No more Arjuns for Indian Army

NEW DELHI: As doubts over viability of the three-decade-old Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) are being raised, the Army has indicated it would place no more orders than 124 already made to Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, sounding the death knell of the DRDO project.

“Army will no more place orders for Arjun beyond 124 that was already contracted. That is because Army is now looking 20 years ahead and wants a futuristic MBT,” Lt Gen Dalip Bharadwaj, Army Director General (Mechanised Infantry), said here.

Though Bharadwaj discounted suggestions that it would mean the end of DRDO’s Arjun project that began in 1972, he did point out induction of more Arjun MBTs at this stage would only mean India lagging behind in the technological race in armoured fighting vehicles.

“Arjun is a contemporary tank and may be used in the next decade or so, but not for a technologically advanced, next generation warfare some two decades hence,” Bhardwaj said on the sidelines of an interactive session with defence private industry at CII.

After 36 years into its design and development, Arjun had as recently as in December 2007 failed winter trials, as stated in a Parliamentary report. It is yet to go through crucial comparative trials with Russian tanks, a mandatory process before induction into Army.

With uncertainty looming over Arjun tanks, Army has already increased its orders for Russian T-90 tanks by another 330 last year, over and above the 1000 it had ordered, clearly indicating T-90s would be the MBT of Indian Army for the next decade.

Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) had last year handed over 14 Arjuns to the Army for trials, but they were returned with a list of defects in its fire control systems, inaccuracy of guns, low speeds in tactical areas such as deserts and inability to operate in temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius.

This summer too Army and the DRDO took out Arjuns for trials, but the results were yet to be made public. Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry claimed it suspected an effort at “sabotaging” Arjun tanks, though reasons for the suspicion were not spelt out by Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh.

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