Cheaper and more reliable than American: Egypt buys 500 Russian T-90 tanks
30 June , 16:29
The $ 2.5 billion contract with Egypt will not solve all the problems of the Russian military-industrial complex, but for JSC Scientific and Production Corporation Uralvagonzavod named after F.E. Dzerzhinsky, which produces military vehicles, this is a very important event.

The Egyptian government expressed its readiness to acquire a large batch of Russian tanks. 500 new T-90MS should replenish the Egyptian army in the coming years, unless, of course, the contract is disrupted at the very last stage. And this, with all due respect to domestic tank building, is almost a sensation.

Victor Kuzovkov

To begin with, the contract for 500 cars is a very serious event in any case, regardless of who buys what tanks. For example, the largest contract for the supply of T-90 tanks with India provided for direct delivery and on-site assembly from Russian nodes, in total, 1,657 T-90S tanks. This is three times more than in the case of Egypt, but the scale of the buyer states is not comparable either. And the challenges they face are different - India is in very difficult, to put it mildly, relations with Pakistan and China, which have a good tank fleet. In particular, Pakistan bought 450 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine, and this clearly required an adequate response from India. As for China, this Indian neighbor has long established his own production of tanks, and one can only guess how many of them he can quickly throw in the Indian direction in the event of an escalation of the existing conflict.

For Egypt, of course, there is also a serious challenge in the person of Israel and its Merkava tanks. But, if you think about it, it’s not so sharp - the Arab countries seem to have abandoned the idea of destroying Israel at all costs, the relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv are as good as possible between the Jewish and Arab states, and in this sense there is no urgency to acquire as many as five hundred modern tanks. If you add to this the fact that the number of tanks in the Egyptian ground forces is already very large, you can only admit that the deal is, indeed, not ordinary.

Regarding the latter, you need to keep in mind that Cairo has not only morally obsolete and physically worn-out tanks of various types, from the old Soviet T-54 and the no less ancient American M60A1 / M60A3 to T-62 (also, incidentally, is not a novelty at all), but also a very significant fleet of modern American M1A1 Abrams tanks. Their total number is 1130 units, and this is a very serious force. In addition, with the already mentioned M60A1 / M60A3 tanks, of which 1929 are in total in the Egyptian army, it turns out that it is American armored vehicles that form the basis of the armored and motorized units of the Egyptian army. And in such a situation, the choice of Russian tanks to replenish their armed forces seems not even entirely logical.

It is necessary to take into account the fact that most of the Abrams tanks available in Egypt were assembled in this country from machine sets delivered by the Americans. Yes, this is not the most high-tech production, but nevertheless it is in fact the repair base available in Egypt, which is quite suitable both for the maintenance of the existing tank fleet and for the possible further production of American armored vehicles. Nevertheless, Cairo decides to purchase a very significant batch of Russian tanks - a sensation, and more!

As regards the contract with Russia, Russian tanks will also be delivered to Egypt in approximately the same way - large units and components will arrive from Russia to Cairo, from which they are already in place, by local specialists, in the very factory where the tanks were assembled "Abrams", will collect and T-90MS. The cost of one tank is estimated at about $ 4.4 million, and the contract itself, with the supply of some equipment, ammunition, etc., could cost Egypt about $ 2.5 billion.

Probably, now it is simply impossible to single out any one reason why Cairo chose to buy Russian equipment. And still try to do it...

First of all, we note: having vast experience in operating American armored vehicles, the Egyptian military has well studied not only its strengths, but also its weaknesses. In addition, it is no secret that the operation of the "Americans" is very expensive - components, ammunition, modernization are sometimes much more expensive in this case than in the case of Russian weapons. And Egypt, with all due respect, is not rich enough to seriously overpay.

In addition, the nature of the challenges that Egypt has been facing lately has clearly pushed Cairo to acquire a more mobile, lightweight machine capable of quick marching for hundreds of kilometers without loss of combat capability. "Abrams", of course, is a serious car, and it has a number of strengths - an excellent gun and powerful armor in the frontal projection, which is very important in the alleged confrontation with other tanks. But this tank is very heavy, which is why its crossability on sandy soils is very doubtful, has weak sides and stern, which cannot be fully covered by either dynamic or active protection. And this is already very critical from the point of view of the challenges that are more relevant for Cairo now - the fight against terrorists, the likely military intervention of Egypt in Libya, the difficult situation in relations with Ethiopia, which can also develop into a war.

