In final test, Arjun tank to take on Russian T-90

By Ritu Sharma, IANS
Saturday, January 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Arjun main battle tank will take on the Russian built T-90 tanks March 1, when the core strength of the indigenously-built tank will be assessed by the Indian Army’s observers.

This could deliver the final verdict on a platform that has been 36 years in the making and which has cost the exchequer Rs.3.5 billion ($71.7 million).

With one regiment of the Arjun tanks (comprising 45 tanks) completing their conversion training and field practice, the comparative trials will be conducted at Mahajan Range in Rajasthan March 1.

“Our aim is not to determine a winner in these trials, but to test the core strength of the tanks,” a senior official of the Indian Army said, wishing anonymity.

Experts from mechanised forces and officials from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will also witness the comparative trials.

The DRDO had handed over 16 tanks to the Indian Army last year, completing one regiment of 45 tanks. The regiment was then subjected to conversion training and field practice.

The DRDO’s demand for the comparative trials of the two tanks was being seen as a last-ditch bid to save the Arjun as some 500 tanks would need to be acquired by the army to make the project feasible.

The army, however, has made it clear that it will buy no more than the 124 Arjuns it has contracted for because it is unhappy with the tank on various counts. This apart, the army says the Arjun can at best remain in service for five to 10 years while it is looking 20 years ahead and needs a futuristic MBT.

The army’s stand has been contrary to a third-party assessment by an internationally reputed tank manufacturer.

The official said: “As suggested by the army, Arjun tanks were subjected to rigorous trials and assessment in a third-party audit. After the extensive evaluation, the auditor confirmed that Arjun is an excellent tank with very good mobility and firepower characteristics suitable for Indian deserts.”

“They (the auditor) also gave inputs on production procedures for further enhancing the performance of Arjun tanks. DRDO will be incorporating all these inputs before the next lot of 62 tanks is handed over to army by March 2010,” the official added.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time 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 tank 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.

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