The recently concluded 3-day Egypt Defence Expo in Cairo saw a lot of interesting displays of military equipment. During the event, Rosoboronexport, the Russian government’s arms-exporting agency made a big presence with key systems including helicopters, armored vehicles, missile defense systems, and battle tanks.
However, the major attractions of the show were the T-90MS main battle tank and the BMPT ‘Terminator’ armored fighting vehicle, the most popular in the arms market.
The T-90, in particular, has been exported to over 10 countries and has been re-introduced with major upgrades.
“Tanks of the T-90 family and their armored derivatives developed by the Urals Design Bureau of Transport Machine-Building (part of Uralvagonzavod within Rostec) are among few vehicles that keep their efficiency in sandy deserts and mountains. This is especially important for countries of the Middle East where the average temperature is 45-50 degrees Celsius in the daytime and 15 degrees Celsius at night in summer while freezing temperatures are registered in winter.
The trials and real combat operations have shown that special vehicles created by Uralvagonzavod reliably move off-road, through sands, storms and withstand temperature swings,” the company stated.
Manufactured by Uralvagonzavod, the T-90 started its journey as a development of the T-72B incorporating features from the T-80 main battle tank. It was designed as a single replacement of all the old Soviet tanks, including the T-64, T-72 and T-80 series of tanks and was accepted into service in 1992.
Many variants of this tank exist, and the T-90MS is stated to be the most advanced T-90 ever produced. The MS variant was first unveiled in 2011 at Russian Expo Arms in Ninzhy, Tagil in 2011, and subsequently in 2012 DefExpo in New Delhi, India.
According to Rosoboronexport, the T-90MS is equipped with powerful weapon systems, modern automatic fire control systems, cutting-edge protection, robust and powerful engine, and reliable transmission.
“Some Middle Eastern countries are well familiar with tanks produced by Uralvagonzavod and not only from the Soviet period. The armies of some states operate T-90 tank modifications and the issue of the repair and upgrade of this military hardware is essential. For others, the T-90MS tank and the tank support fighting vehicle as its derivative featured at the EDEX 2021 can serve as a new aspect of interaction within the partnership that the Middle Eastern region has been successfully developing with Russia for decades,” the company added.
Equipped with a 125mm 2A46M-5 cannon with an automatic loader, the tank can fire a variety of rounds including APFSDS (Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot), HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank), HE-FRAG (High-Explosive FRAGmentation) and even cannon-launched anti-tank guided missiles capable of hitting an enemy target at ranges of up to 5 kilometers.
The T-90MS is also equipped with a remotely controlled weapons station and a co-axial gun, both sporting 7.62mm machine guns. It is also fitted with modern electro-optical sighting systems and digital ballistic computers, giving the tank a true ‘Hunter-Killer’ capability.
The tank is protected by composite armor, and ‘Relikt’ ERA (explosive reactive armor) installed on the forward hull and turret, providing protection against tandem warheads and reducing the APFSDS penetration by 50%. It is also fitted with rubber side skirts with built-in armor. Active and passive countermeasures suites can also be fitted to enhance the tank’s survivability in the 21st-century battlefield.
BMPT “Terminator” II
With the namesake of Arnold Schwarzenneger-starrer Terminator, this behemoth is described as a modern fire support combat vehicle (FSCV) armed to the teeth with cannons, anti-tank guided missiles and machine guns.
It was developed to support the armored columns and infantry with additional firepower against other tanks and armored vehicles, enemy fortifications, and other potential threats on the battlefield.
In a broader sense, it is comparable to the US Army’s M2 Bradley fighting vehicle, except for the capability to transport troops. Two versions of BMPT exist – the “Terminator”, which has been in production since the early 2000s, and “Terminator-II”, with a redesigned turret offered as an upgrade to T-72 tanks. In the international market, it has been exported to Kazakhstan and Algeria.
The BMPT was designed as a solution to bridge the gap between vehicles like BMP and lesser-maneuverable Main Battle Tanks. The limited elevation of a tank’s main gun proved to be a hindrance when engaging targets in urban or mountainous terrain, while the BMPs could not cope up with the infantry’s needs for more and more firepower.
Thus, a new vehicle was needed with the firepower of an anti-aircraft gun with protective armor like a tank. (This is a reason why car-mounted AA guns are famous as a cheap solution in the middle east and Africa).
Subsequently, the original “Terminator” was introduced in 2002 and remarkably catered to this requirement of a modern anti-personnel fighting vehicle. It possessed two 24A2 30mm autocannons, four Ataka anti-tank guided missiles, two 30mm automatic grenade launchers (AGS-17/ AGS-30 variants), and one coaxial 7.62mm PKTM machine gun.
The “Terminator-2” unveiled in 2013 was introduced with modern fire control systems and reduced weight and additional armor. The new variant also removed the two 30mm automatic grenade launchers.
The Terminators are also employed with armored formations, which allow reducing the tank’s workload of engaging lightly armored targets and infantry. The BMPT thus provides additional protection to the tank while significantly increasing effective firepower, being capable of engaging infantry, lightly armored, and heavily armored targets alike.