Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Arjun Mk.2 Approved

Finally, there was official army confirmation of the news that most well-informed insiders knew -
the Arjun Mk.2 will be developed. This was confirmed by the Army Chief during the 3-day AFV meet that is being organized by the Army in New Delhi. The short report from Zee News is scant on details, but I'll try and fill you in.

Army okays development of Arjun Mark II tanks

New Delhi, Nov 13: The army on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for developing next generation indigenous battle tanks after a successful run of the original model Arjun.

Based on its experience in designing the Arjun MBTs, the DRDO was coming up with a lighter and more versatile version called Arjun MK-II which is expected to meet future needs, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor told an international seminar on Armoured Fighting Vehicles here.

Defence scientists are also working on the Tank X project comprising features of Arjun and Russian-supplied T-72 tanks.

The function organised by the CII was presided over by Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh, who asked Indian companies to invest and participate more in production of weapons systems.

Bureau Report
Some more details from report:

Indian Army seeks next generation battle tank

The Indian Army has sought a new generation main battle tank (MBT) even as it reluctantly prepares to receive the homegrown Arjun tank that has been over three decades in the making.

'What we have today is mid-level technology. What we need is a tank of international quality,' Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor said Tuesday.

'I have no doubt that the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) will be able to develop indigenous capabilities for coming up with a better answer and more versatile armoured fighting vehicle (than Arjun) in the future,' he added while speaking at the inaugural session of an international seminar on Armoured Fighting Vehicles, the first to be held here.

Kapoor also called for synergy between scientists, users and producers to ensure the delivery of a cutting-edge-technology tank.

'The scientists cannot work in isolation. The users (the army) should be with them. So also should the producers, be they the public sector undertakings or private players. Only then will we see an indigenous armoured fighting vehicle of international quality,' the army chief maintained.

Now, the Arjun Mk.1 never really found many supporters in the Army, many of whom were angry at the long gestation period and the constant problems. While the Arjun was, in theory, an excellent tank, it used a mish-mash of indigenous and foreign components, many tailor-developed for the Arjun. Obviously, with such high technology and the inexperience of scientists in the field use of these systems (not helped by the Army, which kept pushing Trial dates), the systems performed exceptionally well in the labs, but tanked in the Field.

But in the past two years, especially after the 2005 trials where the Army gave a clear to-do list to DRDO, these problems were systematically solved, and DRDO commenced a war-footing overhaul and repair work on the systems. Most of the problems were ironed out, and a grueling internal testing of the Arjun, which performed well. These efforts finally turned a corner a few months before exercise Ashwamedh, which was held in April this year.

Truly confident of their product, the DRDO was ready for user trials, but the Army wasn't. In a coup of sorts, the DRDO bulldozed the MoD and Army into including fifteen Arjuns in the large scale war games. The games, held in the hot Thar summer, also gave the Arjun an opportunity to show its new self, and its performance in heat, something that had caused it problems aplenty in previous trials. Less than pleased, there was nothing else for the Army to do but obey the Raksha Mantri's diktat. The results were clear. Arjun outgunned the Ajeyas and T-90s. The T-90s were beset with problems, many of them the same problems that had afflicted the Arjuns not so long ago- Suspension issues, Fire Control System Failures, and frequent stoppages.

In light of this new look Arjun, both DRDO and MoD were agitating for comparative trials, something that even the Army had, till a few months before, had been insisting upon. Suddenly, as the T-90s looked shaky, the Army got cold feet- after many postponements and delays, the Army finally cancelled the trails altogether, instead replacing them with an AUCRT, which should theoretically bring the Arjun into full scale service. But considering the Army's reactions, that seems doubtful.

But the message that the Army was getting was clear- the Arjun is world-class material, and with a little tweaking, could do a world of good. Plus, it would be foolish to rely on the T-90, a series whose development is reaching a plateau. After all, a small, light tank can only do so much. Plus, the T-90 is far worse protected than the Arjun, something that gives it a weight advantage, but at the cost of certain death to the crew in any conflict involving even moderately successful ATGMs. The T-90 would be hard-pressed against the newer tanks that will enter service around the world in a few years- the M1A2, Korean XK-2 and Al-Khalid upgrades, which will outgun the T-90. This, along with a need to expand the Armored Corps, led the Army to the revelation that it will need a modern tank in the future. There is a requirement for almost 3000 tanks to replace the old T-72s and Vijayanta tanks.

The Army has formulated a requirement, GSQR 2020, which will spell out the needs for a modern tank to be in service by 2020. This will be released to DRDO soon, and its clear that the Modernized Arjun, a Mk.2 variant will be able to fit the requirement. This will give the Army a fleet of Arjun Mk.2s and T-90s, a stable that echoes the WW2 style of different tank classes- Infantry and Cruiser Tanks.

The only question is, what name will the new tank be given? I have a suggestion- Abhimanyu.


NJS said...

Good news .

DRDO should try to release Arjun mk2 ver as soon as possible , army should not only replace for its old tank , it need to massively increase the regiment level.

apart from this ,Indian land force hardly needs Howitzer / Longer ranger MBRL . Do our govt will realize the urgent needs of our country.

ivan said...

looking at our country's security status, we should develop arjun mark 2 tank as soon as possible and it should not take a time as it taken for arjun 1. We should atleast build around 1000 of those tanks