TechNew armor on Russia's T-90M tanks: Effective against FPV drones?

New armor on Russia's T‑90M tanks: Effective against FPV drones?

T-90M tank with new armor succeeding the famous cages.
T-90M tank with new armor succeeding the famous cages.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Rob Lee

11:21 AM EDT, May 30, 2024

The Russians are continuously assaulting the region surrounding the city of Chasiv Yar, one of the main Ukrainian fortresses in the area. The Russians are deploying units equipped with advanced tanks such as the T-72B3M and the latest version of the T-90M armor. Let's examine how these models differ from older ones.

It is worth noting that even the mysterious T-90M has fallen victim to a combination of Ukrainian artillery and anti-tank mines. The destroyed model featured new turret armour that appeared factory-made.

This new armor offers increased protection against FPV drones, akin to the previous cage system. It has been replaced by a single-cut armor plate that protects the turret's edges (sides and front), installed about 20 inches above the main armor.

Additionally, at the rear of the turret, where the Russians have been installing a jammer for months to ensure protection against FPV drones, there is a second plate. This plate seems to be a roof to shield the system's sensitive antennas from shrapnel. Finally, steel plates can be observed on the frame attached to the engine cover.

The new armor on the T-90M tank - does it offer any benefit?

The new armor additions are designed to guard against FPV drones. Modern anti-tank measures, such as diving missiles from FGM-148 Javelin systems or Akeron MP or submunitions from Bonus or SMArt 155 missiles, will still penetrate effortlessly.

The situation is more challenging with FPV drones, which, for Ukrainians, are a poor substitute for guided anti-tank weapons. Even if these drones manage to bypass jammers at certain times, they will not be as effective. Previous attack recordings show that these drones targeted tanks' rear hull, which is now more "built-up," or the upper armor at an angle, e.g., 60 degrees.

In the case of the T-90M with the new armor, a drone would detonate on the steel plate prematurely, making the resulting cumulative jet insufficient to breach the main armor. A possible solution would be drones equipped with tandem warheads like PG-7VR grenades. However, recordings of their use are lacking. This type of warhead has two cumulative charges: the first, smaller one creates a breach in the initial obstacle, and the second, larger one detonates upon hitting the main armor.

Another option would be to target the center of the turret roof, where there are no additional steel plates (probably not to hinder crew escape). This would require a nearly vertical flight path, which no "kamikaze" drone can achieve. In this case, only vertical drops of PG-7VL grenades from "Baba Jaga" drones would be feasible, although this is also not easy.

The Russians can adapt in response to losses. While most field modifications based on nearby scrap are more or less ineffective, there are some successful projects.

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