India Army To Get 248 More Arjun Main Battle Tanks



The much-maligned Arjun Main Battle Tank is poised to get a fresh lease of life, with the Indian Army set to order 248 more of India's first indigenously-built tanks, a decision that will also give a much-needed shot in the arm to the country's beleaguered tank fleet.

"We are definitely expecting more orders, at least a minimum of 248 tanks of the Mark-II version. The Ordnance Factory Board has been instructed by the ministry of defence to initiate action for the procurement of the Mark-II version," P. Sivakumar, director, Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, told the Economic Times.


The order, which could be placed in late-2011 itself, will come as a huge boost to the Arjun production line at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadhi, on the outskirts of Chennai, as the same was expected to be terminated due to a lack of interest shown by the Indian Army.


So far, the Army has placed an order for 248 tanks of the Mark-I and Mark-II versions.


The Mark-II version of the Arjun MBT is currently undergoing its critical summer trials in Pokhran, Rajasthan, conducted by the country's nodal defence lab, DRDO, while the winter trials are expected to take place later in the year. The defence research establishment expects to get the new orders from the end user - the Army - once the current trials conclude.


"If the trials go well, particularly relating to missile firing, there is no doubt that further orders will be placed. There is a commitment given by the deputy chief of Army staff, if the new improvements are incorporated successfully" Sivakumar said.


The June trials have already seen the Arjun MBT Mark-II tested with a number of technical improvements, including command panoramic sight and uncooled thermal image. According to Sivakumar, a further 40 technological improvements are to be tested, including a new transmission control system and new fuel tanks.


'We are planning the first phase of the end user trials by October or November for the missile and other design improvements," he said.


The Army's decision to induct greater numbers of the Arjun MBT is a significant turnaround from its earlier reluctance to do so. However, with the military's 4,000-strong tank arsenal consisting largely of more than 2,400 obsolete T-72 tanks and transfer of technology issues with Russia relating to the T-90, has forced it to take a re-look at the Arjun.


The tank has had its fair share of detractors within the country's military establishment.


After being in development hell for more than 30 years and at a substantial cost of Rs 300-crore, the Arjun MBT programme had come under severe flak for cost overruns and its failure to meet the Indian Army's combat requirements, leading to speculation that it could never be the mainstay of the Indian Army's Armoured Corps.


But ever since comprehensively outgunning and outrunning the T-90, India's current flagship battle tank in 2010, the DRDO has been positioning the Arjun MBT as the backbone of the country's armoured fighting units.


Defended the programme, the defence establishment also laid part of the blame for the project delays on the Indian military , stating that they had to be "realistic" in their demands.


"'But while we welcome all inputs and guidelines, we also feel the need for the Services to firm up realistic requirements at the earliest, so we may properly plan our project requirements," Dr VK Saraswat, scientific advisor to the defence minister said last month.
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