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By Bulbul Singh

16 Jun 11. Indian scientists have replaced the German MTU engine on the Arjun tank with an indigenous engine, thus trials of the upgraded tank have begun in the hot deserts of Rajasthan.

The success of the Mk.II Arjun tank will finally determine the quantity of future tanks from overseas and the fate of the upgrade of 2500 ageing T-72 tanks.

“A success of the Mark-II could see the complete scrapping of the T-72 upgrade project resulting in big ticket orders for the Arjun.” said an Indian Army official.

The DRDO which developed the Arjun and also the upgraded Mk.II version, began development of the tank in 1973, but, due to technical snags and failure of the tank by the Indian Army for combat purposes until 2010 when the comparative trials of the Arjun were held with the Russian T-90 and the Indian Army assessed the tank to be satisfactory.

Thereafter, last year, the Indian defence ministry was quick to give an order for an additional 124 Arjun tanks, in addition to the earlier order for 124 tanks. Meanwhile, DRDO fast-tracked its Mk.2 version which has higher indigenous content and is more mobile compared to the Mk.1.

An Indian Army official said, ”Only the Mk.II version would be better equipped for combat purposes.”

Weighing 66 tonnes, the Mk.II will feature several upgrades, including an indigenous engine that would replace the existing German engines and transmission system of the 58-tonne Arjun Mk.I.

The indigenous content of the Mk.II model will be up to 90 per cent as against 58 per cent indigenous content with the Mk.I which is currently with the Indian Army. The Mk.II will also feature superior missile firing capabilities and will be ready by 2014.

Apart from increased missile launching capabilities, Arjun Mk.II also has an enhanced APU, explosive reactive armour panels, mine plough, automatic target tracking, advanced land navigation system, digital control harness and advanced commander panoramic sight.

The Mk.II will have a better gun barrel with an Equivalent Firing Charge, as the strength of the barrel will be able to sustain firing of 500 rounds against the Russian T-72S tank’s 250 rounds.

After the current round of hot desert trials, another trial will be held next summer, after which production is likely to begin with the first batch of Mk.IIs will be inducted into the Indian Army by 2014.

The Arjun was thought to have been killed by the Russian T-90 after it became the Main Battle Tank for the Indian Army, has staged a remarkable recovery and the Mk.II could lead it to become the Indian Army Main Battle Tank of the future.

However, the Mk.II is said to be double the cost of the T-90, though price tag is not necessarily an issue for the Indian Army which is currently engaged in upgrading its ageing weaponry and replacing the erstwhile USSR-made weapons and equipment.

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