M-1 versus Russia’s T-90 and China’s Type 99 Tank

Another interesting comparative article from The National Interest: China’s Deadly Type 99 Tank vs Russia’s T-90 and America’s M-1 Abrams: Who Wins?

A few points they make:

  1. The U.S. has the better gun.
  2. The U.S. has the better armor.
  3. The U.S. tank has more crew (this is a good thing).
  4. The U.S. tank is heavier (this is not a good thing).
  5. They do claim the Chinese Type 99 may be better protected due to its multi-layered defensive systems.
  6. The U.S. tank does not have a Laser Warning Receiver.
  7. The U.S. tank does not have Active Protection Systems.
  8. The U.S. tank does not have Explosive Reactive Armor.
  9. The U.S. tank does not have a “dazzler” laser to blind other gunners.

A few points for further comment:

  1. They state: “Moscow currently maintains good relations with Beijing, with which it shares a border, but the two powers are not close allies, having nearly come to war during the late 1960s.”
    1. They did have multiple engagements in 1969, including two actions that were at least company sized. We were not able to find anything of more significance. See our report SS-1: An Analysis of the 1969 Sino-Soviet Conflict. Link to our report listing: TDI Reports 1992-present
    2. I am not sure they had “nearly come to war” during that time.
  2. They state: “The Abrams, of course, is the classic American design which devastated Soviet-made Iraqi armor in the 1991 Gulf War without losing a single tank to enemy fire.”
    1. We were facing Soviet-built T-72s
    2. Not sure what has been publically released on this, but according to the rumors I have heard, it was truly one-sided. The M-1 was notably superior in firepower and sensors and T-72’s armor protection was deficient.
    3. The T-90 is a descendent of the T-72.
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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. These tank v. tank comparisons raise an interesting question: what would armored warfare likely look like between U.S. forces and near peer competitors over the next 10 to 20 years? We have the 1991 Gulf War example, but I suspect we’ve already over-learned from that. Aside from recent examples of modern AFVs fighting irregular infantry equipped with modern anti-tank missiles, the last massed tank battles between near peers took place in 1973. Is modern armored warfare still about combined arms or has it evolved into mostly platform v. platform duels?

  2. Well, such an analysis would take up pages and be outside of the articles scope.

    It would be wise to estimate each nations distribution of military expenditures, i.e. how much of the total nominal investments are allocated towards tank development and maintenance. My guess would be that the US personnel investment per capita is much higher compared to China (total expenditures are high, only a small fraction is probably diverted to tanks, Airpower/UAVs will take up a significantly higher amount). That is the only explanation why the most advanced nation and pioneer in nanotech and electronics hasn’t updated the armour defensive systems yet, jammers, APS, ERA. There is probably even a higher emphasis on Cyberwarfare.
    Another important question: Are those systems battle proven? To what extent will the survivability increase?
    Those debates are usually ad nauseam, e.g. Auto loader vs manual.

    If we would extrapolate from existing contigencies then this would indicate that the outcome of AFV engagements would still favour the Western Nations/doctrines similar to historical outcomes during and after WW2, Kursk, Valley of Tears.


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