Main-battle tank (MBT)
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Arjuns do well but Army wants T-90s
New Delhi: The Arjuns have done ‘quite well’ in the longawaited battle with the Bhishmas. The Army, however, continues to favour the Bhishmas over the Arjuns in the race for the main-battle tanks (MBTs) for the 1.13-million force.
While the final results of the comparative trials between the indigenous Arjun tanks and Russian-origin T-90S tanks (christened ‘Bhishma’) in the Thar desert are still being ‘tabulated’, sources said Arjuns had performed well on most parameters like cross-country drives and hitting targets on the move. The Army, however, remains certain that its requirement for 1,781 MBTs to replace the older T-55 and T-72 tanks will be met through the progressive induction of 1,657 T-90S tanks and the 124 Arjuns already ordered. It, instead, wants DRDO to concentrate on developing an advanced Mark-II version of the Arjun to suit its futuristic requirements. DRDO, however, wants Army to order a minimum of 500 Arjuns to stabilise production lines and pave way for development of the ‘futuristic’ MBT.
‘‘The decision on the fate of Arjuns and the operational roles in which they can be deployed will only be taken after the final results are compiled and analysed,’’ said an official.
DRDO has often expressed worry over moves to demand ‘higher performance’ from the 58.5-tonne Arjun, which it claims is ‘superior’ to even the 46.5-tonne T-90S in some respects like its ‘excellent weightto-power ratio and very accurate firepower on the move’. With the huge delay in the Arjun project, which was sanctioned as far back as in 1974, the Army was forced to go in for the T-90S to meet its operational requirements.
After getting 310 T-90S tanks for over Rs 3,625 crore under a February 2001 contract, India signed a Rs 4,900 crore deal with Russia in November 2007 to import another 347 of these MBTs.
The Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory is to manufacture another 1,000 T-90S tanks under licence. Then, there is the ongoing upgradation of 692 T-72 tanks to ‘‘combat-improved Ajeya standards’’.