Hello defence lovers! On 14th February Honorable Prime minister Shri Narendra Modi ceremonially handed over the first Arjun MK IA to the Indian Army. In this article, we are going to analyse Indian Army is reluctant to Induct Arjun MBT in large numbers.
If we look at the specifications of Arjun MBT and other variants, we would find that Arjun is quite superior to its Russian and soviet counterparts (T90 and T72). In terms of protection, firepower, design, stability, Arjun outperforms the Russian T90. So being such an impressive tank Arjun deserves bulk orders. But why is the Indian Army reluctant to procure Arjun in large numbers? we would try to understand why.
The Western Tank Design Philosophy
Arjun MBT is based on Western Tank design Philosophy, in which the crew consists of 4 people, the commander, the driver, the gunner and the loader. Thus the Western Tanks required additional space for the loader. That is why these tanks are heavier and bulkier than their Russian counterparts.
Some of the most advanced tanks in the world like the Abrams MBT, the German Leopard MBT, the British Challenger II, all are based on the western philosophy and have a four-member crew, the fourth member being the loader.
Advantages Of Human Loader
There are countless advantages of a human auto loader over the mechanical auto loader. Let us understand what are these advantages.
The most crucial advantage is the ability to select what type of round to fire. Different situations require different types of ammunition. And a human loader can load any type of ammunition as many times as required. This is just not possible in a tank with an autoloader. Autoloaders are large scale magazines which are operated mechanically. Thus these have a predetermined set of rounds to fire. Some advanced autoloaders do come with the ability to select rounds but that is limited to a few rounds. Often the target is not hit in the first shot and requires multiple rounds to engage..
Thus a human loader gives the tank commander the flexibility to choose what type of round to fire based on the situation, in desired quantity. The commander might choose a APFSDS round to engage a tank, and in the next case might choose a HEAT round to engage Infantry troops. Autoloader lacks this capability.
The next advantage of human loader is that other than being a loader, often he/she performs the role of communication specialist. Having a four-man crew is always better as. Loader can perform variety of other roles.
A professional well-trained loader is always faster than a mechanical auto-loader. However, human fatigue is a slight disadvantage. But tanks with human loader are always safer as ammunition in these tanks is store in separate compartments. The tanks with autoloader like T 72, there is often a circular magazine. the crew sits right over that magazine. If the ammunition is ignited by enemy fire, it blows up the entire turret. In most of the modern tanks with human loader like our Arjun MBT, the ammunition compartment has blow doors which directs the blast energy out without blowing up the entire turret and thus keeping the crew safe.
The Eastern Design Philosophy
The eastern or Russian design philosophy focuses on autoloader and a three-man crew. These tanks like T72, t 90 etc. are compact in design fall in the category of 30-55 tons, unlike its western counterparts which fall in 55 – 70 tons of weight. The primary focus in these tanks is to keep the profile low along with packing a massive fire power.
But these Russian tanks lack significantly behind the western tanks in terms of protection. T-90 and the T-72 protection level is nowhere comparable to Arjun’s protection. The Russian philosophy sacrifices the protection for better mobility and maneuverability.
Why Is The Indian Army Reluctant To Induct Arjun MBT?
“The finest weapon in our arsenal are those that breathe”Indian Armed forces
Before operating Arjun, for a very long time, the Indian Army has not operated such western tanks. Thus the Indian Army is pretty much convinced by the Russian design philosophy of three-man crew and seems that not very comfortable with the idea of Human loader.
Indian Tank crews, tank commanders and the armoured corps have made its strategies and tactics keeping the Russian tanks in mind also addressing the shortcomings of the autoloader. So implementing them on Heavy tanks based on western design would be quite challenging. This is the most significant reason behind the army’s reluctance.
Inducting such heavy tanks like Arjun will create logistic problems but this is not something which should prevent the army from buying these in large numbers. The army just needs to invest in carriages capable of carrying heavier loads.
Arjun is very well suited for the Western Borders. It can outperform any other tank in that terrain. But now after the Ladakh standoff Army’s primary focus has shifted to china. The lighter tanks like T 90 give a broader spectrum for deployment.
India is one of the largest operators of the Russian T 90. Thus there are import lobbyists inside Indian committees which decide which tank to procure. Thus there is something fishy about army not procuring Arjun in large quantities.
The army should always prefer indigenous options which are if not better then equivalent to their foreign counterparts. That way we would be able to achieve complete self-reliance.