SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
Indian Army recently placed orders for 118 units of upgraded Arjun Mk.1A after an 11-year gap since the last time 124 units of Arjun Mk.1 were ordered last in 2010. Indian Army has left enough hints that this probably will be the last time it will be buying locally developed Arjun Main Battle Tanks as it now looks to procure next-generation medium weight Main Battle Tank to replace its aging Soviet-era 1700 units of T-72 next.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) back in 2010 had offered to develop a future main battle tank (FMBT) with a 1,500-horsepower (HP) indigenous engine, that could have replaced T-72MBTs. FMBT weighing only 50 tons compared to Arjun Mk.1A’s 62 tons seemed like an ideal tank that could have been grabbed by the Indian Army but that was not to be.
The Ministry of Defence is presently working on another list of items that will be not be imported and might be soon notified by end of this month. The list might include for the first time major defense equipment like fighter jets, helicopters, and battle tanks that have put the Indian Army in the corner. While has not forward and confirmed that it will be not placing orders for more Arjun tanks, it also has kept DRDO’s proposals on FMBT hanging for the last decade, which many see to give back door entry to another Russian main battle tank.
Indian Army operates over 1500 Russian T-90 Main Battle tanks that have been inducted in the last 15 years. Russia now has developed T-14 Armata Main Battle Tanks (MBT) that in 2021 has gone into active production with many countries eyeing procuring export model of the tank. India was among the few countries that were offered export of their new tank along with licensing agreements for local production as in past for the T-90 and T-72 tanks.
DRDO after nearly 30 plus years of working on the design and development of Arjun tanks claims that it has enough trained manpower and expertise to design and develop new tanks as per specifications of the Indian Army and wants Main Battle Tanks in the new list that will be soon notified, but is facing resistance from the Indian Army that is keen on not including Main Battle Tanks in the negative import list.
Tuff war between the Indian Army and DRDO is not new, in past, we have seen Arjun tanks in trial mode for over 10 years without any purchase orders and required certification from an Israeli company to prove DRDO’s claim that it is Combat worthy after many deliberate negative hate campaigns on the tank by a certain section of the media and change of specifications many times by the Indian Army.
It took Chinese Light Battle Tanks showing up at the LAC for our Army Generals to realize that we also require Light tanks for mountain terrain, even though the same was offered nearly 30 years back by the DRDO. DRDO already has proposed FMBT a decade back and yet Army is not fully on board the program even when being fully aware that the Soviet-era T-72s are aging and technologically will be obsolete in terms of crew safety even with required upgrades. It seems Army waits for eternity when the threat becomes real. it then rushes to procure what it wants under emergency deals and hopes the same is not done with India’s next battle tanks.
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