Disclaimer: This article is based on open source information ONLY
Are Indian T-90 tanks fighting in Ukraine after India gave some or sold some to Russian? Given the closeness India has had with Russia and USSR before it, Twitter based accounts were quick to declare that India had supplied tanks to Russia during the recent conflicts after two pictures surfaced within a few months of each other. Below is the first one,
and here is the second one.
The first image shows the non-Shtora equipped bare ERA, commonly seen on export T-90S but more importantly the smoke grenade launchers are of the Indian config, below is a picture of Indian T-90S for comparison. The smoke grenade launchers are a good match to the ones in the first picture vs Indian T-90S below.
Is India directly selling tanks to Russia? Well Twitter and certain media outlets will let you believe so with conjecture that India sent tanks for upgrades to Russia in 2021 and they were pressed for service after the losses the Russians faced. The links to such articles are as follows.
While this is an obvious possibility, the Indo-Russian procurement history and other videos shown on Twitter suggest otherwise, apart from the obvious reasons why India wouldn’t allow such a brash decision when its geo-politics have been on point for the past decade. Let work through the three reasons why I think these are not Indian origin but Russian built for Russian use/export to other countries only tanks.
Video Evidence of T-90S in Russian storage
Rob Lee, a very trusted and respected Twitter source posted this video of T-90S, Indian spec being pulled out of storage. If you pause and look at the smoke grenade launchers on those are the similar to the Indian spec we saw above. That means Russia has such tanks, in Russian camo in storage in Russia (Why would India store tanks in Russian camo in Russia? So smart right?). Remember that Indian T-90s use desert camo or two tone camo compared to the dark green seen below. All Russian tanks in combat have used dark green to better blend with their environment.
My Observations on the video below.
- The muzzle and commander’s gun are sealed to protect these from the elements so these were clearly in long term storage. (The Indian tank above has it to reduce sand ingestion, a big problem faced by all tanks operating the desert.)
- They are missing hull-side ERA plates, another sign of long term storage usually done to make tanks more compact.
- You may argue that not all tanks are worked on at a time, well then where are Indian tactical markings or the Indian armed forces registration? Surely India is not erasing those when sending for upgrades.
- These tanks appear to have the common Russian train transport numbers on the front right side.
So we can conclude decisively that these tanks are RUSSIAN and in RUSSIAN storage. Also, we can conclude that Russia has several of these in long term storage for domestic use or opportunistic exports down the line.
Export Gear in Russian service
You would be surprised to see how much export spec or derived from export spec gear is in direct service with their armed forces. It is a smart business decision to buy more of something someone already paid for.
- Algerian reject MiG-29SMTs in Russian service.
- Follow on squadron for Russianized variant of Algerian spec MiG-29SMTs.
- Russian Navy MiG-29KRs derived from Indian Navy MiG-29KIs, which India paid to restart production of.
- Admiral Grigorovich class is direct derivative of Indian Talwar class frigates, but Russianized.
- Su-30SMs are a direct Russianized derivative of the open avionics standard Su-30MKI.
- Russia built additional Su-30MK2s for domestic use, Chinese air force spec to ensure that the KNAAPO plant had orders to work on before Su-35S entered mass production.
So, is it too complicated to fathom that there was a batch of T-90S that India rejected as being sub-par (something Algeria did with MiG-29SMTs) and Russians kept them for themselves. Or after India was done producing T-90S in Russia and moved the assembly lines to Avadhi in India, Russia just built a few 100 for themselves based on the same spec but Russianized.
What does India lose by helping Russia?
India is well poised to be in a symbiotic relationship with the West as a hedge against the rising Dragon in Asia. The business links entrenched between Indian, EU and US economies make trillions of USD for all parties involved. India is not going to lose this over helping an ally that has inclined towards China and even Pakistan big time in the last decade. Sale of S400s, Su-35S and so on to China has grown India wary and pushed it to become closer to the West.
India also has billions of USD in western weapons on order or in the pipeline. Given the smart politicking India has done in the past decade, aiding Russia with such a minute thing is not something they would do. Earning millions for a few tanks and maybe a few billions in oil discounts will never balance the trillions in business India plans to do over the next 2-3 decades. If oil discounts mattered, several smaller countries would be super powers today after they went against the collective West.
So to answer the question
NO! India is not selling tanks to Russia
This conclusion is hence not conjecture based (Russia has a few Indian tanks for upgrades hence they are using them in combat). This is based on evidence how Russia likes to build some export vehicles for itself (a sound business decision) and has built a few export T-90S that it is now using in combat.
And dont miss my T-90 articles
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