Russia Delivers More Modernized T-72B3 and T-90M Tanks for Immediate Use in Ukraine

In a recent announcement by ROSTEC, Russia's state defense company, on December 28, 2023, it was revealed that the firm has completed two new contracts for the Russian Ministry of Defense. These contracts involve the delivery of modernized versions of T-72B3 and T-90M Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), which have already been dispatched to the troops for immediate deployment in Ukraine.
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Modernized T-72B3 MBTs Main Battle Tanks on railway carriages ready to be delivered to the Russian armed forces. (Picture source ROSTEC)

This development underscores the Russian defense industry's resilience and capability to continue manufacturing and upgrading military equipment and tanks, despite facing economic sanctions due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The modernization of the T-72B3 and T-90M tanks is particularly notable, as it incorporates significant enhancements based on combat experience gained in Ukraine. These improvements are expected to bolster the performance and effectiveness of these tanks in active combat scenarios.

In the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the T-72B3 and T-90M have emerged as the most extensively utilized tanks in the Russian arsenal. These Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), recognized for their robust design and advanced combat capabilities, have been at the forefront of Russia's military operations in the region.

The T-72B3, an upgraded version of the classic T-72, has been particularly favored for its balance of firepower, protection, and mobility. It features modernized armor, an enhanced engine, and advanced fire control systems, making it a formidable presence on the battlefield. This tank has been instrumental in providing ground support and engaging in direct combat operations.

Similarly, the T-90M represents a significant leap in tank technology. It is equipped with state-of-the-art defensive systems, including reactive armor and sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities. The T-90M also boasts enhanced firepower with its improved main gun and ammunition types, allowing for greater effectiveness against a range of targets.

As a response to the evolving nature of warfare in Ukraine, particularly the increased use of FPV drones and loitering munitions, significant upgrades have been made to the Russian T-732B and T-90M tanks. These enhancements are designed to counter these new aerial threats and improve overall survivability on the battlefield.

One of the key upgrades is the addition of a "cope cage" or slat armor. This feature, mounted on the tanks' exterior, is specifically designed to disrupt the effectiveness of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which are common threats in modern combat scenarios. The cage disrupts the operation of these weapons by causing them to detonate prematurely, thereby reducing their impact on the main armor of the tank.

In addition to the cope cage, the tanks have been outfitted with new armor technology. This includes enhanced composite armor and reactive armor panels that provide better protection against both kinetic energy penetrators and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. The modernized armor not only increases the tanks' resilience against traditional ground threats but also offers better defense against attacks from above, a typical attack vector for drones and loitering munitions.

Perhaps most notably, these tanks have been equipped with advanced counter-drone systems. These systems are designed to detect, track, and neutralize unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and loitering munitions. Utilizing a combination of radar, electronic warfare, and direct-fire capabilities, these counter-drone systems can effectively disrupt or destroy incoming aerial threats, thereby safeguarding the tanks and their crews.

These upgrades reflect a strategic shift in Russian military thinking, acknowledging the changing nature of threats in modern warfare. By incorporating these advanced defensive measures, the T-72B3 and T-90M tanks are better equipped to handle the complexities of the Ukrainian battlefield, where unconventional aerial threats have become increasingly prevalent. The integration of these technologies demonstrates Russia's commitment to adapting its military hardware to meet contemporary combat challenges.

Defense News December 2023