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PERU’S TROUBLED MBT REPLACEMENT PROGRAMME

14 Apr 14. Peru has been in the market for MBTs for over two decades now and has so far been considering options for new systems as well as upgrade options for existing T-55s. After facing several setbacks and cancellations in 2013 the Peruvian Ministry of Economy reportedly approved the T-55 replacement as part of its defence budget. Ever since, international suppliers have made a renewed effort to sell tanks to Peru with the hope that the country will make a decision this year.

In late 2013, Peru and Russia appeared to be close to finalising a deal. However, after FIDAE 2014, which was held in Santiago in March 2014, Peru was reported to be in continued negotiations with Russia’s Rosobonronexport over the potential sale of MBTs. These negotiations indicate that Peru’s hunt for a new MBT is still dragging on without a formal selection as yet.

The Peruvian Army has sought to replace its ageing fleet of T-55 tanks since the late 1990s, but several attempts have been cancelled. The last serious effort which was close to fruition was to procure 80 NORINCO Type 90II MBTs (MBT 2000s), which was cancelled in 2009. Although the exact reason for the cancellation was not clear, it was speculated that it did not materialise because the government prioritised other programmes or because Peruvian officials may have fallen under pressure from Russia not to do so. These allegations remain unconfirmed but they are an example of the twist and turns in the long-running procurement. Peru currently has about 250 T-55 MBTs that were purchased 40 years ago. Although the exact size of the requirement is not known, news reports in 2013 cited Russian officials as speculating that Peru would acquire between 120 and 170 tanks.

Undoubtedly, the requirement has been receiving interest from various international suppliers. The supplier list has also seen some additions and deletions in recent years. At present, the contenders are narrowed to a few including: Russia that has offered new T-90s, Ukraine that is offering T-84 Oplots, and a late entry of South Korea with its K2 Black Panther MBTs. There have also been reports of a surprise offer from the General Dynamics offering ex-Iraqi war M1A1 (upgraded) Abrams tanks. While Peru has not yet made a selection it has narrowed down its options. It rejected surplus Leopard 2A4 offered by Spain and Leopard 2A6 from Germany citing logistical complexities. Chinese MBT2000 have been discarded due to support and maintainability issues.

Leading Contenders

Russian T-90S: Following extensive marketing efforts in 2013, Russia announced that it is offering a full-scale model of its T-90S MBT to meet the requirement. The T-90 is the most modern tank in service with the armies of the Russian Federation. The main armament of the T-90 is the barrel 2A46M 125 mm smoothbore. A news report by Infodefensa highlighted certain unconfirmed criticisms regarding outdated transmission in the T-90s and doubts about armour protection against ammunition and 125 mm cannons. Despite this, it appears that Russia may be the strongest contender in the competition going by past preference and pricing. Following field-testing of all competing tanks in May 2013, Peruvian officials were reported as responding positively that the T-90S have the capacity to act in all areas of Peru.

M1A1 Abrams: General Dynamics has offered M1A1 Abram MBTs that are surplus to requirement after the end of the Iraq war. In May 2013, the M1A1 Abrams were reported to be part of comparative field tests. Following disqualification of Leopard MBTs, Peru turned away from considering secondhand options so this effectively disqualified them from a probable purchase. However, General
Dynamics sought approval from the US government to offer a complete logistics package with the sale of the M1A1 Abrams so that they’d be “refurbished”. Meaning that these used tanks would be completely revised, repaired and equipped to measure.

K2 Black Panther: In

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