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By Bulbul Singh

29 Apr 08. India’s homegrown Arjun tank, has failed the crucial winter trials, undertaken by the Indian Army, putting a question mark on the combat deployment of the tank. The controversial Arjun tank, under development since 1974, has been “literally pushed on the Indian Army”, said a senior Indian army official.

“The Indian Army wants a new tank, other than the Arjun,” said the army official adding that, “The tank will never be used for combat purposes as it is a failed tank and can only be used for training purposes.”

The Indian Army, which had to wait for the Arjun for decades, was pushed to buy the Russian T-90 tank in 2000, in the absence of an advanced main battle tank.

The Indian Parliament’s 29th Report of the Standing Committee on defence, presented to Parliament on April 16, noted adverse comments on the Arjun. The Committee says it is startled to find that the Arjun is not performing up to the mark. The Report notes,” The Committee in their earlier reports had recommended that adequate numbers of Main Battle Tanks-Arjun should be manufactured for induction into the Indian Army. The Committee, however, are surprised to hear from a representative of the Army that Arjun tanks have performed very poorly and many improvements have to be made before the Army is satisfied on the Arjun tank”.

“During the winter trials, the German-made power pack failed several times within a run of 1000kms, in addition to several other faults reported on earlier trials in the desert,” said the Indian Army official.

Indian defence ministry officials said, “Orders for 124 Arjun tanks have been placed by the Indian Army.” However, sources in the Indian Army said, “The order for the tanks was forced out of them under pressure from the Defence Research and Development Organisation [DRDO], which is developing the tanks.

Indian Army officials added that the cost of the homegrown Arjun tank is twice that of the Russian T-90 adding that more then 65 per cent of spares and equipment on the Arjun are imported which in itself is a serious drawback.

The Indian Army sent an SOS to the Indian defence ministry two years ago, that it was likely to face serious shortages of tanks in the future, as its strength of over 3000 tanks will be depleted on account of scrapping due to age and obsolescence. The Indian Army has ordered 360 T-90 tanks earlier this year in addition to the 310 T-90 it has licensed produced in India. However, “The Indian Army wants newer tanks from other sources then Russia to replace the obsolete Arjun tank, said sources in the Indian Army.”

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