Russian army received ‘slightly different’ T-90M and T-72 tanks

As announced on December 28, Uralvagonzavod, the apex tank producer in Russia, has affirmed their delivery of the scheduled consignment of tanks for the year to the Russian military, aligning with the country’s state plans. Yet, an intriguing detail resides within this official communication. 

Moscow: T-90M tanks fire cutting-edge shrapnel-exploding shells
Photo by Maksim Blinov / Sputnik

In 2023, the specialist armored units, the T-90M Proryv, and the T-72B3M, were dispensed with a subtle alteration in their make-up compared to their 2022 equivalents deployed to the Russian forces. The discrepancy between the variants dispensed amid the two consecutive years of ongoing conflict in Ukraine is not explicitly clarified by the Russian manufacturing authority. However, underlying reports hint that this year’s conversion in the tanks’ makeup can be associated with the prevailing circumstances on the battlefield. 

A shared consensus among Russian experts in 2023 suggests that both tank models have been optimized to enhance the protection afforded by the tanks while escalating their operational performance.

Russia achieved a new level of upgrading the T-72 - it is T-72B4
Photo credit: blogspot

Close-fitting “bricks”

As reported by BulgarianMilitary.com in early December, Russian tanks outfitted with unusually dense layers of dynamic protection have been sighted in Ukraine. Notably, these blocks, often referred to as ‘bricks’, are a type of reactive armor commonly used in Russia. They were arranged in such a concentrated pattern that even the crew hatchways had been decked out with these blocks. 

The objective of such a design is evident – to augment the upper hemisphere defense of the vehicle against potential attacks from skidding threats and FPV drones. 

Uralvagonzavod installed very dense ERA blocks in T-90M tanks
Photo credit: Twitter

Fascinatingly, this added security measure almost completely conceals the protective covering. It has simply morphed into a foundation for affixing the ERA blocks. The way these protection blocks are densely packed, even on the tower hatches that are shrouded with foldable chain-link screens, is quite conspicuous.

Anti-drone protection

In 2022, the significance of kamikaze drones in the Ukrainian conflict saw a decline compared to their prominence in 2023. This observation extends to both warring parties. Interestingly, as we highlighted earlier this year, notable advancements were made by Uralvagonzavod to their T-90 and T-72 tanks with the integration of mobile anti-drone protection systems. 

Russian T-72 and T-90M tanks will detect UAVs at 4 km distance
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

Claims have surfaced linking Roselectronics, a Russian company, to the development of this upgrade, though no concrete evidence has been presented. The company has supposedly developed an improved anti-drone defense system dubbed ‘Protection’ or ‘Zashtita’. This revamped Zashtita system boasts an increased maximum detection range of UAV control signals, expanding from 6 to 8 GHz while maintaining a minimum range at 300 MHz. Designed to detect a wide array of drones, this system remains undetectable to enemy radars and impervious to radio jamming. It also employs round-the-clock detection and suppression capabilities within a range of 2 to 4 km. 

Another potential solution is the tank-fitted version of the ‘Sapsan-Bekas UAV detection and countermeasure system. This was developed by the Avtomatika concern, also a subsidiary of the Rostec state corporation. 

The Sapsan-Bekas complex equally features 24-hour aerial monitoring and is composed of three subsystems: a radio detection system, direction finding, active radar, video and optical-electronic tracking with a thermal imaging channel, and a subsystem for radio suppression. It operates in a broad frequency range – from 400 MHz to 6 GHz.

Active protection

In 2022, not every tank in the Russian arsenal was equipped with top-tier active protection. However, in 2023, Uralvagonzavod declared it would begin to outfit its T-90M and T-72 tanks with their finest active defense technology – the Afganit – starting from the middle of the year. 

The Afganit, a cutting-edge innovation hailing from Russia, is an active tank protection system built to shield tanks from imminent threats like missiles and rockets. Remarkably resilient, this system employs a blend of sensors, radar, and a high-speed cannon to spot and neutralize incoming rounds before they make contact with the tank. 

UVZ struggles to equip Russian T-90Ms with hard-kill Afganit APS
Photo credit: Reddit

Engineered to work in conjunction with other defensive mechanisms such as armor and jet armor, the Afganit system possesses the ability to counter multiple threats at once. This capability renders it a formidable asset in battlefield situations. 

Capable of engaging enemies within a 50-meter radius, the Afganit system is designed to counter threats from any direction. It particularly excels in close-quarters combat, which is particularly beneficial in urban warfare scenarios where tanks are often near buildings and other structures. 

The Afganit system has been subjected to thorough testing and has demonstrated its effectiveness in shielding tanks from incoming projectiles. It’s currently being used by the Russian military and is dubbed one of the most advanced active defense systems globally.

Tank projectiles

When it comes to the “slightly different” T-90M and T-72 tanks in 2023, it’s significant to highlight the advancements in their ammunition, particularly those used by the Russian T-90M tank. In a departure from 2022, the Moscow government has recently affirmed the T-90M’s employment of innovative shrapnel-exploding shells. 

This information was shared in October by the commander of the Ground Forces, Russian Army General Oleg Salyukov. Russian insiders suggest that these distinctive bullets, dubbed Telnik, represent a breakthrough in ammunition technology. 

Renowned for their fragmentation beam munitions, these novel projectiles have the unique capacity to unleash a rain of pre-made submunitions following an airborne explosion. 

Moscow: T-90M tanks fire cutting-edge shrapnel-exploding shells
Photo credit: Borba Info

“To up the ante in our barrage against the adversary’s forces, the T-90M tanks have been kitted out with the newly formulated Telnik high-explosive shells.” The General elucidated in his dialogue with the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper that these shells include pre-fashioned submunitions and are programmed to burst mid-air at a pre-set location along their course. 

Furthermore, Uralvagonzavod, the armored vehicle production plant is witnessing an escalation in their production every month. Sooner or later, the facility’s manufacturing capacity will hit its limit. However, insights from the plant’s Managing Director Alexander Potapov imply that this saturation point is still some way off. Notably, this observation comes in the context of the plant functioning non-stop, throughout the day.

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