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By Bulbul Singh

26 Sep 07. The controversy whether India’s Arjun tank is battle- worthy is over. The Indian defence ministry has decided that there is no need to evaluate the efficacy of the Arjun tank and not undertake any comparison trials; the production of 124 Arjun tanks is to go ahead.

The Arjun tank is indigenously designed and developed by Avadi-based Combat Vehicles Research Development Establishment (CVRDE), India’s sole main battle tank development laboratory under there state-owned defense research agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The Arjun tank project, which began in the 70’s had been facing several question marks over its performance.

The comparative trials of the Arjun with the Russian T-90 and T-72 tanks in exercises planned for October have been cancelled, said sources in the Indian defence ministry. The cancellation of the trials is an proves the efficacy of the Arjun tank, said a DRDO scientist.

The Indian defence ministry has maintained that the T-90 and Arjun tanks are not comparable as they have different weights and sizes with the Arjun weighing 60 tones and the T-90 tank weighing 40 tones.

The Indian Army, which has acquired 15 Arjun tanks, has so far not taken a decision to induct the Arjun tank for combat purposes. The latest decision of the Indian defence ministry will push the Arjun into combat sources in the Indian army said. The Indian Army had until last year maintained that the Arjun tanks is too bulky for combat and is not easily transportable.

However, in the summer exercises this year involving the Arjun in the deserts of Rajasthan, the Indian Army said that it received zero complaints from the Arjun tank’s performance.

The Indian defence ministry has told the Indian Army that a series of exercises by the Indian Army for the last seven years have proved that the Arjun tank is a superior tank and is fit for combat. They have even asked the Indian Army to consider placing additional orders of Arjun tanks in addition to the order for 124 tanks currently being executed by Heavy Vehicle Factory at Avadi under the administrative control of state-owned Ordnance Factory Board [OFB].

Meanwhile, the Indian defence ministry has asked the Heavy Vehicle Factory to fast track production of the 124 Arjun tanks ordered by the Indian Army, which is facing a severe depletion of its tanks as nearly fifty per cent of the over 3000 tanks which will be scrapped in another three to five years.

The Indian Army is also procuring another 340 T-90 tanks directly from Russia in addition to the 310 T-90’s already acquired. India bought 310 T-90S in 2001 for around $800m, 124 in completed form and the remaining 186 were assembled at the Heavy Vehicles Factory.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry said a proposal is also under consideration to involve private defence companies in the licensed production of the Arjun so that the delivery schedule can be speeded up. Such an exercise will save the Indian Army relying heavily on imported parts for the T-72 tanks.

The Arjun tank was developed after three decades research and development by DRDO. Weighing in at 58.5 tons, it is significantly heavier than the Soviet-era T-series.

Armed with a 120 mm rifled gun, it also mounts an Israeli semi-active laser guided LAHAT missile. In addition, it is armed with a 12.7 mm AA machine gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun.

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