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By Bulbul Singh

27 Aug 12. Despite improvements in India’s indigenous Arjun tank, the Indian Army is reluctant to give further orders for the tank.

“If additional orders fail to come in the next one to two years, then the plant will become uneconomical and the tank would be too expensive, as there would be no economies of scale,” admitted an official of the Indian defence ministry.

The Indian Army has however considering to give orders for the Armoured Recovery Vehicles for the Arjun tanks but it is still not clear when.

The Indian Army on its part is finding it difficult to deploy the Arjun tank for combat situations, due to weight problems, particularly along the Pakistani border. The Arjun Mark-2, for which orders have been
Placed, is 67 tonnes compared to the T-90 tanks weighing only 45 tonnes.

“What the Indian Army wants is light tanks to be deployed along the China border,” said an Indian Army official.

The Indian Army was literally forced into placing orders with the state owned Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE) to get the project going.

While the trials of the Arjun in comparison with the T-90 tanks have been found to the requirement the Indian Army still there are issues with the weight of the tank, especially in the desserts bordering Pakistan.

The Indian Navy wants lighter tanks which can be air lifted to upper reaches along the Chinese border. The Indian Army has already ordered 240 Arjun tanks and is not acceding to the request from DRDO and also the Indian defence ministry to order more Arjun tanks.

The outgoing Indian Army Chief, General V K Singh had categorically said ‘No’ to an additional order putting the Indian defence ministry on the defensive.

The Indian Army wants to lift lighter tanks by C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft which the Indian Air Force has bought. The India Army has gone a step ahead and asked for a dedicated fleet of its own C-17 transport aircraft to carry tanks and guns to higher reaches.

The army has also asked for more types of ammunition on the Mark-2 tanks which includes Thermobaric rounds and penetration rounds. Thermobaric warheads can be used against bunkers and hardened targets.

The Israeli Trophy system is now being considered for the Mark-2 version of the tank.

The Indian Army had floated a Request for Information for the procurement of around 300 light tanks but the procurement has not made any headway as Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) wants that they should be granted the project for developing a light tank.

A DRDO official said, they had developed a light tank in the 90’s but the project was closed due to lack of demand from the Indian Army. “Now that there is demand from Indian Army for a Light Tank, it should be made at home,” added DRDO official.

The Indian Army wants to buy the light tanks from overseas market and not rely on DRDO as they feat the light tank could also go the Arjun tank way. Conceived in 1973 the Arjun tank has yet to find a place for combat in the Indian Army.

DRDO had developed a tracked amphibious light tank which a license-produced variant of BMP, built by the Ordnance Factory Medak with French GIAT TS-90 turret having 105 mm gun. The Design and Development of ‘Light Tank on BMP’ project approved in 1983. The project was ultimately closed in 1994 as the Indian Army did not come forward to give orders.

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