Profiling the T-90S 'Bhishma'

27 Feb, 2004    ·   1319

Mallika Joseph details the specifications of the T-90S tank and juxtaposes it with Pakistan's T-80UD

In 1999, India inked the deal for the purchase of 310 T-90S tanks from Russia. Of them, 124 were to be delivered in assembled form, 80 in semi-knocked down condition and another 100 in completely knocked down condition. Part of the deal also included the requisite license and transfer of technology for indigenous production of T-90S tanks in India at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Avadi. On 6 January 2004, the first of the T-90S tank, christened 'Bhisma', was handed over the Army after its assembly at HVF with Russian technical help.

The purchase of the T-90S was influenced by two factors: one, Pakistan finalizing the purchase of 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine; and two, the delay in the production of the indigenous MBT Arjun. The army narrowed on its purchase despite its missile system performing poorly and the thermal sensors turning blind due to extreme desert heat viewing these as teething problems.

According to the Chief of Army Staff, Gen NC Vij, the Army wants 30 percent of its equipments to be state of the art and Bhishma and Arjun are to form a bulk of this 30 percent. Considering that the T-90S is to be an integral part of the state of the art weapons with the Indian army and is intended to counter the T-80UD tanks in Pakistan's inventory, it would be interesting to note the specifications of the T-90S and juxtapose it against the T-80UD.







Combat weight

46.5 tons

46 tons


Four-stroke V-84KD turbo-supercharged diesel engine; multi-fuel (T-2 or TS-1 kerosene and A-72 benzene in addition to diesel), liquid cooled; 1000 hp

Twin-stroke 6TD-2 diesel engine, liquid cooled, 1100 hp


Main gun

125 mm 2A46M smoothbore

125 mm 2A46M smoothbore

Co-axial machine gun

7.62 mm PKT

7.62 mm PKT

Machine gun

12.7 NSVT-12.7 AD

12.7 KT

Assault rifle

5.45 mm AKS-74


3UBK14 weapon system

with 9M119 missile

9M119 missile

3UBK20 weapon system

With 9M119M missile


Firing range

100-5000 m

4000 m

Firing speed (main gun)

8 rounds/minute

6 rounds/minute

Ammunition Type

APFSDS (Armored Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot); HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank); HEF (High Explosive Fragmentation)

APDS (Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot); HEAT; HEF

Gun can fire variety of ammunition

Gun fires separate loading projectiles





Main gun

43 rounds

45 rounds

Co-axial gun

2000 cartridges

1250 rounds

Machine gun

300 cartridges

450 rounds

Assault Rifle

300 cartridges


Fire Control

Integrated Fire Control System (IFCS)

1A4GT (automatic with manual override for commander)


Fire Control System (FCS)

1A43 (for gunner)

1A42 having 1V517 ballistic computer, two-axis electro-hydraulic weapon stabilizer, rangefinder sight stabilized in two axes and GPK-59 hydro-semi-compass azimuth indicator and azimuth indicator for turret rotation.


1A43 (mentioned above) having

1G46 day sight/range finder with missile guidance channel; 2E42-4 armament stabilizer, 1V528 ballistic computer and DVE-BS wind gauge

TO1-KO1 thermal imaging sight having target identification range of 1.2 km to 1.5 km

1G46 day sight and infrared sight


PNK-4S sight having TKN-4S (Agat-S) day/night sight which has identification ranges of 800 m (day) and 700 m (night)



TVN-5 infrared night viewer

Self Protection

Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA)

Yes; Kontakt-5

On hull, turret, either side of the hull front and each side of the driver compartment


ERA at the front and gill-type armor panels on other parts of the tank

SHTORA-1 defensive aid


This has infrared-jammer, laser warning system with four laser warning receivers, a grenade discharging system that produces an aerosol screen and a computerized control system. The infra-red jammer introduces a spurious signal into the guidance circuitry of the incoming missile through continuously generated coded pulsed infra-red jamming signals.


Additional Countermeasures

Self-dig in blade; Air conditioning to reduce thermal imaging; KMT-6 mine clearing equipment (optional)

Four electrically operated smoke grenade launchers; engine smoke emitter; special heat insulation; self dig-in blade

Protection against Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare




Paved Road

650 km

500 km


500 km

335 km

Max road speed

65 km/h

65 km/h

Cross-country speed

45 km/h

45 km/h

A detailed analysis proves that there exist only marginal differences between the two tanks. However, these marginal differences are significant enough to mark the T-90S as a superior tank. In the first instance is the difference in armaments. The T-80UD has a faster rate of firing, but the T-90S can fire different armaments, including two kinds of missiles. The T-80UD carries only one type of missile. While the loading is automatic in the T-90S, it is hydro-mechanical in the T-80UD. Of additional but minor significance is the fact that the T-90S also has an AK74 assault rifle. The tank is provided with an integrated fire control system which makes it a far superior MBT to contend with. But the best feature of the T-90S tank relates to its battle survivability. The Kontakt-5 ERA, the latest generation in armor protection, protects the tank from frontal, flank and aerial attacks; the T-80UD, on the other hand, has ERA protection only against frontal attacks. The SHTORA-1 defensive aid in the T-90S makes it very difficult for the enemy to attack, especially if the fire system uses guided missiles and laser targeting. And, most importantly, the T-90 includes protection against chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.