Armor: India Will Have T-90s No Matter What


June 6, 2007: India has been having problems (with Russian manufacturing technology) getting its T-90 tank factory working, so another 350 T90 tanks will be bought from Russia, and equipped with French fire night vision systems. The T-90s cost nearly three million dollars each. These tanks will be delivered by 2011, and will equip two armored divisions.

Last year, India adopted the Russian T-90 as its new main battle tank. The initial plan was for local production of about a thousand T-90s over the next 14 years. India already has imported 310 T-90s. Under this plan, by 2020, India will have 2,000 upgraded T-72s and a thousand T90s. This will be the most powerful armored force in Eurasia, unless China moves ahead with upgrades to its tank force. The border between China and India is high in the Himalayan mountains, which is not good tank country.

The T-72 evolved into the T-90. Originally, this was done as a fall-back design. The T-80 was supposed to be the successor to the T-72. But like the T-62 and T-64 before it, the T-80 didn't quite work out as planned. So the T-72, with a much improved turret and all manner of gadgets, was trotted out as the T-90. At 47 tons, but it's still 23 feet long, 11 feet wide and 7.5 feet high. Same package, better contents. And with well trained crews, it could be deadly.

India doesn't have to worry about facing M-1s. The main enemy is Pakistan, which has T-72s, a few T-80s and many older T-55s (the Chinese version.) Training remains a problem for the Indian army, because of rising fuel costs. Again, it's all relative, for the Pakistanis are even less able to pay for the vast quantities of fuel needed to move a tank around for training. Currently, fuel alone costs the Indian army about a dollar per kilometer traveled by each for T-72s, and a little more for T-90s. So if you want to take a hundred T-72s out for several days of training, each vehicle is going to travel, say, 200 kilometers. That's $20,000 just for the fuel. Do that four times a year, for the entire 3,000 tank force, and you're out $2.5 million. That's for minimal training, and many countries cannot afford even that. You can more than double the fuel cost to take care of replacement parts and repairs for accidents. American armored vehicles cost from $15-$25 per kilometer to operate, largely because of higher personnel costs. This is why, even when poor nations get first rate tanks, they often do poorly in combat. Buying the tank, for a few million dollars each, is only a small part of the total cost of creating a competent crew to get the most out of that high tech tank.


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