Defence ministry places order for 118 Arjun Mk-1A tanks worth ₹7,523 crore
The defence ministry on Thursday placed an order worth ₹7,523 crore with Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, for 118 locally made Arjun Mk-1A tanks to sharpen the army’s combat edge, a fortnight after India cleared projects worth ₹33,000 crore to equip the Indian Air Force with new medium transport aircraft and airborne early warning systems in a push to the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India campaign).
The order came seven months after the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) - India’s apex procurement body – accorded its acceptance of necessity (AoN) for the tanks. The Arjun Mk-1A is an upgraded version of the Arjun Mk-1 main battle tank (MBT), which is currently in army service.
The new tank will come with 72 upgrades over the existing variant including 14 major improvements, officials familiar with the development said, adding that the upgrades significantly enhance the tank’s lethality, mobility and survivability.
“The Mk-1A is equipped with accurate and superior firepower, all-terrain mobility and invincible multi-layered protection provided by an array of advanced technology systems. It can take on the enemy during day and night. By virtue of these capabilities, this indigenous MBT will be on a par with any contemporary in its class across the globe,” the defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday. The execution of the order is expected to involve 200 Indian vendors and generate 8,000 jobs.
Five Mk-1A t tanks will be delivered within 30 months, followed by 30 tanks every year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over a prototype of the Arjun Mk-1A tank to the army chief, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, in Chennai on February 14. The army’s existing fleet consists of T-90, T-72 and the Arjun Mk-1 tanks.
The improvements on the new tank include better firepower, auto target tracker, remote-controlled weapon system, explosive reactive armour, advanced laser warning and countermeasure systems, containerised ammunition bin, advanced land navigation systems and improved night vision capabilities, as previously reported by HT.
The tank has been configured and designed for Indian conditions and is suitable for deployment to protect the frontiers, defence ministry officials said.
However, some experts have flagged concerns about the bulky tank, saying its weight (68 tonne) could limit the army’s deployment options.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) has designed and developed the tank. The Mk-1A tanks will be manufactured at the Ordnance Factory Board’s (OFB) Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, outside Chennai.
The tank order comes at a time when the OFB - India’s main producer of weapons and military equipment - is being corporatised to boost its efficiency and competitiveness in a long-awaited reform in the country’s defence manufacturing sector. The Union Cabinet, headed by PM Narendra Modi, had in June cleared the corporatisation of the board.
The OFB, which controls 41 ordnance factories, is being split into seven government-owned entities that will produce ammunition and explosives, vehicles, weapons and equipment, troop comfort items, optoelectronics gear, parachutes and ancillary products.
Ordnance factories are currently engaged in the production of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, mine-protected vehicles, bombs, rockets, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns, parachutes, small arms, clothing and leather equipment for soldiers.
The development of the Mk-1A tank began in June 2010 and it was fielded for user trials two years later. Extensive trial evaluation was conducted in various phases covering 7,000 km and substantial firing of various ammunitions during 2012-2015, the defence ministry statement said.