Opinion

US-Made Abrams vs Russia’s T-90: Which Battle Tank Has Better Odds in Ukraine Conflict?

Abrams tanks are seen on a flat car in a rail yard, Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Washington.InternationalIndiaAfricaWith the first batch of US-made M1 Abrams tanks having arrived in Ukraine, Sputnik has reached out to military expert Boris Rozhin to find out which Russian main battle tank can knock out the American “wonder-weapon.”The US press has hailed the delivery of American main battle tanks to Ukraine, claiming that the Abrams are among the world’s most sophisticated tanks and boast technical advantages many other tanks can’t match. Is that true?The Russian T-90 is a worthy adversary for the much-lauded M1 Abrams tank, according to Boris Rozhin, a military expert at the Center for Military-Political Journalism think tank.”The T-90 has an advantage in maneuverability, that is, it is more capable of passing through rough terrains, and a faster vehicle than the Abrams,” Rozhin told Sputnik. “Of all the tanks supplied, the Abrams is the heaviest vehicle and is considered to be more capable than the Leopard. However, the West is transferring older, unmodified models of tanks to Ukraine.”MilitaryAbrams’ Achilles Heel: How Russia Will Deal With American Tanks in Ukraine26 September, 13:55 GMT

What are T-90’s Advantages Over M1 Abrams?

“Now in Ukraine we see quite active use of the T-90 in combat operations. The tank is used as a means of supporting infantry, and the T-90 performs well. It is still difficult to say how the Abrams will perform in this work,” the military expert pointed out.Rozhin noted that the Abrams was extensively used during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, at the time there were no unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that hunted main battle tanks. It’s unclear how the Abrams will cope with this problem, according to the expert.

"We see how the T-90 protection is improved – welded-on visors are installed, additional dynamic protection is installed, and the MTO (Engine Transmission Compartment) is protected from impacts," he continued. "Abrams has the same problem as the German-made Leopard or the British-made Challenger [2]. That is, its soft spot is the turret and, in general, the tank is poorly protected from [drone] attacks. The roof and engine compartment represent the most vulnerable parts of the tank. And the Abrams in this regard, of course, are inferior to the T-90 in terms of safety."

MultimediaArmored Behemoths: Comparing NATO and Russia’s Top Tanks25 September, 16:26 GMTThe T-90 is lighter than the Abrams, more maneuverable, and is adjusted to Eastern European terrain and bad weather. For its part, the Abrams risks getting trapped in the mud, according to Rozhin.”Recently, there was an attempt to use the Swedish modification of the Leopard 2 in the Svatovo direction,” the expert said. “But they simply got bogged down, and they were later hit by drones.”The Ukrainian battlefield poses a challenge to NATO-grade tanks in the fall and winter seasons, while for T-90s it’s not a problem at all, according to the analyst. Moreover, in terms of maneuverability, the Abrams is inferior even to the old Soviet T-64s, which are in service with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, he added.

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What If T-90 and M1 Abrams Engage in a Duel?

Per Rozhin, tank duels are rare in the zone of the special military operation since tanks are typically employed for infantry support or for assaulting enemy strongholds.”There are episodes where tanks are used to destroy enemy armored vehicles, but more often they are used as an assault weapon, that is, they are used to attack various strongholds and pillboxes under direct fire.”However, the M1 Abrams was specifically designed in 1972-75 to fight Soviet tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.Having undergone a number of upgrades, the Abrams now is equipped with a gun capable of firing both sub-caliber armor-piercing and cumulative projectiles. Some of its armor-piercing munitions have tungsten alloy heads and some incorporate depleted uranium.When it comes to Russia’s T-90, a third generation main battle tank and successor of the T-72, the nation’s arm-makers have also improved it over the past several years. The latest version is the T-90M “Proryv” (“Breakthrough”) which is well-protected against conventional ammunition, precision guided weapons and anti-tank rockets. The tank is armed with the 125 mm enhanced-accuracy smoothbore cannon (with an autoloader) and a remote-controlled 12.7 mm machine gun.Furthermore, the Russian tank also boasts armor piercing capabilities due to 3BM59 Svinets-1 and 3BM60 Svinets-2 munitions, according to Rozhin. Earlier this year Russian military observers suggested on Telegram that 125 mm armor-piercing shells 3BM60 “Svinets-2” had been employed against the enemy in the zone of a special military operation.

The "Svinets-2" is a sub-caliber projectile with a tungsten carbide core which is capable of penetrating up to 700 mm of homogeneous steel armor from a distance of 2 kilometers. Per military experts, the munition can pierce German-made Leopards, British-made Challengers, and US-made Abrams.

“Generally, it will depend on who noticed who first,” Rozhin summarized. “Because, typically, the one, who noticed the enemy first, wins. It is important to understand that the tank is not operating in a vacuum. It can operate in conjunction with the reconnaissance activities of the drone, which is supposed to provide surveillance. If you spot the target, but your opponent doesn’t see you, you can adjust to him and deliver one targeted strike, after which it won’t be able to respond. Therefore, it is often the issues of observation and target designation that are important. It no longer depends on just one tank but on a combination of factors, on how it interacts with tactical reconnaissance, and how the air protection is provided.”MilitaryHead of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Doubts Abrams Tanks Will Last Long on Battlefield23 September, 10:18 GMT

What Missions Could Abrams Conduct in Conflict Zone?

Rozhin does not rule out that the Ukrainian military will specifically use the Abrams to inflict damage on Russia’s armored vehicles and main battle tanks.”According to the Pentagon’s statements, we see that they want to use Abrams in a specialized manner. Not the way they tried to use Leopards in terms of ramming our defenses. That is, most likely, they will use Abrams on a limited basis in order to avoid large losses and achieve some results. That is, again, perhaps, where we advance, tanks will be used to counteract them as mobile anti-tank weapons to fight our armored vehicles,” Rozhin explained.Nonetheless, one should bear in mind that Washington is supplying legacy models, he noted.”It is important to understand that the United States is actually supplying Ukraine with tanks that were created based on the realities of the last Cold War,” the expert said. “The latest modifications of Abrams, they do not supply [to Ukraine], they save [them] for themselves. These latest models have better optics, better electronics, improved security and additional uranium armor.”In any event, a total batch of 31 Abrams tanks will not be able to change the status quo on the battlefield, Sputnik’s interlocutor concluded.AnalysisWhy Abrams Armor Won’t Be Able to Jumpstart Ukraine’s Stalled Offensive2 September, 10:30 GMT

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