Dogfight! Russian T-90 vs. American M1A1 Abrams tank

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Tanks T-90 and M1A1 “Abrams” are typical representatives of the Soviet and Western schools of tank building, which are based on various design and technological ideas.

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The T-90, a deep modernization of the reliable and well-proven T-72 tank, was created after the collapse of the USSR and absorbed all the best that was laid in Soviet tanks. A modernized version of the 125 mm 2A46M4 smoothbore gun was installed on the tank as the main gun.

The armor of the tank has increased almost 3 times compared to the first modifications of the T-72 and includes both powerful passive armor, with special armor of the “semi-active” type, and built-in “active” dynamic protection, which made it possible to ensure a high level of booking without going beyond the weight restrictions due to the indicators of strategic mobility.

An economical and reliable diesel engine В92С2 is installed in the tank as a power plant. With the transition to the production of a new type of welded turret, the possibilities for enhancing the armor increased even more.

The layout of the T-90 is characterized by a high density, typical for the domestic school of tank building. This has both advantages and disadvantages. The dense layout allows you to create a highly protected vehicle with a low silhouette and a small cross-sectional and longitudinal area with a relatively low weight.

Accordingly, a smaller internal volume (for the T-90 tank 11.8 m3 and 13 for the T-90S) requires less armor mass. The disadvantage of the dense layout is the tightness of the crew members, it is difficult for crew members to replace each other if necessary.

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Tank M1 “Abrams” was created primarily not as a breakthrough tank, but as an anti-tank weapon, the task of which was to stop, or at least delay waves of Soviet tanks rushing to the English Channel.

The creation of the tank was carried out in close cooperation with German tank builders, but with American specifics. Starting with the M1A1 modification, the 120 mm M-256 cannon, which is a slightly modified version of the German Rh-120 cannon, was installed as the main weapon on the tank.

Reservation of the first modifications of the tank includes a multi-layer composite armor “Chobham” created in the UK. On later modifications, armor was applied using uranium ceramics of the first and second generations.

M-1-Abrams vs T-90

The layout of the M1 “Abrams” tank is typical for the Western approach to tank building, as a result of which the booked volume of the tank was 19.7 M3, which is almost 2 times higher than that for the T-90.
The tank is powered by an AGT-1500 gas turbine engine made in one
block with automatic hydromechanical transmission.

The disadvantage of the M1 is the limited ability of the commander to independently search for the target, the small magnification and lack of stabilization of the field of view of the M919 sight do not allow to confidently detect and identify targets while the tank is moving.

This drawback was eliminated only on the M1A2 modification. A panoramic thermal imaging device for the commander is installed on the M1A2, the T-90 tanks, like their predecessors, also have such a panoramic device for finding targets and pointing guns, however, without a thermal imaging channel.

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Firepower and ammunition

М1А1 / М1А2

The main armament of the М1А1 / М1А2 is the 120 mm smoothbore gun М256. The muzzle velocity when using the M829A2 round is 1675 m / s.
Rate of fire – up to 8 rounds per minute.

To date, the main anti-tank weapons of the M1A1 “Abrams” are the armor-piercing sub-caliber shells M829A1 and M829A2.

Also, the production and delivery of a new M829A3 projectile to the troops began, which poses a serious threat to the T-90 tank. Development is underway to create a guided TERM projectile, however, they are still far from completion.

T-90 against “Abrams”

The main armament of the T-90 is a 125-mm modernized smooth-bore cannon-launcher. 2A46M-2 (4) The muzzle velocity when using the 3BM-44M round is 1750 m / s.

Rate of fire – 6-8 rounds per minute. The main anti-tank weapons of the T-90 are also armor-piercing subcaliber shells (3BM-42 and 3BM-42M) and the Reflex-M guided weapon system with 9M119M and 9M119M1 missiles, which ensure the destruction of M1A1NA tanks in all areas of the frontal projection at a distance of up to 5000 m.

