INDIA ORDERS ADDITIONAL ARJUN TANKS
By Bulbul Singh
18 May 10. The Indian Army has finally given an additional order for 124 Arjun tanks, making a total order for 248 Arjun tanks. The move followed comparative trials in March 2010 between the homegrown Arjun and the Russian T-90 tank. The additional orders will make the Arjun tank project economically viable.
For years, the Indian Army had refused to buckle under repeated pressure from the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) which designed the Arjun for additional orders, threatening the viability of the assembly line of the Combat Vehicle Research Development Establishment (CVRDE) at Avadi, which is producing the Arjun. The ongoing order of the Indian Army for 124 Arjuns would be executed by next year has kept the line open and the unit price low.
As the Indian Army refused to give further Arjun orders, the DRDO pushed through comparative trials for the tank in the desert plains of Rajas in March.
”The project for the design and development of the MBT Arjun was approved by the Government in 1974 with an aim to give the required indigenous cutting edge to our Mechanized Forces. After many years of trial and tribulation it has now proved its worth by its superb performance under various circumstances, such as driving cross-country over rugged sand dunes, detecting, observing and quickly engaging targets, accurately hitting targets – both stationary and moving, with pin pointed accuracy. Its superior fire-power is based on accurate and quick target acquisition capability during day and night in all types of weather and shortest possible reaction time during combat engagements,” says the official release of the defence ministry issued May 17.
During the trials one squadron comprising 14 Arjuns was pitted against an equal number of T90s. Each involved driving across 50 kilometers of desert terrain and then shooting at a set of targets. Each tank had to fire at least 10 rounds, stationary and on the move, with each hit being carefully logged. In total, each tank drove 150 kilometers and fired between 30-50 rounds. The trials also checked the tanks’ ability to drive through a water channel 5-6 feet deep.
Though the official release of the Indian defence forces says the Arjun tanks performed well, the Indian Army has yet to accept Arjun for combat purposes.
After Arjun won over the T-90 tank another long drawn battle will begin between DRDO and the Indian Army for accepting Arjun as a combat tank.
In case Arjun is accepted as a combat tank, then the Indian Army will have to give an order of at least 550 Arjuns to add to the existing strength of 3600 tanks with the Indian Army. The Indian Army resorted to purchase of T-90 tanks following decades of delay in the Arjun tank which was initially cleared in 1974.
The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement (QR) for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.
Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne tank with a 120 mm gun. The tank was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s.
However, delays in the Arjun project and Pakistan’s decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine, prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.
The Arjun success could hit the upgrade of over 2000 Russian T-72 tanks, a project already cleared by financial planners.
Initially, 1000 T-72 tanks are to be upgraded, including upgrading the 780HP engine to 1000HP, addition of advanced Thermal Imaging Fire Control Systems, provide Thermal Imaging sights to the night-blind T-72 tank and addition of an APU.
“The aging T-72M tanks need upgrading with new fire-control systems, night-fighting systems,