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By Bulbul Singh

17 Jun 10. The Indian defence ministry has given top priority to Indian Army’s Futuristic Main Battle Tank (FMBT)project. India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is to develop the futuristic tank along with other defence companies, including those from the private sector.

The Indian defence ministry fast tracked the FMBT project after the Indian Army placed additional orders for the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank in early May which followed the successful March 2010 comparative trials of Arjun with the Russian T-90. The Indian Defence ministry has also accepted the longstanding demand of DRDO to push through the FMBT. “Selected defence companies are to be invited in the next two months to participate in the FMBT project,” said a senior Indian defence ministry official.

The defence sector companies here will also tie up with overseas defence majors to participate in the FMBT project. “DRDO’s Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) has initiated indigenous design and development facility for FMBT and will seek outside participation,” added the defence ministry official.

DRDO will form a consortium for design and development of the FMBT. CVRDE is also expected to tie up with state-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi part of the Ordnance Factories Board, as its development partner and will also seek partnership with major private companies who are yet to be identified.

DRDO will develop 12 FMBT prototypes in five years before the tank is put to serial production. Advanced technology systems to be included in the FMBT will include automatic target tracking, defensive aids, laser warning, tank simulator systems. Besides, the tank will be invisible to the enemy development of detection avoidance and laser warning systems.

The Indian Army has already given its requirements for the FMBT including strengthening of existing armor capabilities and equipping the tank with high-powered lasers for taking on enemy rockets, aircraft and electro-optical sensors.

The FMBT will have a weight of 40 tones and high power-to-weight ratio. Besides it will have 125mm gun capable of firing missiles.

In addition, the Indian Army wants FMBT to have multi-role radar, quick action defensive ammunition to engage and destroy the attacking missiles and grenade control equipment built around a dedicated computer for automatic control of the operation of the radar and system as whole.

DRDO sources said, “The FMBT could be an upgraded model of Arjun. DRDO is pushing the Indian defence ministry to even name the FMBT project as Arjun Mark II project.”

A senior Indian Army official said,”While they have placed orders for additional T-90 and Arjun tanks, their futuristic requirements will be met only with participation of overseas defence majors with their hi-tech and core technologies incorporated in the tank. The official added,”They would not like to see a mere upgraded version of Arjun tank.”

Indian and Russian officials have discussed the possibility of “collaborating for a futuristic main battle tank but no agreement has emerged on the issue and the FMBT project will be floated soon,” said sources in the Indian defence force.

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