Indigenous battle tank heads for comparative trials with Russian T-90

May 25th, 2009 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) With one regiment of the indigenously built Arjun main battle tank (MBT) delivered to the Indian Army, the combat vehicle is now headed for comparative trials with its Russian T-90 equivalent.
This could deliver the final verdict on a platform that has been 36 years in the making and which has cost the exchequer Rs.3.5 billion ($71.7 million).

The Indian Army had insisted on the delivery of a full regiment (45 tanks) of the Arjun before the comparative trials could be conducted.

“DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) has handed over 16 more tanks to the Indian Army, completing one regiment of 45 tanks. This regiment will now be subjected to conversion training and field practice for a three months. After that, the army is planning to conduct a comparative trial with T-90 tanks in October or November to assess the operational deployment role of the Arjun,” a defence ministry official told IANS.

The DRDO demand for the comparative trials of the two tanks is being seen as a last ditch bid to save the Arjun as some 500 tanks would need to be manufactured to make the project feasible.

The army has made it clear that it will buy no more than the 124 Arjuns it has contracted for because it is unhappy with the tank on various counts. This apart, the army says the Arjun can at best remain in service for five to 10 years while it is looking 20 years ahead and needs a futuristic MBT.

The army’s stand has been contrary to a third party assessment by an internationally reputed tank manufacturer.

The official said: “As suggested by the army, Arjun tanks were subjected to rigorous trials and assessment in a third party audit. After the extensive evaluation, the auditor confirmed that Arjun is an excellent tank with very good mobility and firepower characteristics suitable for Indian deserts.”

“They (the auditor) also gave inputs on production procedures for further enhancing the performance of Arjun tanks. DRDO will be incorporating all these inputs before the next lot of 62 tanks is handed over to army by March 2010,” the official added.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement 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.

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