Army to get 14 Arjun tanks for trials
The Indian Army has agreed to take 14 indigenously developed main battle tanks (MBT) Arjun for field trials by September 30, it was announced on Monday.
The decision was taken after successful demonstration of all modifications including medium fording or crossing a water body to Defence Minister AK Antony and other senior officials at Avadi in Tamil Nadu where the tank is being built, a defence ministry statement said.
It is learnt that these tanks are the same ones that were fielded in desert conditions for the first time at an army war game in Rajasthan in May after which some modifications were sought.
Antony, who was on a day's visit to the Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) and the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) at Avadi, was apprised of the various capabilities of the Arjun that has been 34 years in the making.
"The defence minister congratulated all the stake holders for jointly solving the problems relating to the tank to the satisfaction of the armed forces," the statement said.
Senior defence ministry officials, including Secretary (Defence Production) KP Singh, and senior army officers witnessed the demonstration.
While not officially going on record, the army is known to be extremely unhappy with the Arjun, having listed 14 defects that need to be rectified.
These include a deficient fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally deserts - and its inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees celsius.
At a review meeting with the DRDO in April, Antony is known to have asked the organisation to get its act together to rectify these defects or the government might have to take another look at the entire programme.
Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence has, in two reports earlier this year, remarked adversely on the slow pace of Arjun's development and asked the DRDO to quicken the process.
The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement (QR) for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, the DRDO had announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled 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 vehicle 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 built at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.
With the Arjun development delayed still further, India last year signed a fresh contract with Russia to buy another 330 T-90s.