An analysis of recent conflicts, and above all, the conflict in Iraq, shows that the Abrams tanker suffers the most losses from not the most modern weapons, like the Soviet RPG-7 (antitank rocket launcher). Weak sides and feed, a huge projection in height, the inability to somehow protect the tank when attacking from above, from rocks or from the upper floors of buildings, make it not only a very easy prey for terrorists and partisans, but still completely deprive it the halo of invincibility that American propaganda attempted to create around "Abrams".

An important advantage of the tank T-90MS over the American competitor is the power plant - the V-92S2F multi-fuel engine. Although the "heart" of the American colleague will not, in any way, surrender to the development of our engineers, but even surpass in some ways. But there is one very important nuance - the AVCO Lycoming AGT-1500 gas turbine, although very good in its “paper” characteristics, is considered not the most reliable. More precisely, like all gas turbine engines, he really does not like microscopic abrasive dust, which is usually a lot in a desert and semi-desert climate. It’s not that other power plants loved it - it’s very unpleasant for everyone - but gas turbine engines do it especially poorly. So, with the proper build quality, the T-90MS acquires another important advantage over long-range shots in the desert over Abrams - not only its lower weight and specific ground load, but also a less capricious engine that can work out normally for several weeks in sandy winds and storms.

Probably liked the Egyptian military and the protection of the T-90MS. No, his frontal armor is no better than that of the Abrams. But the active defense of the Arena-E type and the Relict dynamic defense proved to be very good both in tests and during the military operations in Syria, where they defended the Syrian T-72 after the intervention in the Russian conflict. In addition, the export version of the tank, that is, on the T-90MS, together with a lining that protects the crew from the action of the damaging factors of neutron weapons, a heat-resistant anti-fragmentation Kevlar lining is installed that protects the crew from the effects of direct shells.

The latter probably requires a separate explanation. The fact is that often people are at a loss - what are the fragments behind the thick tank armor? They can’t penetrate it and shells! But the fact is that when a projectile hits, even a relatively unsuccessful one, which did not ensure penetration of the armor, such huge stresses arise from the inside of the impact site that small fragments come off from steel or ceramics and fly around the tank. At those short distances that are inside the combat vehicle, they pose a huge threat - their energy is enough to disable the crew, cause a fire or even detonate the ammunition. Therefore, the task of providing protection against fragments is not at all secondary.

As a result, roughly the following looms: the existing Abrams tank fleet in Egypt will remain the main striking force of the Egyptian ground forces for some time to come. But they are most likely to be used only in case of a serious aggravation in relations with Israel. Of course, "options are possible," but still it seems like the truth.

But the acquired T-90MS will become the basis of maneuverable armored units capable of moving forward towards Libya or Ethiopia in the shortest possible time. Both the quantity and quality of the tanks purchased from Russia is enough to create an almost indestructible group in any direction except the Israeli one. And it is they who, over time, can become the spearhead of the spear with which the very ambitious Egypt is going to smash its disobedient African neighbors.

Probably, we could mention the possible confrontation between Egypt and Turkey in the unfolding conflict in Libya. But a cursory analysis shows that large-scale clashes with the participation of Egyptian and Turkish tanks are unlikely to take place there. With all due respect to Erdogan, he is unlikely to risk sending a really large army group overseas, including, including hundreds of tanks. This is difficult both from a logistical point of view, because the Egyptian Air Force may well simply send transport vessels with Turkish tanks to the bottom, and, perhaps, from an economic one. And besides, this conflict and the active role of Turkey in it are unlikely to drag on so much that Egypt will have time to put into service the entire batch of T-90MS tanks purchased from Russia.

Perhaps we only need to add that Egypt in this case showed its true political independence by going against the interests of the United States. Perhaps this is partly due to the desire to establish relations with Russia, which is playing an increasingly active role in the region. But in any case, the position of Cairo deserves respect.

And our defense industry can be congratulated on a truly serious success. It is clear that 2.5 billion dollars will not solve all his problems, but specifically for Uralvagonzavod this is a very tangible help for the next few years.