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100 years of the tank warfare: A look at India’s heavy armour

india Updated: Sep 15, 2016 20:33 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Army officers pull a tank with lieutenant general KJ Singh on it in July 2016 as a part of a traditional adieu to a retiring officer. The T 55 classic tank was entrusted to Singh when he joined the army as second lieutenant. (Sameer Sehgal /HT File Photo)

Tanks were used for the first time 100 years ago in the Battle of Somme during World War I, ushering in a new era of armoured warfare. The Somme campaign in France was the first major offensive for the British Army against the Germans.

Hindustan Times takes you through the history of tanks in the Indian Army on a day tank warfare hit a milestone.

1. Tanks that the Indian Army operates

Russian-origin tanks are the mainstay of the Indian Army. It operates more than 2,500 T-72 tanks and has ordered a total of 1,657 more modern T-90 tanks.

2. The T-90s

The T-90s are a replacement for the T-55 tanks and the older variants of the T-72s. More than 1,000 T-90s have been inducted. The army has also inducted the indigenously developed Arjun tank.

The T-90 battle tank kicks up dust during a Shoor Veer military exercise. (AFP)

3. Post Independence

India deployed a mix of tanks in the early years post-Independence, including British-origin Centurion tanks, French AMX-13s and US-origin Stuart tanks. The Russian T-54 and T-55 tanks were inducted in the 1960s. The late 60s also saw the Vickers tank being built in India under licence. It was named Vijayanta.

4. India's home-grown Arjun tank

The army contracted 124 Arjun tanks from the Defence Research and Development Organisation more than 15 years ago. All have been inducted. The defence ministry has given its nod for buying upgraded 118 Arjun Mk-2 tanks at a cost of more than Rs 6,600 crore. One of the most significant upgrades in the new tank is its missile-firing capability.

5. India’s most famous tank battles

The Battles of Asal Utar and Basantar during the 1965 and 1971 wars have a become a part of military folklore. At Asal Utar in Punjab, a lone cavalry unit destroyed several M-47 Patton tanks of a Pakistani armoured division. The Centurions also destroyed many Patton tanks in the Battle of Basantar in the western sector. Lt Arun Khetarpal of the Poona Horse, who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, is credited with decimating seven Pakistani Patton tanks.