Tanks T-90S of the Indian army. Photo by the RF Ministry of Defense / mil.ru
Main battle tanks remain one of the most popular commodities on the international arms and equipment market. Several countries offer their products of this kind, and some of these products have shown outstanding commercial success. In recent decades, the Russian T-90, German Leopard 2 and American M1 Abrams have become the most exported MBTs on the market.
The most popular
In 1999, the first export contract was signed for the sale of the T-90S MBT. In the following years, several similar agreements appeared, as a result of which the T-90S and its modifications became the best-selling tanks of our time. To meet the needs of customers, the production of such MBTs is carried out both in our country and abroad under license.
India became the largest buyer of the T-90S, which actually determined its commercial success. It was she who in 1999 became a starting foreign customer, and then established a licensed assembly. According to known data, now in combat units there are more than 1000 T-90S tanks and several hundred have been put into reserve. Algeria and Azerbaijan also became important customers - 400 and 100 tanks, respectively. Other countries limited themselves to purchasing dozens or units of equipment.
The production of the T-90S and its modifications for existing orders continues to this day. In addition, there are regular reports of possible new export contracts. The number of exported and licensed T-90S is approaching 2 thousand. Fulfilling existing orders, apart from those expected, will increase this number.
It is important that we are talking about new build tanks. Export T-90s are mainly produced from scratch and specifically for specific customers. Finished equipment from Russian parts or from storage was transferred only to individual customers and in minimal quantities.
The reasons for the commercial success of the T-90 and its modifications are obvious. This MBT has the most favorable price-performance ratio. In terms of mobility, protection and weapons, the T-90S meets modern requirements. The proposed modernization projects improve all the main characteristics and qualities. At the same time, the tank remains relatively cheap - the cost of a modern T-90SM does not exceed $ 4,5 million, which is significantly less than the prices for foreign equipment.
In terms of total export volumes - with certain reservations - the German MBT Leopard 90 can be compared with the Russian T-2S. Equipment of this type in various modifications has been produced since the end of the seventies, and by now approx. 3600 tanks. Until a certain time, the armed forces of the FRG remained the main customer of this technology. Mass export shipments began later.
After the end of the Cold War, the Bundeswehr command decided to drastically reduce the number of tanks in combat units. Tank troops were reduced and after a series of transformations in Germany, a little more than 300 Leopard 2 tanks, mostly of later modifications, continue to serve. Other equipment was taken to the reserve and then put up for sale. In addition, the production of tanks continued, mainly for export.
From the beginning of the nineties to the present, Germany has sold more than 2800 MBTs of the Leopard-2 family, and about two-thirds of this amount fell on vehicles from stock. The main buyers of such equipment were European states, which wanted to update the fleet of armored forces with limited spending. The countries of North and South America and Asia were also interested in tanks. However, not in all cases negotiations reached contracts. The country's leadership has banned the sale of equipment to several foreign countries.
An interesting fact is that some armored vehicles managed to change several owners. So, in the early nineties, several hundred MBTs were acquired by the Netherlands. Later they abandoned tanks and sold a significant number of used vehicles to Canada. Several of these tanks then returned to Germany, where they underwent modernization and returned to service.
The reasons for the popularity of the German MBT of the Leopard-2 line are quite simple. The Bundeswehr made a serious discount “for second-hand”, and the buyer could get a tank with sufficiently high characteristics and the remaining resource for an acceptable $ 1,5-2,5 million. However, later modifications have seriously risen in price. For Leopard 2A6 or 2A7, the manufacturer asks for at least $ 5-6 million.
American tank builders can boast of significant commercial successes. MBT M1 Abrams of the first modification went into series in the early eighties and was initially produced only for the US Army. Later, the first export contracts appeared, and by now Abrams was able to become one of the leaders in sales.
In total, more than 10 thousand M1 tanks were produced - most of them went to their own army. Approx. 2200 machines, both new and retired. At the same time, such equipment was acquired by only six countries that have good relations with Washington.
The largest foreign operator of the Abrams family tanks is the Egyptian army. She acquired approx. 1200 MBT version M1A1. Both ready-made tanks and assembly kits were purchased. Most of such equipment remains in operation, although several dozen vehicles had to be put into reserve. Saudi Arabia acquired approx. 400 tanks of the M1A2 version and the modified M1A2SA modification. Kuwait received over 200 A2 tanks. Iraq, Australia and Morocco were forced to limit themselves to a few dozen tanks.
Advertising materials claim that modern versions of the M1 Abrams MBT compare favorably with other vehicles with increased characteristics and improved combat qualities. However, these tanks, depending on the modification, can be quite expensive. So, M1A1 for Australia, taken from storage and repaired, cost approx. $ 1,2 million apiece, and the cost of the latest modifications can reach $ 8-9 million.
It is easy to see that the United States in the production of its "Abrams" focused on its own rearmament, while the export of equipment was not a priority. In addition, the high cost and willingness to cooperate only with a limited circle of friendly states affected the commercial prospects of the American MBT. However, all this did not prevent the obtaining of very remarkable results.
In addition to Russia, Germany and the USA, other countries are now producing and exporting their MBTs. First of all, this is China. The PRC industry has developed a number of tanks with different characteristics, intended only for export supplies. Some of them went into series and are supplied to customers. Nevertheless, in terms of its number, none of these MBTs can yet compete with the market leaders. But China continues to pursue this direction and looks to the future with optimism.
Also of note is the French MBT Leclerc. It was produced from 1990 to 2008, and during this time, approx. 860 dmg. More than 400 tanks were acquired by the French army, and the rest were sold to the only foreign customer - the United Arab Emirates. The main problem of Leclerc, limiting its export potential, was the high cost. Due to the most modern electronic equipment, tanks of the latest series cost more than $ 10 million.
Present and future
The situation on the international MBT market in recent decades is quite simple and predictable. Potential buyers choose equipment in terms of quality and cost ratio. In addition, in some cases, political factors play a role: it is not always possible for a specific country to conclude a contract with a specific supplier.
Apparently, the current market situation will not undergo major changes in the foreseeable future. The T-90S and its modifications will remain the most popular new tanks, and the Leopard 2 will retain its leading position in the used market.
However, there are already prerequisites for changing this situation. A new major player appears on the market - China. In addition, the leading countries are engaged in the development of promising tanks, which will also be able to enter the market in the future. However, such processes will take more than one year, and so far the situation should not change.