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By Bulbul Singh

31 Mar 10. India’s homegrown Arjun main battle tank has performed better than the Russian T-90 Main Battle Tank in this month’s comparative trials held in the Rajasthan desert.

“However, despite the better performance of the Arjun tank over the T-90 tank, the Indian Army is unlikely to induct Arjun tank as a strike tank for the Indian Army, mainly because of its bulky weight of over 52 tonnes,” said sources in the Indian Army.

The Indian Army has so far ordered only 124 Arjun tanks, to be deployed in the desert area, and there is pressure by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), to get another order of around 500 tanks if the Indian Army decides to induct Arjun as a strike tank.

Sources in the Indian Army said, “Arjun tank performed better than the T-90 in several parameters, including driving cross-country over rugged sand-dunes and detecting, observing and quickly engaging targets; or accurately hitting targets, both stationery and moving, with pinpoint gunnery.”

“However, the Indian Army is unlikely to give another order for 500 Arjun tanks, just on the basis of the desert trials, as the tank has not been put to comparative trials in other terrains,” said the sources.

“The DRDO‘s ‘tactics’ of pressurizing the Indian Army into ordering the additional 500 Arjun tanks will not yield results,” added one senior Indian Army official who refused to be named.

During the trials, one squadron comprising 14 Arjun tanks was pitted against an equal number of T90 tanks. 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.

The Indian Army’s Directorate General of Mechanized Forces (DGMF), has been opposed to buying additional Arjun tanks for a long time, and had decided to keep the old Russian T-72 tanks and not yield to DRDO pressure to give an order for more Arjun tanks.

“The Arjun tank costs 30 per cent more than the T-90 and is less versatile than the T-90 and cannot become Indian Army’s Main Battle Tank,” said sources in the Indian Army.

In early trials the Arjun tank was rejected by the Indian Army as a number of defects were reported, including a deficient engine and fire control system, inaccurate guns, low speeds in tactical areas – principally the desert – and the tank’s inability to operate in temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius.

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.

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