Ready, Aim, Fire!: Watch This Deadly Russian T-90MS Tank Go To War

February 18, 2019 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaMilitaryTechnologyWorldT-90

Ready, Aim, Fire!: Watch This Deadly Russian T-90MS Tank Go To War

All to capture some important arms sales. 


Earlier this week, Russian arms manufacturer Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) released a video of their T-90MS battle tank in action.

The footage, aired by the official channel of the Russian Ministry of Defense, depicts some highlights from the T-90MS’ most recent exercise.


The tank moves at high speeds past a grassy plain, before discharging its 125mm cannon with what appears to be good effect on target (GEOT); the clip ends with the T-90MS making its way down an unpaved road.

In a rarity for these types of demonstration videos, the clip is interspersed with technical footage from inside the tank.

The first fifteen seconds capture the targeting module at work, while the latter half shows the gunner operating the tank’s digitized onboard controls.

Why would UVZ go out of their way to highlight the tank’s inner workings? Consider the context.

The T-90MS is a modernized export version of the T-90 main battle tank, Russia’s staple heavy armor solution from the early 1990’s through 2011. Whereas arms exercise footage is typically intended for domestic consumption, UVZ was trying to reach an altogether different audience: foreign buyers.

Thus, the video aims less for entertainment value and more to demonstrate the T-90MS’ technical capabilities to foreign military experts. Footage of the T-90MS’ four, 360° view cameras is hardly exciting for general audiences, but conveys crucial purchasing information to importers. 

The T-90MS will be shown next week at IDEX-2019, the largest arms exhibition in the Middle East. To date, Rosoboronexport-- Russia’s arms export agency-- is on the verge of finalizing T-90MS orders with major clients including Egypt and Kuwait. With several contracts nearing completion, the Russians are looking to double down on the T-90MS’ success at IDEX-2019: “There have been many delegations that have gone through pre-contract motions. This tank is potentially our export leader,” said UVZ chief Alexei Zharich.

The T-90MS is also the successor to the T-90’s prior export variant, the T-90S, offering several key iterative improvements. The T-90MS boasts a slightly more powerful 1,130 horsepower V-92S2F diesel engine, improved 3,500 meter thermal imager, digital computer for monitoring topographical conditions, GLONASS navigation integration, and a revised turret bustle. Among the most impactful changes is the inclusion of modular explosive reactive armour (ERA) panels for increased protection against certain kinds of explosive blasts. 

The T-90MS’ export focus also brings into perspective some of its more controversial design choices. In a decision likely taken to suppress manufacturing costs, the UVZ has opted to arm the MS with a variant of the Soviet 2A46 smoothbore cannon found on the original T-90, rather than the newer 2A82-1M found on the recent T-90M and Russia’s upcoming, next-generation Armata tank.

Despite these active measures to maintain market competitiveness, the T-90MS will still come in at 4.5 millions dollars per unit, a steep increase over the 2.5-3.5 million dollars per unit of its T-90S predecessor. To capture as many segments of the heavy armor market as possible, the Russians will continue offering the T-90S and even the original T-90. Both are still perfectly viable options in medium and low-intensity conflicts, and remain in demand across the world.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.

Image: Creative Commons.