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By Bulbul Singh

11 Oct 06. To cope with the acquisition of additional tanks by Pakistan, India has decided to accelerate acquisition of Russian T-90 tanks under license production from Russia, and upgrade all the 1600 existing T–72 tanks. Global tenders for the upgrade of T –72 tanks would begin shortly, while the order for license production of 1000 T-90 tanks has been awarded.

By 2020 there would be around 4000 tanks, despite the disposal of 800 Vijayanta tanks and T-55 tanks with the Indian Army.

The Indian Army fast paced the acquisition of additional tanks in line with Pakistan’s efforts to induct additional homegrown Al Khalid tanks, and upgrade of the existing T-59 and plans to upgrade T-80 tanks bought from Ukraine.

The Indian Army’s plans to acquire main battle tanks on time has taken a severe setback following the delay in the homegrown tank Arjun by over a decade and the tank being finally even rejected by the Indian Army for combat worthiness. Though five Arjun tanks have been produced since its development in 1971, it has not been declared by the Indian Army for combat.

The Arjun tank is too bulky at 58.5 tons and is much heavier then the Russian T-90 and has a longer width that gives it a poor operational mobility as the railway wagons available currently cannot accommodate the Arjun. On the other hand Pakistan has inducted its homegrown Al Khalid tank in its army and upgraded its large fleet of t of Chinese T-59 tanks upgraded with the latest 125 mm guns, similar to the new Al-Khalid tanks.

License production of T-90 tanks:

The Indian army has already given an order for the license production of T-90 tanks under license from Russia to be produced by the state owned Ordnance Factory Board, at one of its factories at Medak in Andhra Pradesh state. Deliveries would commence from 2008 in various phases and the order for 1000 tanks would be completed by 2011.

In the first lot, 300 T-90 tanks would be manufactured, beginning 2008, and the order would be completed by 2011. In the first year 50 tanks, 100 tanks in the second and 150 tanks in the third year would be produced.

No extra facilities would be built for the indigenous production of the Russian T-90 tanks as the existing facilities at Medak and Avadhi factories had been used to assemble 186 T-90 tanks at the two factories.

India and Russia had signed an MoU in 2001 under which the Indian Army received 310 T-90 tanks, out of which 124 were bought fully formed and kits were imported for the remaining 186 which were assembled at Avadi. The entire order has since been executed by the Avadhi ordnance factory.

Upgrade of T-72 tanks:

In addition the Indian Army has decided to upgrade all the existing 1600 T-72 tanks in various phases ending 2020. Global tenders for the T-72 tanks would begin from next year itself and the upgrade of each T-72 tank is expected to be around $2m.

Currently Indian Army’s mechanized formations are equipped with the T-72 M1 tanks with which the Indian Army have been indigenised at the state owned Heavy Vehicles Factory, at Avadhi in southern India,

The Indian Army in 1997 floated a Request For Proposal for modernization of entire fleet of 2000 T-72 tanks. However, the Indian defense ministry in 2001 decided to upgrade the T-72 tanks in batches.

The government had then short-listed PCO-Cenzin, Warsaw of Poland; Elop Electro-Optics Industries Ltd of Israel and Thales, Paris, France for fire-control system; while IAI Electronics Group, Yahud, Israel, LITEF GmbH, Freiburg, Germany and Reutech Defence Industries (RDI) Ltd, Natal, South Africa had been short listed for supply for land navigation system and for radio sets GEC Marconi, United Kingdom and Tadiran Limited, Holon, Israel had been selected.

The Indian Army is already facing serious shortage of tanks with fifty per cent of its 3500 tanks slated to go to the junky

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