SOURCE: RYAN GEORGE KOYITHARA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Years after India’s independence, tensions with Pakistan reached a point where many border disputes were precipitated. India’s second war with its evil brother began in 1965 when Pakistan initiated Operation Gibraltar to smuggle troops into Jammu and Kashmir. At that point, Centurion MBTs made up the majority of the Indian Armoured army, and they operated reasonably well.
However, there was already a desire in the 1950s to use domestic industrial resources to create an MBT that was exclusively Indian. It was planned to build an existing model under license even before the conflict of 1965, but at the same time with relatively lighter specifications in comparison to the Centurion.
Vickers-Armstrong opted to build the Mark I, a 24-tonne, 20-pdr armed tank with a design heavily reliant on Centurion components, as a private undertaking. Later, the new and significantly more powerful L7 105 mm gun replaced this main weapon. Vickers Armstrong also agreed to construct a facility in India for this purpose because this development was timed to come to an agreement with India for a lighter tank design in 1961. With similar firepower to the Centurion, the final Vickers MBT Mk 1 was straightforward, affordable, and efficient. It was also sold to Kuwait (70). In India, the prototype was tested, and the production was approved. This model was given the name Vijayanta in India (“Victorious”).
The Vijayanta was constructed in the same manner, using welded, rolled, homogenous armour plates, and weighed 38 short tonnes because the latter was mostly based on the Mark I with little alterations. It was somewhat comparable to the Soviet-made T-54/55 at the time, although this did not qualify it as a light tank. Compared to the Centurion, the armour was significantly less protective, with only 80 mm on the turret and glacis front plate. However, this was sufficient against traditional tanks from World War II or early Cold War variants like the Pakistani M47/M48 Pattons with a 90 mm cannon. The L7 additionally offered them the required “reach” to kill before even approaching range.
Six roadwheels and three return rollers made up the drivetrain, but they weren’t arranged into three pairs of bogies; instead, they were evenly spaced apart and had individual torsion bars. In general, the drivetrain and profile were lower. Steel side skirts with seven panels were incorporated from the start. The turret was smaller in size and had the same design as the Centurion. It included a commander cupola with eight observation blocks made of bulletproof glass to the right and a straightforward two-piece hatch for the gunner to the left. Three storage boxes on the left and two on the right were placed to the sides, with an escape hatch in the middle.
The L7, and later L7A2 main gun, with 44 rounds stored between the turret and the hull sides and floor, made up the armament. A coaxial 12.7 mm heavy machine gun with 2000 rounds of ammunition, an additional machine gun that could be mounted on the roof’s pintle, and a third 7.7 mm light machine gun that was also positioned coaxially to the main gun with 500 rounds of ammunition made up the secondary armament. The primary weapon could discharge HE, frag, and HEAT bullets. The methods for using the ranging gun were similar to those created in the UK with the Centurion and Chieftain, with the latter serving as a backup.
The Vijayanta entered service after the war of 1965 had already begun, making it impossible to apply it to its full extent. However, via repeated drills, it met the general staff’s objectives for speed and mobility, and thanks to the Centurion’s experience, the same gunnery criteria were met. However, the Kashmir dispute led to their first battle test during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Indian Armoured divisions, which were primarily equipped with the Vijayanta at the time, intervened to support the Bangladesh independence movement and engaged in fierce combat until the Eastern Pakistani forces were forced to surrender.
Due to the rugged terrain, the 1999 “Kargil War,” saw little tank action. It was followed by the demobilization of the older versions that were still in use. In the 1990s, it was planned that the whole Mk.1 fleet would be completely phased out of operation by 2008. The idea to upgrade and re-engineer the Vijayanta was approved in 1997, the same year that 296 “pre-Mark 1A” aircraft were already gradually decommissioned. Between 1999 and 2000, this revision was put on hold until its intended withdrawal in 2008. Production of spare components was already finished in 1989. However, due to issues with the Arjun MBT’s development, the entire fleet was replaced by the Ajeya (T-72M), which was produced under a license.
6.15 oa x 2.42 x 2.24 m (20.2 x 7.1 x 7.4 in)
Total weight, battle ready:
43 short tons/39 tonnes (xxx ibs)
4 (Driver, gunner, Commander, loader)
Leyland L60 Diesel 535 bhp (399 kW)
David Brown Ltd. TN12 semi-auto. Gearbox
Top Speed (flat)
50 kph(31 mph)
530 km (330 mi)
105 mm L7A2 with 44 rounds (5 in)
2 x 12.7 mm (0.5 in) HMG, 1 x 7.7 mm (0.3 in) coaxial Armour
Maximum 80 mm (3.1 in) glacis front, turret front.
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