Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Arjun MBT Video from NDTV

Ajai Shukla of NDTV recently did a story about the Arjun MBT from Avadi, Chennai (at the Heavy Vehicles Factory of the OFB) about the planned comparative trials between the Arjun and the T-90S of the Indian Army. Being a former Armored Corps Officer of the Indian Army, I can think of few better qualified persons to report about the tank.

However, past reports and opinion pieces from Shuklaji have not been as generous to the Arjun or DRDO. These views, backed by his qualifications should be taken seriously. Stronger views have been expressed on his blog ([1], [2]). Obviously, supporters of the Arjun and defence enthusiasts were quick to contradict his views, with strong and passionate responses, not all necessarily based on fact and scientific analysis.

There has, of course been a general suspicion towards Defence reporters, considering the large number of highly inaccurate (and often downright scurrilous) reports that have emanated from various quarters, aided by 'anonymous sources', 'army officials' and 'retired officers'. It doesn't help when we have a mushrooming of anti-DRDO reports that emerge just before significant milestones are being reached in the programs- Trishul, Akash, Agni-III, Tejas, and now, the Arjun. Many times, these are ladled with gratuitous amounts of sensationalism & hyperbole. Worse, the information is often quite old, and downright false. Thus, it was quite a shock to see Shuklaji's piece.

When I first saw the report, my first impression was that it was Vishnu Som (an excellent and objective Defence Correspondent) reporting it. Imagine mine (and quite a few other's) surprise when we saw that it was from Ajai Shukla himself, and, even more surprisingly, it was actually complimentary to the Arjun. Shuklaji did this exclusive piece with obvious glee, and certainly seemed to treat the Arjun like his own pet dog.

One wonders what has changed in the Arjun that made him change his opinion about it. After all, he has been a vocal opponent of the Arjun project, and has often called for its closure, or a thorough revamp. Perhaps his seniors at NDTV had clear instructions on what to report, but given his expertise in the field, this seems unlikely. Probably DRDO allowed access to the Arjun on the condition that he did not denigrate it, a slightly more likely prospect. Still, AS is too shrewd to not allow his opinions to slip into the report.

The most likely reason, and indeed, the one I hope is true, is that the Arjun has come full circle, and has shed all its previous problems, and has now truly become a world-class tank worthy of joining the Abrams, Leclerc, Merkava and others, and standing tall among them. Lets hope that next month's trials prove it right. A report by AS about his personal feelings about the Tank would be eagerly awaited.

The tank itself is quick and nimble far beyond its weight and size. The stabilized gun looks impressive, as does its state-of-the-art Hydropneumatic suspension. It sure looks to kill, and in a month, we'll know whether it is as good as it looks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't get confused with name. This Arjun is not class but khalas.