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Power Shift: Ukraine’s Transfer of Captured T-90A Tank to United States Raises Geopolitical Significance

According to images shared on the Twitter account of “Walter Report” on April 13, 2023, Ukraine has handed over a Russian T-90A Main Battle Tank (MBT) to the United States. This tank was seized and utilized by Ukrainian defenders before being transferred to the United States.

As per details provided by the British Intelligence Services, repurposed captured Russian equipment and combat vehicles now constitute a significant portion of Ukraine’s military arsenal. It is estimated that Ukraine has captured approximately 440 Russian main battle tanks and around 650 other combat vehicles since the invasion.

Looking back in history, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the United States and several NATO countries hurried to recover Russian-made equipment and armored vehicles used by East Germany. Moreover, during the Gulf War, the United States amassed a considerable quantity of Russian-made military equipment.

The receipt of captured Russian vehicles from Ukraine holds several intriguing aspects for the United States. One aspect is that it enables the US military and intelligence agencies to conduct a technical analysis of the vehicle, gaining valuable insights into its design, capabilities, and vulnerabilities. This information can be instrumental in developing countermeasures and tactics to neutralize or exploit these vehicles in potential conflicts.

Another aspect is that studying captured vehicles offers insights into the tactics and strategies employed by Russian forces or their proxies. This knowledge can enhance the training and preparedness of US and NATO forces. Additionally, having physical access to a captured vehicle allows US engineers to reverse-engineer its components and systems, potentially leading to the development of new technologies, upgrades for existing platforms, or countermeasures to neutralize enemy capabilities.

Based on markings observed on the tank, the T-90A belonged to the Russian army’s 27th Motorized Rifle Brigade when it was seized near Kharkiv in September 2022. The T-90A is a main battle tank developed and manufactured by the Russian company Uralvagonzavod. It represents an upgraded version of the T-90 tank, which itself was a modernized variant of the Soviet-era T-72 tank. The T-90A entered service with the Russian Armed Forces in the late 1990s and has been exported to various countries worldwide.

The T-90A incorporates several enhancements compared to its predecessors, including improved armor protection, a more powerful 125mm 2A46M-5 main gun, and an upgraded fire control system. It is equipped with a 1,000-horsepower V-92S2 diesel engine, offering a top speed of around 60 km/h (37 mph) and a range of approximately 550 km (342 miles).

In terms of protection, the T-90A utilizes a combination of composite armor, explosive reactive armor (ERA), and the “Shtora” electro-optical active protection system designed to disrupt incoming guided anti-tank missiles. The tank also features a low silhouette and advanced camouflage capabilities, making it challenging for enemy forces to detect and engage.

The T-90A is further equipped with the Shtora-1 electro-optical active protection system, which enhances the tank’s survivability against guided anti-tank missiles. Developed in Russia, this system employs sensors and countermeasures to detect, track, and disrupt incoming threats.

The T-90A’s robust armor system is designed to safeguard the crew and vehicle from various types of threats, including kinetic energy penetrators, shaped charges, and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. Its primary armor consists of a composite material that incorporates layers of steel, ceramics, and other materials, offering superior protection compared to conventional steel armor against a wide range of threats.

In addition to its composite armor, the T-90A is equipped with Kontakt-5 ERA, an add-on armor composed of explosive-filled panels. When struck by a projectile or shaped charge, the explosive within the panel detonates, counteracting the incoming threat and minimizing penetration through the primary armor. This system proves particularly effective against HEAT rounds and shaped charges.

The armor technology of the T-90A holds significance for US intelligence for multiple reasons. One reason is to assist US intelligence and military officials in understanding the protective capabilities of Russian main battle tanks by studying the armor composition and effectiveness of the T-90A. Such knowledge is crucial for assessing the potential threat posed by these tanks and developing appropriate countermeasures.

By examining and reverse-engineering the T-90A’s armor, US researchers can also identify innovative materials and design techniques that could be incorporated into the development of future US armored vehicles. This could result in improvements in the protection and survivability of American tanks and other armored platforms.

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