The defeat of the M1A2 tank is provided only in the weakened zones, which account for up to 40% of the frontal projection.

Simulation of the oncoming engagement of tank companies (10 T-90 tanks against 10 M1A1 tanks) showed that, starting with the TUR firing at a range of 5000 m, T-90s manage to hit up to 50-60% of enemy tanks at a range of 2000 – 2500 m. Naturally, this is only possible if the terrain allows it.

In addition, perceptive complexes are being developed that implement the principle of “fire and forget” and defeat the tank not in the powerful Lobova armor, but in the thin sections of the roof of the tower and hull.

In terms of the development and introduction of new armor-piercing sub-caliber projectiles into the troops, there has been a lag in the last decade. No response was given to the emergence of new threats, therefore, the defeat of the M1A2 tank at all distances from the first hit is not guaranteed.

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The industry is delaying the delivery of already developed ammunition to the troops, and funding for work on new models is disrupted.

Armor М1А1НА
Equivalent resistance against kinetic ammunition: 530-550 mm. Equivalent resistance against cumulative ammunition: 750-800 mm.

M1A2 (1994)
Equivalent resistance to kinetic ammunition: 770 mm. Equivalent resistance against cumulative ammunition: 1000-1200 mm.

The tower of the M1A1 tank consists of outer and inner steel armor plates connected by transverse stiffening ribs, between which special armor packages made of metallic and non-metallic materials are laid.
Due to their high density (the density of uranium is 19.03 g / cm3), these plates, with an extremely small thickness, provide an “explosive” nature of destruction of the elements of the cumulative jet.

Equivalent resistance against kinetic ammunition: 800-830 mm with Contact-5 protection. Equivalent resistance against cumulative ammunition: 1,150-1,350 mm with Contact-5 protection

Equivalent resistance against cumulative ammunition is indicated for the first generation monobloc warheads.
The turret armor of the T-90 tank is of the “semi-active” type.

In the front part of the turret there are two cavities located at an angle of 55 degrees to the longitudinal axis of the gun, in which special armor packages of the “semi-active” type are located. The structure of the armor with reflective sheets is a barrier consisting of 3 layers: a plate, a spacer and a thin plate.

The effect of using “reflective” sheets can reach 40% in comparison with monolithic armor of the same mass. In addition, the tank also uses a complex of built-in dynamic protection “Contact-5”, this type of DZ works both against cumulative weapons (CW) and against armor-piercing sub-caliber projectiles (BPS).

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The complex provides a powerful lateral impulse to destabilize or destroy the BPS core before it interacts with the main armor.

The T-90 was for the first time serially installed a complex of optoelectronic countermeasures TSHU-1-7 “Shtora-1”. “Shtora-1” is designed to protect the tank from being hit by guided weapons with command semi-automatic guidance systems such as “Tow”, “Hot”, “Milan”, “Dragon”, laser homing heads such as “Maverick”, “Hellfire”, “Copper- head ”, as well as artillery systems with laser rangefinders.

Vulnerable areas

M1 “Abrams”

An impermissibly large gap between the armor of the hull and turret. The gap is so great that it is possible to get under the Abrams tower at a great distance, for this you can aim at the upper frontal sheet located at a very large angle – if a ricochet occurs, then it is necessary under the tower.

In this case, neither the high armor of the frontal part of the hull, nor the thick armor of the turret will help. Poor armor of the sides in the area of ​​the engine-transmission and fighting compartment makes the tank vulnerable to small-caliber artillery fire, for example, the range of confident defeat when using the Kerner BP projectile at an angle of 38 to 90 degrees will be up to 2000 meters (500 m for a BT projectile).


Vulnerable zones in the armor of the T-90 are areas on both sides of the cannon that are not covered by built-in reactive armor and do not have special armor (in the place where the coaxial machine gun is installed).

There is also a weakened zone on the upper front of the hull in the area of ​​the driver’s sight. This is a design feature of all domestic tanks, starting with the T-64.


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