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Aug 17, 2022
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The National Interest: “M” stands for “Monster”

In the photo: battle tank T-90M

In the photo: T-90M battle tank (Photo: Sergey Bobylev / TASS)

It is difficult to name the exact date of the first appearance of the Russian main battle tank of the ground forces of the RF Armed Forces T-90M “Breakthrough” in the Ukrainian theater of operations today. Just like voicing the exact number of these unique tanks in the battle formations of the Russian contingent conducting a special military operation to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.

It is known that one of the T-90M “Breakthrough” groups was involved in the liberation of Mariupol, the other under the cover of the BMPT “Terminator-2” operated in Severodonetsk, and the third was seen in the vicinity of Artemovsk (Bakhmut). And if we talk about the radical change that arose during the special operation “Z” after their application is not entirely correct, then the statement about the resetting of the “Breakthrough” plans for the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in one or another strategic direction is an elementary statement of fact.

And the heart-rending howl raised by the harried underexperts about the “Nedoarmata”, and this is how the “descendants of the Sumerians” christened the Russian tank, independent of common sense and sense of self-preservation, most fully characterizes the psychological effect that his work had on the enemy. Although there is some truth, strange as it may sound, in their cries. The T-90M “Breakthrough-3” is really only outwardly, and even then very remotely, reminiscent of the T-90. All the insides are created from scratch, or rather, obtained from the T-14 “Armata” – the only fourth-generation serial tank to date. By the way, some US analysts consider it wrong to classify the T-90M Proryv-3 as a third-generation tank, basing their doubts on its advancement.

The “club” of fourth-generation tanks already in service is quite small – in addition to the T-14 Armata, its members are the Japanese Type-10 and the South Korean K2 Black Panther. True, cautious Koreans prefer to call their combat vehicle “the next generation tank.”

Therefore, returning to the “Breakthrough”, we can partly agree with the classification of the ball joint “specialists” – the T-90M “Breakthrough-3” can be considered a cheaper, but no less effective version of the “Armata”.

Indeed, unlike their constantly jumping “smaller brothers”, analysts of the American Center for Naval Research CNA, close to the Pentagon, are sure that “in terms of combat effectiveness and situational awareness at medium and long distances” the T-90M “Breakthrough” has no analogues among foreign tanks”. A Andrew Leewho at one time was a freelance analyst at Global Security, openly stated that “the T-90M is qualitatively superior to any Russian or foreign tank.” By the way, the conservative American edition of The National Interest dubbed the main battle tank of the Ground Forces of the RF Armed Forces T-90M “Proryv-3” a “monster”. That is how overseas they preferred to decipher the letter “M”, which appeared in the name of the combat vehicle.

So what is the T-90M “Breakthrough” – another “fancy”, but still a modification that came down in 1992 from the assembly line of JSC “NPK Uralvagonzavod im. F. E. Dzerzhinsky “T-90 or a fundamentally new combat vehicle? Of course, the Proryv has a different hull and turret from the T-90, a modern artillery mount and improved interior space ergonomics, its on-board radio and electronic equipment is made using a new element base, but isn’t the deep modernization program designed to solve similar problems? Well, let’s figure it out.

Since 2004, specialists from the Ural Design Bureau of Transport Engineering have been actively modernizing the basic version of the T-90 main battle tank as part of the Breakthrough-2 project. The customer, represented by the Russian defense department, having tested the T-90AM resulting from the R&D, issued a new technical task, which formed the basis of the program, called “Breakthrough-3”.

The main goal of this program was the creation of a serial combat vehicle capable of not only resisting all the tanks in service with the armies of a potential enemy today, but radically superior in key technical and operational parameters to such vehicles as the Leopard 2A7 (Germany), Abrams M1A2SEP (USA), K2 Black Panther (South Korea) and Leclerc S21 (France).

The Breakthrough-3 project, which started at the beginning of the second decade of this century, was based on design and engineering solutions successfully implemented in the T-90AM and T-90MS in combination with the results of the experience of their military operation. The “Object 188M” or T-90M “Breakthrough” was first presented to the general public at the exposition of the Army International Military-Technical Forum in 2018.

Talking about the cardinal differences between the main battle tank T-90M “Proryv-3”, we will make a reservation that the information below is quite general. This seems quite logical, given the fact of the secret status of both the combat vehicle itself and the vast majority of its tactical, technical and operational characteristics.

The first thing you should pay attention to is the significantly increased thrust-to-weight ratio of the tank compared to the T-90. Having received a forced 12-cylinder multi-fuel turbodiesel V-92S2F (1130 hp) as a power plant, the Breakthrough acquired the ability to move quite quickly. And the placement of the engine in a unified unit with an automatic transmission made it possible to use the automatic gear shift system even in combat conditions. On highway surfaces, the tank is capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 km / h, while maintaining a fairly decent 50 km / h on rough terrain.

