SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Indian Army might be the only branch in Indian Armed Forces which continues to equip itself with imported weapons, from assault rifles to Main battle Tanks, Indian Army has made very little space for indigenous products while Air force and Navy are now starting to focus much more in support of indigenous weapon systems while our Army Generals are yet to move away from their bias import friendly mindsets.
IAF which once upon a time was called Import Air Force for a reason, now has three active fighter jet programs which will make up at least 60% of the fleet in the next 30 years which for the first time, air force will be moving away from the imported fighter jets. ALH, LUH, IMRH, and LCH Helicopters will ensure that the Helicopter fleet too is also largely indigenous in the next decade or so while the Indian Army is yet to become Atma-Nirbhar in Main Battle Tank space while locally developed Arjun tanks continue to wait for puny orders which come once in a while.
Arjun Mk1 fleet comprises of only 114 tanks and now after years of trials and testing, the upgraded Arjun Mk1A with more improvements and technology has been cleared for production again for a puny order size. The army is counting on lighter Arjun MkII to meet its Weight requirements but many in DRDO are not sure if the orders again will be over 114 as Army continues to procure Russian T-90 MBTs in large numbers while the local product gets namesake orders.
Army’s biggest complaint against Arjun MBTs has been its weight and its Price. Arjun MBT is nearly 15 tonnes heavier than the T-90 tanks and costs nearly twice than locally assembled T-90s. Arjun is not overweight tank as Army describes it often, but it is of same weight class of any Heavy tanks in production around the world, it’s just that Army is still not able to make the transition from Medium weight Tanks to Heavyweight Tanks even after demanding a Heavyweight tank from DRDO, 30 years ago.
With Puny order which Arjun tank gets, it only tends to be expensive since DRDO has no incentives to replace most of the imported systems like power packs, electronics and transmission system from the tank due to low order numbers from the client who has been told repeatedly that order of 500 units will see lower production costs but that is yet to happen. The army still operates nearly 1700 older T-72 Main Battle Tanks which after induction of T-90 have been pushed in to secondary role in Armoured thrust and firepower but Army will still need to replace them in long term.
If Modi wants armed forces to take up locally made weapons systems not it needs to stop buying locally assembled imported systems, it is very important that Next Generation Main Battle Tank for the Indian Army is of Indian design and manufactured and not some Russian tank locally assembled in India.
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