Indian T-90 Tanks To Get ‘Mango’ Firepower; Russian Armor-Piercing Rounds To Be Manufactured Locally

In a twist that would make any fruit vendor do a double-take, India is now growing its own ‘Mangoes’ – but these aren’t the sweet, juicy kind. We’re talking about the 3VBM17 Mango, a tank round so potent it can slice through armor like a hot knife through butter.

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JSC ROSOBORONEXPORT, a Russian defense giant and a key part of the Rostec State Corporation, has launched the production of 3VBM17 Mango armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot (APFSDS) rounds in India. These rounds are designed to penetrate armored vehicles equipped with composite armor, a critical capability for modern battlefield scenarios.

This initiative signifies a deepening Indo-Russian partnership aimed at localizing the manufacturing of 125mm 3VBM17 Mango rounds featuring an armor-piercing sub-caliber projectile. This endeavor is a significant stride towards India’s ambition of bolstering its defense manufacturing capabilities under initiatives like Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (Self-Reliant India).

Alexander Mikheev, General Director of Rosoboronexport, emphasized the importance of this collaboration: “Another important stage of Russian-Indian cooperation aligned with Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan has been achieved. Rosoboronexport has established key manufacturing facilities in India for Mango tank rounds, enabling technology transfer and local production.”

JSC Rosoboronexport, a Russian aerospace and defense company headquartered in Moscow, facilitates licensed production at the customer’s facilities and actively engages in establishing joint ventures to manufacture Russian military products in partner countries.

The 125mm Mango APFSDS Rounds

The 125mm Mango rounds, designed to be fired from the guns T-72 and T-90 MBTs, use the 3BM42 fin-stabilized armor-piercing sub-caliber round to penetrate modern tanks with composite armor.

These tanks are currently operational with the Indian Army. The Mango ammunition’s 3BM42 APFSDS projectile is specifically designed to engage and defeat modern main battle tanks with advanced protection.

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How Does APFSDS Work?

Armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot (APFSDS) rounds are specialized ammunition designed to pierce thick armor and destroy enemy tanks.

“Sabot” is a French word meaning “shoe” or “clog.” It refers to a device that surrounds a smaller projectile, allowing it to fit into a larger barrel. APFSDS projectiles have fins at the back for flight stability, and the sabot is discarded after the round exits the barrel.

These rounds are typically made of dense materials like tungsten or depleted uranium. Their high hardness and density enable them to penetrate armor. The projectile is usually long and thin and has a sharp tip and tapered tail. This design reduces drag and increases the projectile’s sectional density.

Upon impact, an APFSDS round creates a hole smaller than its diameter but deeper than its length. This occurs because the projectile deforms and fragments during penetration, resulting in a cone-shaped cavity behind it.

Upon impact with a target, APFSDF creates a hole smaller than its diameter but deeper than its length; this is because the projectile deforms and fragments during penetration, resulting in a cone-shaped cavity behind it.

Indo-Russia Strategic Collaborations

This Indo-Russian tango isn’t just a one-hit-wonder. It’s part of a long-running chart-topper of collaborations.

A T-90 Bhisma during combat exercise

The Mango projectile, tailored for deployment with T-72, T-90 MBTs, and other armored vehicles in the Indian Army, represents a significant advancement in the industrial cooperation between Russia and India. This collaboration builds upon past successes, including:

  • AK-203 Assault Rifles: In January 2023, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), a joint venture established in India by Rosoboronexport and Kalashnikov Concern (both subsidiaries of the Rostec State Corporation), commenced production of Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles. Recently, on July 5th, 2024, IRRPL announced the successful delivery of 35,000 AK-203 assault rifles to the Indian Army.

  • T-90 Mk-III: India has begun producing Russian-designed tanks domestically. Under a licensing agreement, ten newly manufactured T-90 Mk-III main battle tanks have been delivered to India by Armored Vehicles Nigam Limited (AVNL), a state-owned entity. This delivery is part of a larger contract for 464 T-90MS tanks. India has operated the T-90 since 2001, initially assembling over 500 tanks from kits imported from Russia. India officially adopted the T-90 in 2001, with the first 124 tanks completed in Russia and subsequent deliveries in knocked-down form for final assembly in India. Since the early 2000s, India’s Ordnance Factory Board has assembled upwards of 500 T-90S tanks, imported from Russia in kit form, at its Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF). In November 2019, India awarded a $3.12 billion contract for local production of 464 T-90S main battle tanks, following payment of a technology transfer fee to Russia.

  • Igla-S Anti-Aircraft Missiles: In November 2023, Russia concluded a deal to supply India with Igla-S hand-held/man-portable anti-aircraft missiles and enable their licensed production. In April, India received its initial batch of 24 Igla-S missiles from Russia, along with 100 missiles, enhancing its very short-range air defense (VSHORAD) capabilities.

  • S-400 AD Systems: India and Russia signed a deal valued at over $5B for the supply of five squadrons of S-400 air defense missiles. India has already received three squadrons of the system out of the five ordered in 2018. Additionally, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has activated the three received S-400s. According to state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Russia plans to deliver the remaining two squadrons of S-400 air defense missile systems to India by the third quarter of 2026.

Indo-Russia Cooperation: Looking Ahead

Rosoboronexport underscores the longstanding military-technical cooperation between Russia and India, dating back to the mid-1950s. Currently, 70% of India’s armed forces are equipped with Soviet or Russian weapons.

Looking forward, there are plans to localize gunpowder production in India to maximize self-sufficiency in Mango shell manufacturing. This initiative aligns with India’s broader goals of enhancing domestic defense manufacturing capabilities and reducing reliance on imports.

It’s worth noting recent events during the Russia-Ukraine conflict: In early July 2024, Ukrainian kamikaze drones targeted the Tambov Gunpowder Plant in Kotovsk, Tambov Oblast, and an oil depot in Klintsy, Bryansk Oblast, causing significant damage to these military facilities. Previously, Ukraine Defense Intelligence had launched attacks on the Tambov Gunpowder Plant in January 2024 and November 2023.

“To ensure the highest degree of localization of Mango shells, it is planned to launch gunpowder production in India in the future,” said Sergey Chemezov.

According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published in March 2024, Russia remains India’s largest arms supplier, accounting for 36% of India’s arms imports. Notably, SIPRI highlights that between 2019 and 2023, Russian deliveries comprised less than half of India’s arms imports for the first time in a five-year period since 1960-1964.

This underscores the enduring strategic significance of Indo-Russian defense collaborations amid evolving global security dynamics.

  • Shubhangi Palve is a defense and aerospace journalist. Before joining the EurAsian Times, she worked for E.T. Prime. In this capacity, she focused on covering defense strategies and the defense sector from a financial perspective. She offers over 15 years of extensive experience in the media industry, spanning print, electronic, and online domains.
  • Contact the author at shubhapalve (at) gmail (dot) com.