The Arjun tank has finally rumbled to life. The Indian Army on Monday raised its maiden armoured regiment equipped with the indigenously built main battle tank — a jinxed project that hit several lows during its 35-year-old gestation period.
Almost 10 years after placing an order for 124 tanks, the army received 16 tanks from the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, Tamil Nadu, taking the number of tanks delivered so far to 45.
The Arjun, however, still faces its litmus test — the army plans to pit it against the Russian T-90s in October-November to assess its operational capabilities. While the tank had failed to meet the army’s requirements in a string of trials in recent years, the defence ministry claimed on Monday that the tank’s mobility, firepower and protection were comparable to contemporary world tanks.
The Arjun was plagued with a mix of problems concerning its fire control system, suspension and poor mobility due to its excessive weight.
On a day A.K. Antony took over as the defence minister for the second time, his ministry claimed that all shortcomings had been ironed out.
It said the army was confident about the reliability and endurance of the tank based on the outcome of a series of accelerated usage-cum-reliability trials (AUCRT).
In an unusual stance, the army has accepted the Arjun tank only after a third-party audit by an international tank maker that was specially roped in by the Defence Research and Development Organisation to endorse the battle-worthiness of the tank after extensive evaluations.
The army had told a Parliamentary panel last year that the Arjun required several improvements before it could be declared battle worthy. The Arjun may be hailed as an indigenous project but imported items such as power pack, gunner’s main sight and track account for 58 per cent of the cost per tank. The present cost of each tank is around Rs 16.8 crore. The project has spiralled up from Rs 15.5 crore in 1974 to Rs 306 crore.
The Arjun has been designed and developed by the CVRDE, Defence Research and Development Organisation and a slew of industrial partners.