Army and DRDO Debates over Arjun Tank and Futuristic Tanks…
Yet another battle has erupted between the Army and DRDO in their long-running feud over the indigenous Arjun main-battle tank. Unhappy at being saddled with 122 Arjun Mark-I tanks, the force has refused to order its Mark-II variant till the prototypes perform satisfactorily.
The Army has also kicked off a global hunt for a “future ready combat vehicle (FRCV)”, asking foreign and domestic companies to submit design proposals by August 31 to build “a new-generation, state-of-the-art combat vehicle platform”.
This, in effect, will scuttle DRDO’s attempt to build a futuristic main-battle tank (FMBT). Clearly dismayed with the proposed FRCV project, the DRDO has lashed out at the Army for “never really supporting” the indigenous endeavor to build current and next-generation MBTs.
“Arjuns did better than Russian-origin T-90S tanks in comparative trials in 2010. But the Army keeps on changing its technical requirements. If it ordered around 500 Arjuns, it would stabilize production lines. This, in turn, will allow regular upgrades and set the stage for developing the FMBT,” said a scientist.
The referee in the raging battle, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, told Parliament on Tuesday that the Army’s proposed FRCV project was to meet its “futuristic requirements beyond 2027”. It is “not in conflict with the current MBT Arjun programme and its future orders”, he added.
But the Army is adamant it will not order 118 Arjun Mark-II tanks, at a cost of Rs 5,745 crore, till they clear all operational trials. The force already has 122 Arjun Mark-I tanks, with the bulk of them being grounded at present due to major technical and maintenance problems.
“The bane of Arjun is its 62-tonne weight and the consequent poor operational mobility,” said a top officer. Given its excessive weight and width, the Arjun can’t be used in Punjab and northern deserts for armoured thrusts under the “Pro-Active” or “Cold Start” war strategy, which has long rattled Pakistan.
“Many bridges and culverts in Punjab will not be able to take its weight. Moreover, our rail tank transporters will find it tough to carry the Arjuns from one sector to another,” he said.
The Arjun Mark-II, in turn, will have 73 technical improvements over the Mark-I. These range from the capability to fire missiles from the main gun and advanced laser warning and control systems to explosive reactive armour plates for better self-protection of the tanks.
Though Parrikar said 53 of the 73 improvement in Arjun Mark-II had been “found successful based on user trials” till now, the Army contends the tank now weighs an alarming 67 tonnes.
“The worry is that DRDO will push an Arjun Mark-III under the FMBT programme. Under the FCRV project in tune with the Make in India policy, we are looking at futuristic combat platform which can multi-task, take on both enemy tanks and attack helicopters,” said the Army officer.
Source: The Economic Times