T-90MS will be best new tank for the Indian army

10 November 2016 Mikhail Khodarenok, Gazeta.ru
The Indian military has pre-approved a $ 2 billion contract for purchase of 464 Russian T-90MS ‘Tagil’ tanks. The Uralvagonzavod management, which makes the T-90, considers the tank most suitable for the Indian army’s rearmament programme for a new main battle tank.
T-90MS at Russia Arms Expo-2016
T-90MS at Russia Arms Expo-2016. Source:RAE-2016

The Indian Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, has pre-approved an armaments modernization project for the Indian armed forces for a total sum of 821 billion rupees (over $ 12 billion), the Times of India (TOI) reported. 

According to the report in the TOI, what has been approved is the purchase of 83 fourth-generation Indian light multipurpose fighter aircraft Tejas Mark-1A and 464 Russian T-90 tanks, and 6 additional regiments of the Indian MRLS ‘Pinaka’.

India plans to set up a licensed assembly plant for the armoured forces through the Ministry of Defence Ordnance Factory Board.

The DAC’s approval is the penultimate barrier before the signing of the world’s largest tank contract over the past 15 years, without any exaggeration, Andrey Frolov, editor in chief of the magazine Arms Export, told Gazeta.ru.

"This confirms Russia’s place in the global market as the largest developer, manufacturer and supplier of armoured vehicles. The T-90MS will allow Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) to reach a higher level of production, while keeping all the features of earlier T-90 tanks,” said Frolov.

Frolov said that earlier, Indians did not fully realize the potential of the licensed assembly of Russian tanks, even though they already have such an experience. "Some things will be made in UVZ and others in India. In any event, both for the domestic producers, as well as for the Indian party, it would be an advantageous contract", said a source of Gazeta.ru.

On the eve of the Defexpo 2016 India arms exhibition in March, Oleg Siyenko, the CEO of the UVZ Corporation, outlined in an interview with Gazeta.ru, Uralvagonzavod’s plans to modernize the T-90 and T-72 Indian tanks.

"The Corporation is considering the Indian market as a priority and a promising one,", said Siyenko

UVZ’s cooperation with India began in 1978, with the delivery of T-72 tanks. Later, UVZ specialists helped in rebuilding the tank factory at Avadi to facilitate the licensed production of T-72 tanks. The latest stage of cooperation started in 2001, when the first contract for the supply of T-90S tanks to India was signed. Currently, India is implementing a programme for licensed production of the T-90 ‘Bhishma,’ and various after sales service projects of armoured vehicles, including spare parts and engines. In response to an Indian request, UVZ offered individual modernization options for T-72 tanks, and for modernization of the T-90S.

Siyenko said the Indian army plans to stop commissioning T-72 tanks in 2025-2030 and replace them with the average main battle tanks of the future. The project is known in India as the FRCV (Future Ready Combat Vehicle). The Russian T-90MS (upgraded T-90S) meets all parameters and could come under the new Indian tank fleet upgrade, said the UVZ CEO.

"If we receive a request from the Indian partners to test the upgraded T-90S, Uralvagonzavod will be ready to send it to the test", said Siyenko.

"I personally observed great interest, among the senior Indian military men, in the T-90MS tank at the Russian Arms Expo (RAE) exhibition in Nizhny Tagil", said Viktor Murakhovski, chief editor of Arsenal Otechestva (Russian military review – translator’s note). The ‘Tagil’ exhibition demonstrated combat techniques in action as part of military formations, and almost at the same site, next to the static display.

"The Indians were really convinced of the high combat capabilities of the T-90MS, compared with the T-90 machine, which is available in service in India. T-90MS is definitely an entrance to a new level. And since this vehicle has new ammunition, we can say a new weapons system," explained Murakhovski.

The expert said Pakistan would purchase armoured vehicles from China soon. Chinese armed forces demonstrated their model of the new VT-5 tank at the November Airshow China 2016.

"India is therefore concerned about maintaining the military and technical superiority in the field of armoured vehicles. However, it would be rash to expect that the contract will be signed as early as tomorrow. In India, such things are not done quickly", said Murakhovski.

The T-90 went through baptism of fire in Syria in the spring of 2016. The first reports of the Syrian army receiving mechanized divisions of the Russian T-90 appeared November 29, 2015. On February 5, sources of RNS agency in the Russian Ministry of Defence explained that, at the end of 2015, a large consignment of Russian T-90A tanks, which had previously operated in the Russian army, were delivered in Syria. Syrian tank crews even trained on the Russian sites. According to the agency, the T-90A tanks were first used by the Syrian army near the city of Aleppo, ensuring protection of the Syrian army assault groups.

Yeni Safak, Turkey’s pro-government newspaper and the Iranian news agency Fars reported that the T-90A was involved in attacks on militants. Online videos, posted by the Syrian SANA agency where these machines are shown, proved that Russian T-90As were used.

The T-90 battle tank, built from 1980-1990 on the base of the T-72B, was named ‘Vladimir’ in honour of head designer Vladimir Potkin. The T-90MS is a modernized version of the tank’s export model, named ‘Tagil’. It is equipped with a 125-mm smoothbore gun – 2A46M-5 launcher, guided by missiles with laser-guided sight with thermal imager. The maximum sighting range of the armour-piercing shells is 4,000 m, and high-explosive shells – up to 9,600 m. The maximum range of the direct shot at the target height of 2 m. is 2120 m. The tank is also protected with dynamic protection against chemical and armour-piercing shells. At the customer’s request, the active protection Arena-E system to combat anti-tank guided missiles can be installed in the T-90MS.

First published in Russian by Gazeta.ru.

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