T-90MS: New life for a legendary Russian ‘flying tank’

T-90MS Russian Main Battle Tank T-90MS Russian Main Battle Tank
T-90MS Russian Main Battle Tank (Photo: XY)

The T-90MS is the Russian most advanced main battle tank. Although the basic version of the T-90 main battle tank entered service in 1992, the improvements made to this tank inhaled a new life to this extraordinary machine. Dozens of new types of armaments are created in the world each year. Slowly but surely, the future vehicles are transforming warfare tactics into something radically different from what they were.

At the same time, tanks are still the most sought-after item on the weapons market and, experts believe, will not be displaced by other technology anytime soon. Tanks evolve rapidly within their category, as is illustrated by the T-90MS, the modernized export version of Russia’s T-90 main battle tank.

The birth of a legend

The T-90 is one of the most easily recognizable tanks on the market. It is called the “flying tank” for its dynamism and capable suspension that can easily support huge loads as the tank speeds through rough off-road terrain. Its development, by the Urals Transport Engineering Design Bureau (UKBTM) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was a milestone in Russian and world tank-building.

T-90A tanks rehearsing in Moscow for the 71st-anniversary parade of Victory
T-90A tanks are rehearsing in Moscow for the 71st-anniversary parade of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. (Photo: Sputnik)

Many believe the T-90 is nothing more than a modernized T-72B on which the T-90 is based. Initially, the T-90 was developed as an in-depth modernization of its predecessor, and the specifications even referred to it as an “upgraded T-72B.” But it was introduced into service as the T-90 in 1992, and for a reason, since the designers used only the overall dimensions of the body, the turret, and the tank loader. At the same time, the number of innovations and development work put into the T-90 easily allowed it to be classified as a new combat vehicle.

A tank with a character of its own

In subsequent years, the tank confirmed its efficiency in many areas and became a hot item on the market. The advantages that set the T-90 apart from its foreign counterparts include its comparatively low weight and overall dimensions; high cruising endurance; the ability to negotiate water obstacles; a guided missile system with a range of 5,000 meters, and the ability to fire its weapons on the move even at night; and a land electronic defense system. In addition, the tank is less expensive than its foreign counterparts.

A T-90S tank during the target practice at the opening of the 10th Russian Expo Arms international exhibition, 2015 (Photo: Sputnik)

The T-90 design includes some outstanding technical features: a unique layout with three crew members and a loader in an isolated, less vulnerable section, a powerful 125 mm artillery system, a low silhouette, traditional for Russian tanks, low weight, and a low-maintenance diesel engine.

During production, the tank was modernized. In 2005, T-90A entered production. The T-90A received an improved cannon and an upgraded shell loader capable of firing advanced ammunition.

T-90MS – a new hero

Today’s hero is the latest T-90MS tank with more firepower, better protection, and increased mobility. Its combat munitions package now includes remote detonation fragmentation-type shells that are more efficient against enemy manpower. It is an updated version of the T-90A.

The modernized version has a new combat turret module and a gun with improved accuracy characteristics, a fully automatic digital fire control system (FCS), new digital communications, navigation and interoperability gear, and a remotely controlled machine gun system (RCMS).

The T-90MS is equipped with a 1,130 hp engine, a PNM Sosna-U gunner view, a UDP T05BV-1 RWS with a 7.62 mm machine gun, and GLONASS navigation, inertial navigation systems, new Relikt explosive reactive armor (ERA) that covers more of the tank, and a steering wheel. A new removable turret bustle is included, which provides storage for eight additional rounds. The T-90MS is ready for serial production. Four video cameras offer a 360° view of the environment, while the tank is more connected to command. The T-90MS has an upgraded thermal imager that can detect tanks over 3300 meters away.

T-90MS a new version of legendary Russian 'flying tank'
T-90MS: New life for a legendary Russian ‘flying tank.’

Export leader

The T-90MS has completed the necessary tests for production. No contracts have been signed, but several foreign countries have signaled an interest in the new tank.

At the latest Russian Arms Expo, the tank was displayed in a pavilion for foreign delegations to see. “There have been many delegations that have gone through pre-contract motions. This tank is potentially our export leader,” UVZ Deputy Director-General Alexei Zharich said.

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