It should be noted that equipping a new tank with an on-board information and control system (CICS), which provides automatic diagnostics of systems, units and components of a combat vehicle, not only effectively minimizes the number of breakdowns and accidents, but also guarantees protection of the tank chassis from incorrect actions of the driver.

The second is a significant increase in the firepower of the new tank. The T-90M “Breakthrough” received a new modified version of the 2A46M-5 smooth-bore artillery gun with a caliber of 125 millimeters (developed by JSC “Plant No. 9” and put into service in 2005), which, in combination with an improved automatic loader, remotely controlled anti-aircraft gun UDP T05BV -1 (7.62 mm), a highly automated multifunctional digital fire control system and new ammunition significantly increased the combat power of the tank. Of the known characteristics of the artillery mount, it should be noted that the accuracy of firing increased by 25-30%, a 15% increase in the target engagement range and an increase in barrel survivability to 900 shots.

SLA “Kalina”, which, according to the majority of specialized experts, is the most effective of all similar systems currently used in the RF Armed Forces and combines a gunner’s multispectral sight, a commander’s panoramic sight equipped with an integrated ballistic computer, a combat information and computer system of a tactical level and sensors of firing conditions, provides a solution to a whole range of tasks, including:

– integration of a combat vehicle into the automated control system of a tank battalion;

– operational recognition and timely identification of targets;

– combining the received data with an electronic map of the area;

– capture and transfer of target designation to the gunner;

– a high degree of aiming stabilization in the vertical and horizontal planes.

Of course, one more possible option for equipping the T-90M Proryv-3 with an artillery mount, the 125-mm 2A82-1M smooth-bore mount, used in the famous promising Russian tank T-14 Armata, deserves mention.

Thirdly, this is a fundamentally different level of protection for a combat vehicle, starting from the Relikt universal modular dynamic protection in combination with individual components of the Afghanit active protection complex and ending with turret, side and aft lattice screens.

The fighting compartment of the T-90M “Proryv-3” is reliably protected by a Kevlar anti-fragmentation lining, which replaced the anti-neutron analogue used on the T-90. Combined (with a filler of steel inserts of increased hardness, plane-parallel plates and other components) anti-projectile armor in the frontal projection can withstand a projectile from any of the tanks currently in service with the armies of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance.

The design of the tank provides for the presence of special screens that protect the crew and the most important equipment from damage by secondary fragments, and ammunition and fuel supplies are placed based on considerations of maximum preservation of the survivability of the combat vehicle. The tank is equipped with an optical-electronic suppression system with a fairly wide operating range, which, combined with the minimum low (compared to any foreign tank) level of radar visibility, significantly increases the degree of protection of the T-90M on the battlefield.

The fourth is command control. This factor, which is not quite obvious at first glance, in a real battle becomes no less important than firepower, security or the level of maneuverability. The multiplex information exchange channel turns the entire set of tools available to the crew of the T-90M “Breakthrough”, including the fire control system, information and control system, topographic orientation systems, recognition of “friend or foe” and even an automatic loader, into a single, well-coordinated organism . Modern equipment successfully provides stable covert and noise-immune radio communication with technical masking modes and program frequency tuning.

And, finally, the fifth – the characteristic that plays, perhaps, the main role in the serial fate of any type of weapons and military equipment – the ratio of efficiency and price. It is noteworthy that according to this indicator, the main Russian battle tank T-90M “Proryv-3” simply has no competitors. Let’s take for example the same Abrams М1А2 SEP, the combat effectiveness of which, according to the consolidated opinion of the world expert community, is at least one and a half times lower than that of its Russian counterpart. But the amount of $ 6 million, which it costs the US Army, is twice the cost of the T-90M “Proryv-3”.

What else from the category of innovations that allow positioning this combat vehicle as a “new tank” remains outside the boundaries of our description? Of course, it is stuffed with modern technologies and electronic equipment. This category also includes an external video surveillance system, which seriously increases the information awareness of the crew, and a computer that performs the calculations necessary in the process of aiming and firing, and a completely new guidance system, and the presence of a wireless network for interaction between tank crews on the battlefield, and much more. other. The crew has a whole range of various sensors and meters at their disposal, from a Geiger counter to a modern anemometer.

And now, in fact, the answer to the question posed at the beginning: “What do we have?”. We answer: “A combat vehicle, the external and internal design changes of which ensured that it received fundamentally new tactical, technical and operational characteristics and retained only the name from its predecessor.” That is, in fact, a completely new main battle tank of the SV Armed Forces of Russia T-90M “Proryv-3”.

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