Indian Army Receives First Batch of Upgraded T-90 ‘Bhishma’ Mark-III Tanks

Indian Army

New Delhi: In a massive boost to the  Indian Army, it got the first batch of the upgraded T-90 Mark-III tanks. Known locally as the Bhishma Mark-III, this upgraded T-90 was manufactured by the local Heavy Vehicles Factory. According to sources, the modernisation not only integrates new technologies and systems into the tank but also aims to increase the combat potential of the current fleet. New Delhi plans to modernise 300 T-90 tanks.

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The sources said a priority in upgrading the T-90 Bhishma Mark-III has been the integration of indigenously produced systems. India has been following its “Make in India” program for years, especially in the field of defence. Not only Russian but also Western, including American manufacturers, are forced to develop their technological know-how on Indian territory, said media reports.

The Bhishma Mark-III tank is an advanced variant of the T-90, a third-generation Russian main battle tank originally developed by Uralvagonzavod. The Bhishma Mark-III is specially tailored for the Indian Army and incorporates several upgrades and modifications to meet the unique operational requirements and environmental conditions faced by the Indian forces.

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The intricate details of the project remain mostly classified, but some exciting key aspects have surfaced. The T-90 Mark-III has seen a significant boost in firepower, largely thanks to its enhanced fire control systems, including a digital ballistic computer that simplifies aiming and gun control.

A Correction Input Device [CID], which automatically records and corrects for tank gun barrel wear, works seamlessly with this ballistic computer. The Main Battle Tank [MBT] now sports a commander’s infrared sight with an LCD display and a muzzle reference system [MRS] for better accuracy.

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One of the most impressive upgrades is the inclusion of digital communications capabilities, which improve communication among crew members and units on the battlefield. The tank has also been given an anti-thermal coating that reduces its visibility in the infrared spectrum, making it harder to detect.

One of the main differences between the Bhishma Mark-III and the original T-90 is the improved armour protection. The Bhishma Mark-III incorporates improved composite armour and advanced Explosive Reactive Armour [ERA]. Both provide better protection against modern anti-tank munitions.

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Another notable difference is the integration of an improved engine in the Bhishma Mark-III. The tank is powered by a more powerful and reliable engine that provides better mobility and combat range. This upgrade ensures that the Bhishma Mark-III can manoeuvre more effectively in a variety of terrains, from deserts to mountainous areas.

In terms of armament, the Bhishma Mark-III retains the 125mm smoothbore gun of the original T-90 but includes improved ammunition types and an automatic loading system. This allows for faster reloading and a higher rate of fire, making the tank more lethal in combat scenarios. In addition, the Bhishma Mark-III is equipped with advanced anti-tank guided missiles [ATGMs] for extended-range combat operations.

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Initially, India’s plans were for Russia to be actively involved in upgrading the indigenous fleet of T-90 tanks. These plans were in place even before the war between Russia and Ukraine started in 2022. At the end of 2021, a batch of T-90 Bhishma tanks was sent to Uralvagonzavod to undertake one part of the modernisation process.

However, the war strained the Russian defence industry for domestic consumption. Indian tanks remained in the background. There were even reports that Russia was using Indian T-90s in Ukraine, which was one of the reasons for the meeting between Putin and Modi. Modi assured journalists that relations with Russia are preserved and that “there are no unsolvable problems.”

It is entirely possible that it was during this period such decision was made i.e. Russia would not be pressured to return the Indian T-90s. But only in exchange for providing better licensing agreements to New Delhi.