If a T-72/T-90 tank runs from dust, it creates a big infrared trail

The Algerian army boasts an impressive fleet of over 600 T-90S / SK tanks, according to IISS, and hundreds of modernized T-72s. However, as witnessed in Ukraine, these tanks have revealed certain limitations during ‘special military operations’. This feedback must be heeded and applied to improve the fleet, as highlighted by MENA Defense

If a T-72/T-90 tank runs from dust, it creates a big infrared trail
Photo credit: MWM

Algeria’s T-90S tanks come equipped with a 125-mm 2A46M-5 cannon, a PKT, an external NSVT, and the ESSA sighting system. This system was collaboratively developed by Thales, UVZ, and Peleng, and includes a 2nd generation Catherine FC IR camera with dual displays for the commander and gunner. They also boast a Kontakt-5 PDZ, and SAAB Barracuda multi-spectral camouflage that reduces the tank’s thermal, electromagnetic, and visual signature. 

The tank also features the TShU-1-7 “Shtora-1” passive protection kit, which includes active components like an electro-optical jamming system. This system has proven effective against anti-tank systems such as the Javelin, as observed during the war in Ukraine, according to MENA Defense. 

Tanks disadvantages

The T-90S uses a V-92S2 diesel engine with 1000 hp, which reportedly struggles to achieve speeds of 40 km/h off-road and 60 km/h on highways. This lack of speed is a serious disadvantage in modern warfare, where swift evasion and rapid response to enemy fire is crucial, according to an Algerian author. 

When it comes to the upgraded T-72s, these tanks simply have a T-90 turret installed and can be equipped with Kontakt-5 defense pods, as noted in the Algerian press. 

Notable shortcomings of the T-72/90 tanks include a strong IR trace created when the engine is running in dust, inadequate side protection against anti-tank systems and BOPS, lack of RPG protection, weak ammunition loading carousel protection, and insufficient additional armor. They also lack advanced communication systems and situational awareness capabilities. Despite these issues, the author maintains that updating the fleet is the most economical and rational choice. 

Why IR trail is bad for tanks?

Leaving a large infrared [IR] trail can be detrimental to a tank’s safety as it makes it easier for the enemy to detect and target the tank. IR sensors are commonly used in modern warfare to detect the heat signature of tanks and other vehicles.

Captured Russian-origin T-90А tank spotted in the US for research
Photo credit: YouTube

IR sensors can detect the heat signature of a tank’s engine, exhaust, and other hot spots. When a tank leaves a large IR trail, it creates a clear and distinct signature that can be easily picked up by IR sensors. This makes it easier for the enemy to track and target the tank, even in low visibility conditions such as at night or in dust storms.

Moreover, leaving a large IR trail can also compromise the tank’s stealth capabilities. Tanks are designed to be heavily armored and difficult to detect, but a large IR trail can give away its position and make it vulnerable to enemy attacks. This is especially true in modern warfare, where stealth and surprise are critical to success on the battlefield. 

Proposed T-72/90 upgrade

From a logistics standpoint, the author suggests switching to the ESM-350 system from RENK. This system allows tank operation via the steering wheel, increases power to 1150 hp, and improves forward and reverse speeds. The addition of an auxiliary power unit would enable the use of the tank’s armament and equipment without starting the engine, thus eliminating its IR footprint. 

For enhanced protection, the author recommends using defensive means like the T-90M – PZ “Relikt” and a casing at the back to counteract RPGs. The author also suggests merging the Shtora-1 system with KAZ, replacing the Barracuda camouflage with Cape and Ternovnik, and adding removable EDZ 4S24 box covers to increase onboard protection. 

That's why the sanctions don't affect the T-90M tank production
Video screenshot

The author asserts that ideally, each tank should have protection against drones. He proposes the installation of a jamming system like Aselsan Ithar or Sapsan-Bekas from Rostec. He also suggests replacing the machine gun on the tower with a remote-controlled turret of the same caliber and adding a remotely controlled AGS-40. 

To improve situational awareness, the author recommends using the Tactical Management System from Rheinmetall, which should enhance unit coordination and centralize information. Assigning a reconnaissance UAV to each tank could increase the surveillance area for the vehicle commander. The Aselsan Orumcek system could broadcast 360° video footage captured by panoramic cameras and a drone on his helmet. 

Despite these comprehensive upgrade suggestions, the Algerian author does not mention the cost and timeline for such an upgrade or the potential challenges of managing contracts with a wide range of onboard system suppliers. These are critical considerations for the successful implementation and maintenance of the proposed upgrades.


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