Following reports in July 2020 that the Egyptian Defence Ministry had signed a contract to purchase 500 Russian T-90MS battle tanks, recent reports have indicated that deal is set to go ahead with the vehicles to be produced in the African country under license. The T-90MS is the most capable variant of the T-90 to have been offered for export, with the design continuing to be modernised and the Russian Army receiving the latest and by far the most capable the T-90M from April 2020. Signs of progress in the deal come as Egypt has come under growing Western pressure to cut defence ties with Russia and end purchases of Russian armaments, and represents one of multiple arms deals with Russia under discussion. The T-90MS has been a popular export with India being its primary client and set to field over 450, while Algeria has reportedly begun to upgrade its older T-90 variants to a similar standard. The tank will represent the most capable in Africa, and depending on the details of the contract could include technologies from the new T-90M such as the 2A46M-5 gun and the T-14 tank’s Kalina fire control system, the Afghanit active protection system and Relikt explosive reactive armour, and access to a range of new munition types.
The T-90MS will be the first tank in Egyptian service fielded in meaningful numbers with an automatic loader, meaning it will require just three crew where the older American M1 and Soviet T-62 an T-55 tanks require four with the fourth serving as a loader. Particularly if using the new 1130 hp V-92S2F engine, the tank will have much higher mobility and lower fuel consumption and maintenance needs than the M1A1 tanks Egypt currently relies on. Unlike the Abrams, the tank will not have significant restrictions imposed on how it can be used or be downgraded as is common for Western arms built for Egyptian use. Egypt shifted away from reliance on American armaments from 2014, after the overthrow of its Western aligned Islamist government in 2013 saw Washington respond with an arms embargo causing serious shortages of spare parts and undermining counterinsurgency efforts. A T-90 deal has been under discussion since at least 2017 according to Russian sources, although whether Egypt will acquire Russian tanks only to replace older Soviet T-62s and T-55s, or also to eventually replace the M1A1 Abrams which has also increasingly been considered obsolete, will likely depend on the Army’s satisfaction with the T-90MS’ performance as well as the extent of Western political leverage over Cairo.