Speculation on sabotage of Arjun tank trials baseless: Indian Army

April 28th, 2008 - 9:48 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) The Indian Army Monday refuted allegations of “sabotage” in the trials of the indigenously developed main battle tank (MBT) Arjun saying any speculation on this score was “misconceived.” “During the winter trials of the Arjun tank, the DRDO’s (Defence Research and Development Organisation) involvement was complete and of the same extent as the user’s (Indian Army). Hence, any speculation of sabotage in the conduct of the trials is totally uncalled for, misconceived and baseless,” an army official told IANS.

Fourteen Arjun tanks were handed over to the Indian Army for user trials last May but were returned to the manufacturer - the Combat Vehicles Development Establishment - with a list of defects. These were handed back to the army in December for the winter trials that were conducted in the deserts of Rajasthan.

The army had told a key parliamentary panel earlier this month that the Arjun tank, which has been in development for nearly 36 years, failed to deliver at the winter trials. The army said a number of improvements still needed to be carried out before it was satisfied.

Last Thursday, Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh had hinted at the possibility of the “sabotage” during the winter trials. Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor then visited the production unit to inspect the tanks.

“The possibility of sabotage needs to be examined,” Singh maintained.

“The engines fitted in the tanks were German and were performing well for the past 15 years. I wonder what has happened to them overnight,” Singh said, talking about the reported failures of the tank.

Clarifying the issue, the army official who spoke to IANS said: “Despite the removal of a large number of defects at the joint receipt inspection (JRI) stage, duly assisted by the Indian Army, major assemblies of the two tanks failed in the winter trials.”

The major assemblies included four power packs of German origin and one indigenous gun.

The army has also pointed to the tank’s deficient fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally the desert - and its inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius.

The army had 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. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.

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

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