Indigenous battle tank fails winter trials: army

April 16th, 2008 - 11:47 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) An indigenous main battle tank (MBT) that has been in the development for nearly 36 years has failed to deliver at the just-concluded winter trials, the Indian Army has told a key parliamentary panel. “We have just carried out the trial in winter. The tank performed very poorly. There have been four engine failures so far,” parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence quotes an Indian Army officer as saying.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony tabled the committee’s 29th report in both houses of parliament Wednesday.

“The defence ministry has been apprised. A lot of improvements have to be done before the army is satisfied with the tank,” the report quotes the army officer as telling the committee at its meeting here last month.

The report could prove to be the last nail in the MBT project, analysts said.

Ahead of the winter trials, conducted in the deserts of Rajasthan, an army officer had told IANS: “We are currently re-evaluating the Arjun (as the MBT is named) to find out if the defects we had pointed out have truly been rectified.”

“In any case, even if the defects are removed, the army is unlikely to go beyond the figure of 124 that it has initially contracted to purchase,” the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fourteen Arjun tanks had been handed over to the Indian Army for user trials last year but were returned to the manufacturer - the Combat Vehicles Development Establishment - with a list of defects.

These included a deficient fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally the deserts - and the tank’s inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius.

Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor and his predecessor, General J.J. Singh, had on separate occasions expressed their unhappiness with the tank.

“What we have today is a mid-level technology. What we need is a tank of international quality,” Kapoor said last November.

Singh had spoken in much in the same vein during a major Indian Army exercise in the desert of Rajasthan in April-May, 2007.

“We have to make sure the troops are not exposed to any disadvantage,” Singh replied cryptically when asked about Arjun’s performance during the five-day Exercise ‘Ashwamedh’ for which a squadron of 14 Arjun tanks was deployed.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement (QR) for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.

Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne tank with a 120 mm gun.

The tank was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s.

However, delays in the Arjun project, and Pakistan’s decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine, prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.

Of these, 186 were assembled from kits at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.

With the Arjun development delayed further, India last year signed a fresh contract with Russia to buy another 330 T-90s.

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