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Russian T-90SA main battle tanks are the backbone of Algerian army

The T-90SA main battle tank is now the backbone of the Algerian armed forces with a total of 572 tanks in service. Algeria is currently the only operator of the T-90 in Africa. The armed forces are among the most capable and best equipped in North Africa.
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Algerian army T-90SA main battle tank during live-fire exercise (Picture source Twitter The Dead District)

The Algerian army’s and air force’s inventories consist of a core of modern, primarily Russian-sourced equipment, though China has also supplied equipment, including self-propelled artillery. According to the Military Balance 2020, the Algerian army has a total of 1,467 main battle tanks including 270 T-55AMV, 325 T-72M1/M1M and 572 T-90SA.

The first delivery of Russian-made T-90SA and T-90SKA main battle tanks was made between 2006 and 2008 in a deal worth $1 billion including the purchase of 185 tanks. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) arms trade database, another batch of 120 T-90S tanks were delivered between 2012 and 2013 under a 2011 deal worth $470 million. In 2014 Algeria signed a contract with the Russian military export agency Rosoboronexport to build the T-90 under license in Algeria with the delivery of 203 tanks including T-90SA and T-90SKA variants.

The T-90SA is an improved version of the T-90A which is an advanced version of the original T-90. The T-90As entered service with the Russian armed forces in 2005, replacing the aging T-72s and T-80s and forming the backbone of Russian ground forces. The T-90SKA is the commander version of the T-90SA, with additional communication (R-163-50K station) and navigation equipment (TNA-4-3).

The T-90SA is motorized with a more powerful 1,000 hp (750 kW) engine, Shtora-1 optical-electronic suppression system, an air conditioning system, and a cooling system for night vision equipment.

The T-90SA has the same armament as the original T-90A that includes one 2A46M-1 125mm smoothbore gun, also known by its bureau designation of D-81TM. This gun was developed by the Spetstekhnika design bureau in Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk), and manufactured at the Motovilikha artillery plant in neighboring Perm. The tank is fitted with an automatic loading system with 22 rounds ready to fire that provides a high rate of fire (up to 7 rounds per minute). The gun can fire conventional natures of separate loading ammunition (projectile and charge) including HE-FRAG (high-explosive fragmentation) and APFSDS-T (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot - Tracer). It can also fire a 9M119M laser-guided anti-tank projectile fitted with a tandem HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead out to a maximum range of 5,000 m. The second armament includes one 7.62 mm 6P7K machine gun mounted to the right of the main armament and a remote weapon station UDP T05BV-1 which is mounted on the turret roof armed with one 12.7 mm NSVT heavy machine gun.

The general layout of the T-90A is conventional with driver at the front, a welded turret (in place of steel) in the middle and the powerpack at the rear. The T-90 is also fitted with an appliqué of Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor to the outside of the turret, also developed by NII Stali. This is called universal reactive armor (UDZ) since it degrades the performance of both APFSDS and HEAT warheads in contrast with the first generation of Kontakt reactive armor, which degraded only HEAT warheads.

One of the innovations of the T-90A is the use of the TShU-1 Shtora anti-missile protection system designed to defeat antitank missiles and guided projectiles. The most obvious element of the system was a pair of TShU-1-7 infrared dazzlers fitted on either side of the main gun barrel. The Shtora also includes four laser detectors were mounted around the periphery of the turret. This consisted of two precision detectors immediately in front of the turret and two coarse detectors covering the sides and rear of the tank. When switched on, the detectors fed data to a control unit inside the tank, which could automatically activate the Tucha Type 902 smoke system.

The T-90A has a crew of three, driver, commander, and gunner. Gunner and commander are seated in the turret with the gunner on the left and the commander on the right. The T-90A can run at a maximum road speed of 60 km/hr with a maximum road cruising range of 500 km. To increase the operational range of the T-90A, two diesel fuel drums can be carried under the hull rear.

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