Ukrainian forces have captured a T-90M battle tank in the Kharkiv region, where significant advances have recently been made on the ground, representing an unprecedented gain due to the vehicle’s status as the most capable in the Russian arsenal. The northeastern area has increasingly become a focal point for hostilities, with Russia having recently introduced new Iranian drones into the conflict focused on neutralising Ukrainian assets in the region. The T-90M only began to enter service in the Russian Army in April 2020, and has very significant performance advantages over all other Russian tank classes with estimates placing it up to 10 years ahead technologically. The tank was first confirmed to have been deployed to Ukraine in April, albeit in very limited numbers, with one having been destroyed in combat. The appearance of a destroyed T-90M differed starkly from those of other Russian tanks, with the vehicle being far less prone to explosion of its ammunition or blowing off of its turret making crew survival rates significantly higher. Although near impenetrable to the rounds from Ukrainian T-64 and T-72 tanks, the country’s tremendous supplies of Javelin handheld anti tank missile systems have provided a means of tackling advanced armour.
The reason for the T-90M’s lack of a meaningful presence in Ukraine has been widely speculated, with some analysts postulating that the tank was being reserved for a possible escalation of hostilities with NATO on Russia’s western borders. The possibility that the tank was conserved specifically to prevent it from falling into Western hands was also highlighted, with the tank captured expected to be quickly delivered to Kiev’s Western supporters for study. Some of the tank’s most notable features include the 2A46M-5 gun and Kalina fire control system which allow it to deploy the wide range specialised munitions, as well as the Afghanit active protection system and Relikt explosive reactive armour, and similar communication and command suite and digital communications systems to the T-14. The tank was considered a means of bringing the T-90 up to a comparable technological standard to the T-14, which although in production is not yet operational. The Russian Army is expected to field over 500 T-90M tanks, with deliveries ongoing and the vehicles relied on heavily.