On April 11th, a flatbed tractor trailer carrying a 45-ton Russian T-90A tank had to park at a truck stop because of a mechanical problem. This enabled nearby civilians to take a lot of photos. One photo of a shipping label attached to the tank’s 125mm indicated the tank was on its way to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Some of the tank components were removed and apparently shipped separately, probably by air. The missing items included ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) panels, the machine-guns and the APD (Active Protection System) as well as electronics. This is where tanks from many countries, and the United States, are subjected to destructive testing. That means using anti-tank guns and missiles against vehicles to determine what they are vulnerable to.
Western tanks, particularly the American M-1, are the most resistant to anti-tank weapons. After the M-1 comes the German Leopard 2 and the South Korea K2, which was deliberately based on the M-1 and has the unsuccessful destructive tests to prove it,
Russian tanks have proved extremely vulnerable. The T-90A headed for Aberdeen as captured in late 2022 by the Ukrainians and turned over to the Americans as part of an effort to send Ukraine M-I and other Western tanks. Those tanks finally arrived in early 2023 and are forming tank units that will deal with the most determined use of Russian tanks and anti-tank weapons.
Photos of the T-90A interior revealed, to M-1 crew men, that the Russian crews did not take good care of their tanks, especially the interior. Photos showed rust and dirt that has been there for some time. M-1 crews have much higher standards, keeping the interiors clean and equipment, including the engine, well-maintained. The Ukrainians learned the value of well-maintained tanks after 2014 when they had many western military advisors with experience in well maintained tanks, including T-72s captured in the 1990s.
The T-72 evolved into the T-90. Originally, this was done as a fallback 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. The T-72, with a much improved turret and all manner of gadgets, was trotted out as the T-90. At 47 tons, 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. Russia had few such crews in Ukraine and T-72s and T-90s proved extremely vulnerable to the Western anti-tank weapons shipped to Ukrainian forces.
The Aberdeen tests will attempt to see just how vulnerable the T-90 is to various anti-tank weapons and artillery. In Ukraine some T-72s and T-90s have been disabled by 152mm and 155mm artillery fire. Aberdeen has a list of weapons that these tanks appear vulnerable to. Aberdeen will try to confirm what is a battlefield risk to these tanks and why. In the 1990s, T-72s obtained from Cold War Russian allies were subjected to a lot of similar tests but the weapons used in Ukraine are different and more data on that is what Aberdeen uncovers.