The Buzz

Russia's T-90 Is Dangerous Weapon. Could It Beat America's Best Tank in Battle?

Comparing the two, the armaments are practically the same. While the ammunition datalink being part of the SEP v3 is reported as an innovation, the Russians have fielded similar capability with the Ainet ammunition datalink since the T-90K in the early 1990s. Ammunition quality is probably relatively similar, although the new M829A4 is said to be able to defeat third-generation ERA packages, which would include the T-90M’s Relikt. The T-90M’s slat and net armor packages would have no effect on an APFSDS round, as they are geared towards HEAT-type projectiles. The T-90M likely uses the same “Svinets” rounds which have been in service since the 2000s, which are considered to be fairly lethal. The T-90M also retains the ability to shoot the Invar gun-launched ATGMs, a capability the M1A2 never really possessed despite the theoretical ability to do so with Israeli LAHAT missiles. In terms of detection, the M1A2 is probably superior because of the third-generation domestic thermal imagers, compared to the T-90M’s foreign export imagers. Mobility wise, the T-90M’s lighter weight gives it increased operational mobility.

In a fight, the M1A2 SEP v3’s Trophy system would probably neutralize any advantage the T-90M’s Invar-M ATGM gives. The Invar’s speed of 350 m/s is well within Trophy’s interception window, given that a Rafael states that Trophy is able to intercept HEAT AT rounds, which can travel in the range of nine hundred m/s. Coming down to a gunfight, both tanks likely could penetrate each other and probably possess similar levels of gun accuracy. That said, the M1A2 SEP v3’s crew is more likely to survive a penetration, since the ammunition is stored in an armored bustle separated from the crew with blowout panels in the rear of the turret. The T-90M partly retains the old-school Russian arrangement, with ammunition in the autoloader being placed around the turret crew. But some rounds have been moved into a separate compartment in the turret bustle with blowout panels similar to the Abrams, as the T-90M turret is significantly longer than a regular T-90 or T-72 turret. The victorious tank would likely be that with the more skilled crew.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national-security issues.

Image: Wikimedia Commons