In the mid-1970s, India began development on a totally new, advanced main battle tank that would satisfy the needs of the country’s Armored Corps. An impressive combination of firepower, armor protection and mobility. View more at #Hindustan360.
The tank was to be India’s first indigenously produced tank—and one of the best in the world. The service date for the tank, known as Arjun, was confidently set for 1985. Instead, the Arjun suffered a tortuously long development period spanning two decades. The final result, introduced into the army twenty-six years later than originally planned, is a mess of a tank that not even the Indian Army wants.
The Indian Army’s Armored Corps has been in existence for seventy-four years, tracing its roots to the Second World War, and has fought in every one of India’s wars with neighbor and rival Pakistan. The Corps has across has sixty-three armored regiments (the equivalent of battalions), spread across eight armored and mechanized divisions and another seven armored and mechanized brigades.
The decision to produce an indigenous Indian tank was made in 1972, shortly after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. In 1974, the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was tasked with developing the tank. It was to be a forty-ton vehicle, armed with a 105-millimeter gun. It would be small enough to be strategically mobile, capable of being shuttled on internal lines (roads and railroads) to vital sectors along the long border with Pakistan.
DRDO decided to Design & Develop the tank
DRDO decided to make the tank. DRDO named this as Arjun, a mostly Indian design. The Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, part of DRDO, was to design the hull, armor, turret, gun and running gear. The main gun and engine would be imported. Unfortunately, India’s defense-industrial base was nowhere near capable of creating such a vehicle. As if that weren’t enough of an obstacle, India’s world-famous bureaucracy and red-tape machine was another enemy to progress.
Today, the Arjun Mk 1 is a sixty-two-ton tank, complete with a 120-millimeter gun, advanced composite armor, a 1,400-horsepower turbocharged engine, and advanced fire control and thermal sights. Although the tank’s specifications are impressive, the actual product leaves a lot to be desired.
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By 2009, thirty-five years after it was originally conceived, Arjun was “ready” for production. Despite shortcomings revealed in testing, the Indian Army was forced to buy 124 Arjuns—enough to equip just two armored regiments—to keep state tank production facilities open. By mid-2015, two years after the purchase was complete, nearly 75 percent of the Arjun force was inoperable due to technical problems.
How the Arjun is designed
|Manufacturer||Heavy Vehicles Factory|
|Unit cost||559 million (US$8.3 million)|
|Number built||366 (248 Mk-I and 118 Mk-II ordered)|
|Weight||58.5 tonnes (57.6 long tons; 64.5 short tons)
Mk.2=68 tonnes (67 long tons; 75 short tons)
|Length||10.638 metres (34 ft 10.8 in)|
|Width||3.864 metres (12 ft 8.1 in)|
|Height||2.32 metres (7 ft 7 in)|
|Crew||4 (commander, gunner, loader and driver)|
Arjun’s armored protection evolved significantly over thirty-five years. The tank is fitted with Kanchan armor, a locally designed composite blend that is allegedly similar to British Chobham armor. Kanchan is rumored to be capable of shrugging off point-blank shots from the 125-millimeter gun of Indian T-72 tanks. Arjun is so well protected that its weight ballooned from the original forty-ton specification to sixty-two tons.
The Arjun’s development period was so long that major design decisions became completely obsolete. The 105-millimeter gun, perfectly adequate in the 1970s when stacked up against the NATO-standard 105-millimeter L7 gun (the M68 in U.S. Army service), and the 115-millimeter gun of the Soviet T-62 tank, were obsolete by the early 1990s.
The inability of DRDO to put its foot down and admit that it could not build the tank on time and on schedule doomed the tank. India’s state of the military art was such that a new tank would out of necessity face a prolonged development time. The more the tank project dragged on, the more the tank needed to be redesigned to incorporate new technologies. The tank was trapped for decades in a development death spiral, and the end product is correspondingly mediocre.
DRDO is busy at work designing Arjun Mk II, which will allegedly contain many improvements over the original Mk I. The Indian Army for its part is adamant it wants no part of the Mk II until prototypes perform satisfactorily, and would much rather buy an overseas tank. The army, for now prefers the Russian T-90 tank and may express interest in the brand new T-14 Armata tank. Russian state media has reported that India is interested in the Armata as the basis of a new, localized tank. Whether that’s true remains to be seen.
— Hindustan 360 (@Hindustan360) December 6, 2016
View more at #Hindustan360.