Trials of Arjun battle tank to be delayed: Army chief

June 12th, 2009 - 3:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor Friday said the comparative trials of the indigenously built Arjun main battle tank (MBT) with the Russian T-90 equivalent have been delayed as the army will first conduct field training with the tanks.
“The Arjun tank has just been delivered to us. It will take three-four months for the regiment to get operationalised. After that we will have comparative trials with the T-90 and assess the tank,” Gen. Kapoor told reporters here.

The comparative trials could deliver the final verdict on Arjun that has been 36 years in the making and has cost Rs.3.5 billion ($71.7 million).

The army had insisted on the delivery of a full regiment (45 tanks) of Arjun before the comparative trials could be conducted. This demand was met when the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) delivered 16 more tanks to the army.

Earlier, the comparative trials were scheduled to be held in May-June, 2009.

“This regiment will now be subjected to conversion training and field practice for 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,” an army official said.

The DRDO needs to manufacture and deliver at least 500 tanks 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 Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that a proto-type 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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