India to buy 464 Russian-made T-90MS main battle tanks

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the INR134.48 billion (USD 1.93 billion) procurement of 464 Russian-made T-90MS main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Indian Army (IA), the New Delhi Times reports.

India to buy 464 T 90MS main battle tanks
T-90MS (Picture source: Army Recognition)

According to the New Delhi Times, the move by the CCS, which convened in early April and is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is said to be the penultimate step in the process of acquiring these MBTs and will be followed by the signing of a contract between India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Russia’s arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, during the next few months. The MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of the tanks in November 2016. Indian Army officers said the T-90MS MBTs would be imported in kit form from Russian manufacturer Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) for assembly by India’s state-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Avadi, southeastern India, and are expected to eventually equip 10 armoured regiments.

The officers said the acquisition of the T-90MS MBTs has become necessary following the “slow pace” at which the HVF has been licence-building the 1,000 T-90S MBTs – designated ‘Bhishma’ in Indian service – it had contracted in 2006–07 to complete by 2020. So far, the HVF has licence-built merely 350–400 units of the T-90S, which is the export version of the T-90 MBT in service with the Russian army. The T-90MS is a development of the Russian-made main battle tank T-90. The new T-90MS was presented for the first time to the public during the defence exhibition Russian Expo arms in September 2011. This tank is a complete modernization of the T-90 by touching all the characteristics of the basic variant to increase its operational capabilities in combat and against modern threats of the battlefield. The weight of the T-90MS has increased of 1,500 kg, compared to the basic model of the T-90 to reach 48 tons, but it remains significantly lower compared to the German main battle tank Leopard 2A6 and the American M1A2 Abrams.

India to buy 464 T 90MS main battle tanks 2
Bhishma MBT displayed at DexExpo India 2018 (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The T-90MSs are expected to supplement hundreds of Bhishma MBTs deployed in the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan in the north and northwest of the country, at the border with Pakistan. Since 2002 the HVF has also been assembling some 400–450 T-90S tanks delivered by Russia in kit form, the New Delhi Times also reports. The T-90MS requirement may also stem from the lack of progress on India’s indigenous Arjun MBT programme, which was intended to provide a heavy armour solution for defending against Pakistan.