SOURCE: MAHESH SHETTI / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
It has become a common outcry this day that the utility of the Battle Tanks in future wars is numbered and Russian tank losses in Ukraine are one of the biggest examples that are thrown at anyone who disagrees with this blanket statement. In a general way, many are also questioning the efficacy of a large number of Russian T-Series tanks in India and are questioning poor choices that were made by the Indian Army.
Conflicts in Iraq, Syria to Lebanon War have shown that even western battle tanks are not invisible as some want them to be portrayed. Modern-day 3rd gen Anti-Tank guided missiles remain constant threats in any war but many countries have stocked themselves also with large quantities of 2nd gen ATGMs since they are cheaper to procure or manufacture and have remained quite effective in recent warfare.
But T-72 series tanks are not only outdated but also have major design flaws incorporated into them that they simply can’t walk away after being hit by an ATGM. Recent studies do indicate that it is not that easy to take down an upgraded T-72 tank but one good hit sometimes is good enough to disable it or make it non-operational that crew usually are left with no choice but to abandon them.
Yet Tanks are failing and are failing big time in urban settings where they have been taking direct hits from close quarters which makes it near impossible to survive, Tactically setup of ambushes also play a key role in how the forward movement of tanks can be halted by strikes carried out by drones or by skilled ATGM operator.
Coming to the Indian context, the Indian Army maintains a large stock of Milan-2T and Konkurs-M ATGMs and is working to shift towards 3rd gen ATGMs of late, and DRDO work on the 3rd gen ATGMs is also progressing very well but due to high cost of 3rd gen ATGMs, 2nd and 2+gen ATGMs might remain in service for at least a decade or more and Indian Army has enough stock that can halt both Pakistan and China if they ever want to test their Tanks inside Indian Territories.
Let’s be honest, the Indian Army always has been a choosey customer and it has been evident that even after finding so many flaws in the T-90 series tanks it continued to procure them in large numbers, despite knowing how bad T-72 tanks had performed in the first gulf war, It should have been an eye-opener that could have triggered immediate retirement of the fleet from the Indian Army, but it continued to operate them even when much superior Arjun tank was available to them.
India should be great full that both China and Pakistan also operate licensed and unlicensed copies of the Russian tanks that carry forward most of the design flaws with them. T-80UD tanks procured from Ukraine by Pakistan and the recent purchase of VT-4 main battle tank from China can trace back their evolution to the Russian T-72B3M. Pakistani so-called OSNITs that are gleeing at the poor performance of Russian tanks in Ukraine tend to forget that Chinese or Ukrainian tanks won’t give them any better results and any forward thrust by Pakistan will see the same results that they saw in Ukraine, especially once they enter into an urban setting near the border.
But it is also time, for Indian Generals to stop their love affair with the Russian T-Series tanks and focus on building on the technology that has been developed by DRDO for the Arjun tank program and use it to further advance the development of the Next Generation Main Battle Tanks. MoD should carry out independent studies on Russian tank losses and come up with the temporary fixes till they can be replaced with large qualities by the next-gen tanks that are better suited to survive modern ATGMS.
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