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SOURCE: VISHAL KARPE / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Right after India’s Defense Ministries recent procurement of 464 T-90 tanks from Russia in a deal worth over Rs, 13,500 crore comes news that upgraded Arjun Mk1A with vast improvement from its previous version has cleared all Army trials successfully and it is likely, Indian Army will soon issue orders of intent for the second batch of 118 tanks over 124 Mk1 already ordered in 2004.

Previous order for 124 Mk1 came almost 15 years ago and the production line has been lying vacant from 2010 onwards when the last of the Arjun Mk1 Main Battle Tank had left the assembly line from Heavy Vehicles Factory located at Avadi in a southern state of India. Each Arjun tank costs more than twice the amount of Russian T-90 MBT in service with the Indian Army due to small batches of the order placed by the Army. Indian Army was expected to place orders for 118 units of Arjun in 2011 but instead asked for 72 improvements of which 14 were major upgrades specifically requested by the army due to which fresh trials need to be conducted and upgraded Mk1A undergone elaborate field trials all over India before it was finally cleared in 2019.

One of the major user specifications requested was a lowered weight of the Arjun Tank which could have required a full redesign of the turret to lose that extra weight of nearly 3 tonnes from the present weight of 68 tonnes. since ‘Mark 2’ version could have taken another 3-4 years more years to carry out required modifications so ‘Arjun Mark 1A’ was agreed upon as a temporary measure but the token order is still small with no assurance that bigger order for the Mark 2 is on the way.

DRDO time and again has been saying that to lower the production cost and to stabilize the assembly line it will require an order for at least 500 units which is yet to come while it continues to place orders for imported Russian T-90 tanks which with fresh orders will reach 2000 units soon.

India’ aging fleet of T-72 tanks are due to retirement and the Army’s ‘Future Ready Combat Vehicle’ is yet to take off since till now DRDO has not received any General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) yet but according to DRDO, FMBT will weigh only 50 tonnes compared to Arjun-Mark II’s 65 tonnes but there is clear preference for procurement of the Russian T-14 MBT.

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