Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode on an Arjun tank Saturday, on a trip to the Longewala Post in the Jaisalmer sector of Rajasthan to celebrate Diwali with soldiers.
The PM’s ride aboard the made-in-India tank seemed to be another signal towards his ‘vocal for local’ push and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) hopes this will pave the way for the Army to order 118 Arjun Mark 1-A tanks.
“I was so happy to see Prime Minister Modi on riding the Arjun Main Battle Tank. With this, we are hopeful that the Army’s order for two regiments of Arjun Mk 1-A tanks will be fast-tracked,” V. Balamurugan, director of the Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), a DRDO laboratory, told ThePrint.
The Arjun Mark 1-A weighs 68 tonnes and features a 120 mm main gun. The Army plans to place an order for 118 of them, and the file for Acceptance of Necessity is being processed, sources in the defence and security establishment said. The sources added that the Covid-19 pandemic and the tensions with China had slowed down the process.
Known as the ‘Hunter Killer’, Arjun Mark 1-A comes with 14 major improvements sought by the Army, which would make it the most potent and self-protective tank in India’s inventory.
History of Arjun and the ‘Hunter Killer’
The Arjun Main Battle Tank project was initiated in the mid-1970s. However, it was only in 2004 that the first two regiments of the tank were inducted into the Army.
The Arjun MBT outperformed Russian T-90s during a desert trial conducted by the Army in 2010. But a number of issues — including excess weight, problems with certain parts, and availability of spare parts, meant that the Arjun MBTs have never been used to their optimal capability.
In 2010 itself, the Army proposed an improved version of the tank, which would be called the Mark II, and was to have over 80 improvements, including 15 major ones.
In 2012, the DRDO offered the Arjun tank for trials with all the major enhancements, except one — a cannon-launched guided missile (CLGM).
The Army’s insistence on having a CLGM meant that the project kept getting delayed, until it was finally agreed in March 2018 that the next batch of Arjuns, to be called Mark 1-A, would be supplied without the missile firing capability.
However, now, the indigenously developed laser-equipped anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) has been successfully fired twice from the Arjun MBT. DRDO is aiming for ATGM user trials by February next year.
The Mark 1-A features four upgrades to the Arjun MBT’s firepower, besides other developments including new transmission systems.
The upgrades include an improved gunner’s main sight, integrated with automatic target tracking. This means that the tank crew will be able to track moving targets automatically, and engage them even when Arjun is on the move.
The tank’s 120 mm gun is controlled by a computerised integrated fire control system, which ensures that the Mark-1A has a high first-round-kill capability.
The gun’s day-and-night stabilised sights, coupled with automatic target tracker, guarantee accurate engagement even in dynamic conditions, DRDO sources had earlier said.