Armor: May 6, 2000

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In the 1960s and 70s, the Soviet Union seemed to come out with a new tank design every few years. It turned out that there was more smoke than fire in all that. Many of the new models were failures, and the ones that were not came out in slight variations, but with new names. Russian tank development slowed in the 1980s and pretty much stopped in the 1990s. The latest Russian tank model is the T-90. This is basically an upgrade (actually, many upgrades) of the T-72 (one of the more successful models from the past three decades.) The other contender, the T-80, was not as successful. However, the latest model, the T-80 UM (with thermal sights, a much better fire control system and ATGMs launched via the 125mm cannon barrel) is considered the equal of the T-90 (which has the same fire control system). .The T-90 also has an ATGM countermeasures system. Called the Sgtora EO, it mimics the tracking beam of TOW, Dragon, Maverick, Milan, HOT and Hellfire missiles and reduces the hit probability by 50 percent or more. An earlier countermeasures system, the Drozd, used a radar and small rockets to take out incoming ATGMs. This did not work too well and was only mounted on some naval infantry T-55s for a while, and then replaced with the EO system. The Russians have continued to use reactive armor, although they do not load the explosive blocks for tanks that are expected to operate closely with infantry. When the blocks explode (to defeat an ATGM or shell), nearby infantry get injured. The Russians have talked about a radically new tank, the T-95, for some time, but have lacked the resources to produce anything. Thus they have standardized on the T-90, with a number of T-80UM's around as well (they are too valuable to just throw out.) The U.S. M-1 is still a superior vehicle, but just how superior will not be known until they meet Russian tanks in battle. If the past is any indicator, the smart money will favor the M-1.

 


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