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By Bulbul Singh

28 Feb 14. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has cleared an Indian Army proposal to mount Thermal Imaging (TI) sights on the Russian-origin, T-90, T-72 tanks and BMP infantry combat vehicles. In addition, the MoD has also cleared a proposal to mount air conditioning (AC) systems on the T-90s.

However, no tender will be floated for the orders as the 400+ Thermal Imaging sights, will be purchased from state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), while the AC systems will be procured from DRDO; 2000 TIs will be bought for the T-72s, 1800 for the T-90s and 1200 for BMPs.

“The T-90 TIs were damaged as there was no air conditioning system on the tank,” said an Indian Army source.

The mounting of the ACs on the T-90s has always been a demand by the armoured units but was never reflected in the contracts signed with Russia. India contracted purchase of 310 T-90 tanks in 2001, and another 330 tanks in 2007 in addition to a contract for produce 1000 T-90 tanks made from scratch in India.

The Indian Army T-90s, produced in India under license from Russia, are without an AC unit.

The Indian Army rushed to procure AC systems for T-90s after India’s Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) in its latest report to the Indian Parliament criticized the MoD for not mounting the AC systems on the T-90s.

The CAG Report says,’ Despite the recommendations of the trials of the T-90’s to have AC the Russian made T-90 tanks were bought without ACs which caused degradation in the TI performance due to long exposure to heat and dust.’

‘Though action was initiated to procure the ACs separately in 2002, the same was yet to materialize.’ the Report noted.

The Trials team recommended the selection of T-90 tank in 1999 along with the mounting of ACs.

Sources in the Indian MoD said, ‘Though the Russians offered the first tank for trials with AC, the contract signed with Russia for purchase of 310 tanks and thereafter in 2006 for another 330 tanks never included ACs.’

Sources in the Indian Army said, “The Russian ACs on the T-90s were not successful which was the reason they were omitted while signing the contracts.”

DRDO has yet to develop an AC for the T-90 which would mean the tanks would be without ACs for another three to four years by the time the ACs are developed and fitted.

“The T-90s, which came into operation in 2002 under the 2001 contract, came without ACs which degraded several sophisticated systems including Fire Control Systems and Thermal Imaging systems.” said sources.

India and Russia also signed an agreement to produce 1000 T-90 tanks from scratch fully fitted in India with ACs. However, there is still no provision made in the Avadhi ordnance factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu for incorporating the ACs.

The upgraded version of Russian-made T-90s procured under the 2007 contract also had problems with TI sights. This came to light when the T-90S version of the Russian tank was put on trial against the homemade Arjun tank in 2010 in the Rajasthan desert. It was noticed that the French Catherine TI camera which T-90S had technical problems especially during summer months.

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