T-90M tank production takes lead over T-72B3 overhauls in Russia

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In a captivating video spanning nearly 18 minutes, Russia’s leading tank manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod, unveils the comprehensive assembly line production of the T-72 along with its B3 upgrade, as well as the advanced T-90M Proryv. An intriguing highlight is the focus on Workshop 130, an assembly line specifically dedicated to tank hulls. 

Video screenshot

The video features Alexey Kalityuk, the Deputy Head of Production at Uralvagonzavod, as its central figure. He also appears in the debut episode of “Behind”, a new Russian TV show offering a behind-the-scenes look at impressive operations like these. The creators of “Behind” promise viewers additional sneak peeks into production at military plants around Nizhny Tagil, Kurgan, St. Petersburg, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Omsk.

Just to quickly revisit what Kalityuk pointed out, a couple of noteworthy aspects come to the fore. Firstly, the T-90M Proryv model 2024 introduces a novel protective feature for the pallet ejection hatch. Secondly, it appears that the construction of the T-90M Proryv takes precedence over the refurbishment and updating of the T-72B3. This might be because T-72 stockpiles seem to be dwindling rapidly, with numbers reducing from the frontline and reserves alike. To put things in perspective, between 1984 and 1992, a staggering total of 5,700 T-72B and T-72B1 tanks were manufactured, as per reports from BulgarianMilitary.com. 

Photo by Samil Ritdikov

Redirecting our attention to the T-90M, a few distinguishing characteristics captured in the video are noteworthy. Kalityuk emphasizes that the T-90M has a significant edge over the American (Abrams) and Western tanks, thanks to its unique three-man crew configuration. A standout feature detailed in the video is the automated ammunition loading system, which gives Russian tanks an advantage, facilitating the three-man crew. In contrast, American tanks require a four-person crew, with an additional member given the responsibility of loading the tank’s gun.

Next up on our list, the entire transmission segment of the T-90M is created using local resources. Everything, from the transmission system, gearbox, and oil filters, to reducers, is manufactured domestically. Kalitiuk further underscores the point by stating that even the semiconductors and all electrical wiring, down to each individual socket, are produced in-house. 

The documentary by Uralvagonzavod appears to be a strategic move to show everyone — Russians and the global audience alike — that operations are in full swing, with T-90M production being their top priority. Kalityuk affirms this line of thought in the video, revealing that a three-shift system is in place—morning, afternoon, and night—to maintain the momentum. He further highlights that since the initiation of the “special military operation” in Ukraine [a term that Russia uses to refer to the war], Uralvagonzavod has been operating at maximum capacity for over two years.

Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov

How many T-90M tanks can Uralvagonzavod actually produce each year? Some sources peg them at a potential 130, while others extend that estimate up to 200. However, both numbers settle far below the annual production of 1,500 T-90 tanks projected by Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, just last year. 

The strategic emphasis on T-90M production over the T-72B3 may be understood from numerous perspectives. Simplified production, cost reduction, and efficiency could all point the needle toward the T-90M, especially when viewed against the backdrop of imposed Western economic sanctions.

Let’s take a closer look at the T-72B3 tank. It’s essentially an improved model of the T-72 main battle tank, and it incorporates various Western-developed systems and components. For instance, it uses the Catherine-FC thermal imager, constructed by the French firm Thales Optronics. Also featured is a Swiss-produced air conditioning system. While it doesn’t directly influence the tank’s combat strength, it significantly enhances the comfort and endurance of the crew––a critical factor in harsh climate conditions. 

Photo credit: Pinterest

The T-72B3 boasts an auxiliary power unit [APU] manufactured by Belgium’s SABCA. The primary function of this APU is to power the tank’s various systems when the main engine isn’t operational. This results in the operation of crucial systems, like communications and surveillance equipment, without having to tap into the tank’s main energy unit.

Russia asserts that it has efficient replacements for all Western components. However, it’s uncertain if these locally-produced parts can truly rival the efficiency of their Western counterparts.  

Simultaneously, a greater emphasis on the manufacturing of the T-90M could potentially heighten challenges for Ukraine’s armed forces. Certainly, the T-90M tank isn’t indestructible, as evidenced by Ukraine’s success in demolishing several Russian T-90Ms. Yet, the ratio of destroyed T-90Ms to T-72B3s is significantly lower, indicating a potential threat to Ukraine’s army.

Photo credit: Mil.press

It’s quite astounding how the T-90M and T-72B3 tanks compare to each other. The former boasts a superior fire control system, the Kalina. This technology enables the T-90M to lock onto and engage multiple targets concurrently, granting a considerable edge in combat scenarios.  

In addition to this, the T-90M is equipped with a more powerful engine than that of the T-72B3. Equipped with an 1130 horsepower engine, the T-90M can achieve greater speeds and maneuver the battlefield more efficiently. This type of enhanced mobility often proves to be a game-changer in any tank warfare situation.

One noticeable advantage of the T-90M is its enhanced ground arsenals protection. Equipped with Relikt explosive reactive armor, this tank manages modern anti-tank weapons far better than the Contact-5 featured on the T-72B3. As a result, it has a significantly increased survival rate in battles. 

Photo credit: Twitter

Furthermore, the T-90M shows considerable networking intelligence. It is seamlessly integrated into the nerve center of Russia’s military network, ensuring improved coordination with different units and more efficient battlefield operations – quite unlike the T-72B3 which lacked this essential attribute.

With a substantial upgrade in its weaponry, the T-90M now boasts a 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore cannon. This firearm notably outshines the T-72B3’s 2A46M in terms of precision and firing distance, enabling the T-90M to neutralize threats without endangering itself. 

In a notable series of events in October 2022, T-90M tanks made their debut in Ukraine. According to some Russian specialists, Moscow’s strategy at the time seemed to be to flood the foremost sections of the battle line.

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