The brand-new Russian T-90 ‘Vladimir’ tank is on its first overseas military assignment, having joined in the battle to push back forces opposed to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad from around the vital city of Aleppo.
The T-90 tank, among the newest pieces of military hardware to enter into service with the Russian armed forces, is having a baptism by fire on battlefields in Syria. Turkish and Iranian media first reported the presence of Russian T-90 ‘Vladimir’ tanks in Syria, after which sources in the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed their presence.
Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak cited a local commander called Mahmut Hasan as saying that they “had been attacked by more than 80 T-72 and T-90 tanks.”
Syrian government troops are reported to have recaptured the towns of Nubul and al-Zahraa to the north of Aleppo. Their effort is to establish control over “the security zone” between the towns of Azaz and Jarabulus on the Syrian border.
Iranian news agency Fars, meanwhile reported on February 2 that the Syrian army was using T-90 tanks near Aleppo. It said T-90 tanks had been deployed near the town of Khan Tuman to the south of Aleppo after the Syrian army recaptured it in December.
“Capitalizing on the superiority offered by T-90 tanks, Syrian government troops and their allies encircled the important towns of Khan Tuman and al-Qarasi near the Aleppo-Damascus road,” a military source said.
A joint offensive by the Syrian army, national self-defence forces and Iraqi servicemen began on 1st February, resulting in the liberation of the villages of Hardatnin, Duwayr al-Zaytoun and Tal al-Jabin.
Russian news agency RNS on February 5 cited sources in the Russian Defence Ministry as saying that a large batch of Russian T-90A tanks, earlier in service with the Russian armed forces, had been delivered to Syria in late 2015.
Syrian servicemen had received necessary training at Russian training ranges, the news agency said. It added that the T-90A tanks supplied to Syria were first used by the Syrian army near Aleppo, supporting the advance of the Syrian army’s assault groups, said RNS.
The Russian T-90A tank, which entered into service in 2004, is an upgraded version of the T-90 model, known as ‘Vladimir,’ built in the 1980-90s on the base of the T-72B tank. It was named ‘Vladimir’ in honour of the tank’s chief designer, Vladimir Potkin.
The T-90A’s distinctive features are its engine, the turret and thermal imaging equipment. The tank has third-generation explosive reactive armour, that ensures protection against the 120-mm М829А2 and DM43A1 high-velocity de-calibrated ammunition used by М1 Abrams and Leopard-2 tanks.
Alexei Ramm, a military observer for the Military-Industrial Courier newspaper, said the terrain features make it possible to “make full use of these tanks near Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Homs, but the main efforts are now focused in two areas: Aleppo and to its north, in Latakia.”
(Russian T-90A tanks in action in Syria can also be seen in video footage posted online by the Syrian news agency SANA.)