conventional layout, the T-90 represents a major upgrade to every system in the T-72, including the main gun. The T-90 is an interim solution, pending the introduction of the new Nizhny Tagil MBT which has been delayed due to lack of funding. Produced primarily mainly due to its lower cost, the T-90 it will probably remain in low-rate production to keep production lines open until newer designs become available. Several hundred of these tanks have been produced, with various estimates suggesting that between 100 and 300 are in service, primarily in the Far East.

The T-90 retains the 125-mm 2A46-series main gun of the T-72 and T-80 which is capable of firing APDS, HEAT and HE-FRAG projectiles as well as time-fuzed shrapnel projectiles.

The Refleks 9M119 AT-11 SNIPER laser-guided missile with a hollow-charge warhead is effective against both armored targets and low-flying helicopters. The missile, which can penetrate 700-mm of RHAe out to 4000 meters, gives the T-90 the ability to engage other vehicles and helicopters before they can engage the T-90. The computerised fire control system and laser range-finder, coupled with the new Agave gunner's thermal sight, permit the T-90 to engage targets while on the move and at night. However, this first generation system is probably not as capable as current Western counterpart systems.

The tank is fitted with precision laying equipment and an automatic loader to guarantee a high rate of gun fire. Secondary armament includes a coaxial 7.62mm PKT machine gun and 12.7mm machine gun mount to for air and ground targets.

The T-90 features the low silhouette of the earlier Russian tanks, with a low rounded turret centered on the hull, and is fitted with combined passive and active defenses which make the T-90 one of the best protected main battle tanks in the world. The glacis is covered by second generation explosive reactive armor [ERA] bricks, as is the turret. This ERA gives the turret an angled appearance, with the ERA bricks forming a "clam shell" appearance. ERA bricks on the turret roof provide protection from top-attack weapons.

The T-90 is equiped with the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic counter measures system which is designed to disrupt the laser target designation and rangefinders of incoming ATGM. The T-90 is also equipped with a laser warning package that warns the tank crew when it is being lased. Shtora-1 is an electro-optical jammer that jams the enemy's semiautomatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) antitank guided missiles, laser rangefinders and target designators. Shtora-1 is actually a soft kill, or countermeasures system. It is most effective when used in tandem with a hard kill system such as the Arena.

During the International Defense Exposition (IDEX) held in Abu Dhabi in 1995, the system was shown fitted to a Russian MBT. The first known application of the system is the Russian T-90 MBT. Shtora-1 is currently installed on the T-80UK, T-80U, T-84 and T-90 MBTs.

The Shtora-1 system comprises four key components, the electro-optical interface station, which includes a jammer, modulator, and control panel; a bank of forward-firing grenade dischargers mounted on either side of the turret that are capable of firing grenades dispensing an aerosol screen; a laser warning system with precision and coarse heads; and a control system comprising control panel, microprocessor, and manual screen-laying panel. This processes the information from the sensors and activates the aerosol screen-laying system. Two infrared lights, one on each side of the main gun, continuously emit coded pulsed infrared jamming when an incoming ATGM has been detected. Shtora-1 has a field of view of 360-degrees horizontally and -5 to +25-degrees in elevation. It contains 12 aerosol screen launchers and weighs 400kg. The screening aerosol takes less than 3 seconds to form and lasts about 20 seconds. The screen laying range is between 50-70 meters.

The T-90 is powered by the V-84MS 618 kW (840 hp) four-stroke V-12 piston multi-fuel diesel engine, which can also run on T-2, TS-1 kerosene and A-72 benzine. This engine results in a power to weight ratio of only 18.06 hp/ton, considerably less than that of the T-80. The tank crew can prepare fording equipment within 20 minutes to negotiate 5 meter deep water obstacles. The tank is also fitted with the NBC protection system and mounted mineclearing equipment.

The price of a T-90 main battle tank, manufactured by Russia's Uralvagonzavod plant is $5-7 million, while the price of a T-72 model is $1-2 million. Tank-modernization costs make up for just 25 percent of the new tank's price.

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