The Arjun Mk-1A main battle tank.(Photo by Special Arrangement)
The Arjun Mk-1A main battle tank.(Photo by Special Arrangement)

MoD clears defence buys worth 13,700 cr, including 118 Arjun Mk-1A tanks

  • The order for the tanks could be placed with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) this year, with five tanks to be delivered within 30 months of the signing of the contract.
By Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 02:05 AM IST

The defence ministry on Tuesday cleared domestic military purchases worth 13,700 crore, including the army’s proposals to buy 118 Arjun Mk-1A main battle tanks and equipping armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) with modern protection and countermeasure systems, officials familiar with the developments said.

While the new tanks will cost 8,380 crore, the protection systems for the army’s fleet of more than 3,000 AFVs (tanks and infantry combat vehicles) will cost 5,300 crore, the officials said. The order for the tanks could be placed with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) this year, with five tanks to be delivered within 30 months of the signing of the contract, Hindustan Times has learnt. This will be followed by 30 tanks being delivered every year.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) - India’s apex procurement body – on Tuesday accorded its acceptance of necessity (AoN) for buying the tanks and the AFV protection systems to provide a push to the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (self-reliant India campaign). Defence minister Rajnath Singh chaired the DAC meeting.

“Three AoNs for an overall cost of 13,700 crore were accorded. All these AoNs are in the highest priority category of defence acquisition…These (systems) will be indigenously designed, developed and manufactured,” the ministry said in a statement, without naming the proposals approved.

The proposals cleared by the DAC include 293 Nag anti-tank missiles developed by DRDO, 13 modified ICVs (called the Nag missile carrier or Namica), eight medium power radars called Arudra and practice ammunition for T-90 and T-72 tanks, officials said.

The Arjun Mk-1A is an upgraded version of the Arjun Mk-1 currently in army service. The new tank will come with 71 upgrades over the existing variant including 14 major improvements, said one of the officials cited above. The upgrades significantly improve the tank’s lethality, mobility and survivability, he said.

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, containerized ammunition bin, advanced land navigation systems and improved night vision capabilities.

“The precise target tracking of the tank ensures accurate engagement during day and night in both static and dynamic conditions,” the official said.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) has designed and developed the tank. The tanks will be manufactured at the OFB’s Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, outside Chennai.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over a prototype of the Arjun Mk-1A tank to army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane in Chennai on February 14, in a clear indication that the order for the 118 tanks was in the pipeline. The prototype was tested for more than 6,000 km across the country’s western sector, followed by another 1,500 km of rigorous testing, HT has learnt.

More than 200 companies will be involved in the project, which is expected to generate around 8,000 jobs, said a second official. The army’s existing tank fleet consists of T-90, T-72 and the Arjun Mk-1 tanks.

Protection and countermeasure systems for its AFVs have been a long-standing demand of the army. The systems will enhance the survivability of AFVs by equipping them with the capability to overcome threats from missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and tank ammunition, said a third official.

Experts said the new tanks and AFV upgrades would boost the fighting potential of the army.

“It’s a big leap forward and has been pending for a long time. It will improve the strike capability of the army’s armoured formations. I also see it as a very potent step in the direction of achieving self-reliance in the defence sector,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd).

But some experts flagged concerns about the bulky tank, saying its weight (68 tonnes) would limit the army’s deployment options.

The defence ministry said that the DAC was of the view that capital acquisition contracts - other than design and development cases - should be concluded in two years. “The ministry, in consultation with the services and all stakeholders, will come up with a detailed plan of action for achieving the same,” the statement said.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the ministry would try to conclude contracts in two years as against the current average period of up to four years.

Meanwhile, Bharat Forge on Tuesday announced that it received a 178-crore order from the army for its M4 vehicles under the emergency procurement route. The highly mobile vehicles, which provide protection against mines and improvised explosive devices, underwent trails in the Ladakh sector recently.

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