Algeria’s armed forces have received a new batch of T-90SA battle tanks, which arrived at the Mediterranean port of Oran by sea from the Russian port of Ust-Luga on the Baltic Sea. Algeria remains a leading customer for Russian military hardware, with the largest defence budget in Africa and a relatively small indigenous defence production capacity. The country’s armoured units are considered by far the most modern and capable on the African continent. Other than the T-14, the T-90 is the most capable Russian tank to enter service – although more advanced non-export variants such as the T-90M have also been developed. Algeria currently operates over 500 of these vehicles, and is expected to be a leading potential client for the newer T-14 once the design enters mass production. This makes the country the world’s largest foreign operator of modern Russian tanks other than India.
Enhancements to the T-90SA over the original design include a more powerful 1,000 hp (750 kW) engines, Shtora-1 optical-electronic suppression system, an air conditioning system and a cooling system for night vision equipment. Serving alongside the T-90SA are BMPT-72 Terminator 2 tank support vehicles, for which Algeria was the first foreign client, as well as older T-72M1 tanks which have been extensively modernised with Russian assistance. The similarities between the T-72 and the newer T-90 design make maintenance and other logistical issues considerably easier. Algeria is currently the only operator of the T-90 in Africa, other than a small contingent of under 50 tanks in the Ugandan Army, although Egypt is currently negotiating a contract to produce at least 500 of the tanks under licence.