Russia’s Most Advanced Frontline Tank Absolutely Detonates When Hit By Missile

Ukrainian forces have destroyed one of Russia’s advanced T-90M Proryv-3 (Breakthrough-3) main battle tanks in dramatic fashion, as recent video footage shows. The T-90M in question ended up losing its turret as a result of the catastrophic destruction — something which plagues Soviet and Soviet-derived tank designs, in particular, where ammunition is stored directly underneath their turrets.

Footage of the event was originally posted to the Telegram channel of Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, on October 8. According to Syrskyi, the T-90 was destroyed by an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) company from the 66th Mechanized Brigade. When the tank was destroyed exactly remains unclear, although it has been suggested that this took place east of the city of Makiivka, Luhansk Oblast.

The wide-angle overhead footage posted by Syrskyi (seen below) taken from a Ukrainian drone, shows the T-90M racing down the side of a field before engaging an out-of-sight target. That this particular variant was a T-90M has been confirmed by other footage of the same event, which clearly shows the tank’s distinctive remote weapons station mounted on top of the turret.

In the above clip, the T-90M can be seen firing shells from its 2A46M-4 125mm smoothbore main gun, which you can read more about here. At the 33-second mark, the tank dramatically explodes upon the impact of an ATGM. Its burning wreck can be seen billowing smoke for the remainder of the clip. It’s a brutal scene and a reminder that such a heavily armored machine can turn into a giant bomb if hit by the right when in the right place.

T-90M seen exploding on the battlefield. Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi via Telegram

Close-in footage of the tank provides a more detailed perspective of its destruction. In the 46 second-long clip below, we see the T-90M moving around on the battlefield.

One Twitter user has noted that pausing the footage at the 24-second mark appears to capture the ATGM in the frame just prior to its impact with the tank.

Then, at the 25-second mark, it dramatically explodes in a huge ball of flames.

Flames erupt upon impact of the ATGM. Twitter/X screen cap

The video then zooms out, showing the smoldering remains of the tank and its missing turret. As The War Zone has indicated before in various pieces, Russian- and Soviet-designed tanks are prone to what’s known as the ‘jack-in-the-box’ effect. This involves ammunition stored beneath the main turret detonating as a result of an attack, blasting the tank’s turret high into the air.

Smoldering remains of the T-90M, minus its turret. Twitter/X screen cap

The T-90M is the most advanced main battle tank to have achieved operational status within the Russian military. This is due to the fact that the country’s next-generation T-14 Armata has yet to be used in frontline formations, and is only available in very small numbers. The first production T-90M only began to be delivered to Russian forces in the spring of 2020, with the model building on the T-90 series first introduced in the 1990s. The T-90 was itself an outgrowth of the Cold War-era T-72. You can read more about the T-90M’s specific capabilities here

Evidence that Russia was committing a small number of its T-90Ms to the fight in Ukraine began to emerge in April of last year, and best available estimates put the total number of T-90M tanks in service at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at around 100. The first confirmed loss of one of those tanks came in early May 2022, and the first example captured by Ukrainian forces followed a few months later in September. 

According to the Oryx OSINT group, which only tabulates destroyed, damaged, and missing vehicles from the war for which it has visual confirmation, 27 T-90Ms have been completely destroyed — including the variant recently targeted on October 8. Another 18 have been damaged.

While Ukrainian forces have been actively destroying advanced T-90Ms for some time, the spectacular footage of the most recent loss shows just how fast things can go bad when one of these tanks is struck by enemy fire in the right spot.

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Oliver Parken Avatar

Oliver Parken

Associate Editor

Oli’s background is in the cultural and military history of twentieth-century Britain. Before joining The War Zone team in early in 2022, he was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent's Center for the History of War, Media and Society in the U.K., where he completed his PhD in 2021. Alongside his contributions to The War Zone's military history catalog, he also covers contemporary topics and breaking news.