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The Indian Army is set to receive its first domestically produced Arjun Mk-1A tanks later this year, marking a significant milestone in its quest for armoured dominance. However, the focus has already shifted to the next frontier: the Arjun Mk-II, a lighter and more agile variant designed with the evolving battlefield realities in mind.

The 118 Arjun Mk-1A tanks, ordered in 2020, represent a substantial upgrade over the Mk-1 variant. They incorporate 72 improvements suggested by the Army, enhancing firepower, mobility, and survivability. However, the Mk-1A’s weight, at 68.6 tons, remains a concern, limiting its manoeuvrability in certain terrains.

DRDO’s Heavy Vehicles Factory is already working on the Mk-II, aiming for a significant weight reduction – over 3 tons – compared to the Mk-1A. This will be achieved through redesigned hull and turret structures using lighter yet high-strength materials.

The Ukraine war has exposed the vulnerabilities of conventional tanks against low-cost, kamikaze drones. The Arjun Mk-II is being specifically designed to address these threats, incorporating enhanced protection against such aerial attacks.

India’s Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) program, envisioned as a 55-ton replacement for ageing T-72s, has yet to take off. Meanwhile, the poor performance of Russian T-72s and T-90s in Ukraine against modern anti-tank-guided missiles has cast doubt on their capabilities. This has bolstered support for the Arjun platform, leading some to believe the Army might back the Mk-II program before 2027 when the Mk-1A deliveries are scheduled to be completed.

The development of the Arjun Mk-II comes at a crucial juncture for the Indian Army. The evolving battlefield demands lighter, more adaptable tanks with superior protection against emerging threats. The Mk-II, if developed successfully, could not only address these needs but also position India as a leading producer of advanced Armoured vehicles on the global stage.

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