INDIA’S HOMEGROWN TANK UNDER QUESTION
By Bulbul Singh
14 May 07. Even as the first batch of 14 homegrown Main Battle Tanks, Arjun, are delivered to the Indian Army, the Select Committee of the Indian Parliament on Defence is critical on the delivery schedule of the tank, more then 34 years after the project was put into execution. The Indian Army has also not accepted the tank for combat purposes.
There is a shortfall of tanks within the Indian Army where the requirement is for 3500 tanks.
The 16th report of India’s Standing Committee on Defence, comprising 30 senior Members of Parliament notes,” The Committee are perturbed to note that the government of India accorded clearance for the development of an Indigenous Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun in May 1974. Even after the lapse of more than 34 years, the inordinate delay has escalated the cost of MBT Project”.
The Committee further noted that the Indian Ministry of Defence should seriously think as to how to comply Arjun’s requirements in a time bound manner.
An Indian Army officer said, an order for the production of 124 Arjun tanks was placed with the state owned Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), in 2000 and so far only 14 tanks have been delivered, with nine tanks delivered only last month. Five Tanks were handed over to Army in 2005 and nine more Tanks delivered last week
The Army officer said in private that the Arjun tank is a “dud tank” which he said cannot be used for combat purposes.
The quality of the homegrown Arjun tank has come under a question mark even by the high powered Select Committee of Defence which has quoted oral evidence before the committee of a non-official expert. The report quotes the non-official expert as saying notes”….. I am afraid our quality control is very poor I have heard that five tanks were presented before the media, however, when the media and other people went away, the tanks were put back in the factory because still some quality checks had to be made. The biggest problem in India in respect of defence production is quality control. If China can do it, why can we not do it?”
An official of CVRDE said that the Arjun tank has been produced after exhaustive trials in the prototype stage adding that the entire consignment of the Army of 124 tanks will be completed by July 2009.
The Indian Army official however said, that there has been pressure on the Indian Army all along to accept the Arjun tank even as it has been rejected for combat purposes by the Army on earlier occasions. The Arjun weighs 58.5 tons and is significantly heavier than the Soviet tanks the Indian Army is using, which would mean millions of dollars to be spent on logistics, as the tank does not even fit into the rail wagons.
The Arjun tank is armed with a 120 mm rifled gun, it is capable of firing APFSDS (Kinetic Energy) rounds, HEAT, High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) rounds and the 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.
The Arjun tank has still be officially cleared for combat purposes even after the latest exercises held in the first week of May in the hot deserts of Rajasthan. Indian Army officials said in private the tank has not impressed the Indian Army
However, Indian army officials said in private that India needs to purchase advanced tanks off-the-shelf as the Arjun cannot be relied on for combat purposes and that there is a severe shortage of tanks with the Indian army.
The Indian Army is now loosing tanks faster than new inductions and there will be a severe shortage in another two to three years if the trend is not contained. Around 800 of the Russian Vijayanta tanks will be scrapped in next two to three years, and the upgrade of the existing 1600 T-72 main battle tanks is not taking off due to bureaucratic delays. In addition several aging T-72 tanks will have to be