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By Bulbul Singh

29 Jul 13. The fully modified and upgraded indigenous Arjun Mk. II tank for the Indian Army has been put on desert trials in Rajasthan. The success of the trials will put the Mark-II tank to production and could even generate more orders in case the Indian Army is satisfied.

The Indian Army has sought more than 93 improvements over the Arjun M. I tank in the upgraded Mark-II tank, 19 of which are major modifications.
Chennai-based Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment which has designed the Mk. II claim that the upgraded tank would be more agile than the lightweight T-90 Russian made tank currently used by the Indian Army. The excess weight has always been an issue with the Arjun Mk. I tank which weighs 58 tonnes and was found to be cumbersome to move on Indian roads and rail. However, the upgraded Mk. II tank is even heavier weighing over 62 tones.

Indian defence scientists say the tank had to be made heavier because the Indian Army added excess features. Fitting Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) plates on the tank has increased crew protection, but increased weight. Similarly other weight increase has been attributed to adding mine ploughs, which churn up the ground ahead of the tank, uprooting mines.

Indian Scientists claim that in cross country, the Mk. II would even beat T-90 tank which weighs only 45 tones. Arjun Mk. II can fire missiles, has an enhanced Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), has Explosive Reactive Armour panels, mine plough, Automatic Target Tracking, Advanced Land Navigation System, digital control harness and advanced commander panoramic sight. In addition the Arjun Mk. II has a better gun barrel than the T90.

The Arjun Mk. II features several upgrades, including an indigenous engine that would replace the existing German engines and transmission systems of the 58-tonne Arjun Mk. I. The indigenous content of the Mk. II Arjun will be up to 90 per cent as against 58 per cent indigenous content with the Arjun-mark-I tank which Is currently with the Indian Army.

The Indian Army has already topped an additional order of 124 Arjun bringing a total of 248 tanks with the Indian Army. The Heavy Vehicles Factory, at Avadi producing the tanks has however made a case for at least 500 tanks to be able to make the assembly line economically viable.
The success of the ongoing trials of Mk. II can boost an order to the Avadi factory, but the issue is not only technical but also has issues relating to a decision by the Indian Army which could eventually affect its long term acquisition of tanks.

One Indian Army official said it is not sure whether the Arjun Mk. II can be deployed across the border with Pakistan despite its good technical scores.

In addition it has to be assessed whether India need lighter tanks immediately on priority basis to be deployed in the eastern sector along the China border or heavy tanks like the Arjun Mark-II tank which can only be deployed along the Pakistan border.

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