Chennai: With the handing over of a batch of 16 indigenously designed and developed Arjun Main Battle Tanks (MBT) to the Indian Army, its 43rd Armoured Regiment has now received a full complement of 45 tanks. This ensures that the Arjun is now inducted in the army at full regimental strength- an autonomous, fully functional, combat unit. The tanks were handed over to Lt Gen D Bhardwaj, director general mechanised forces (DGMF) by Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, chief controller, research & development and distinguished scientist, DRDO, at a function in Avadi today.
The army has already placed a confirmed order for 124 of these tanks. It is expected that the remaining 74 tanks will be handed over to the army by March 2010.
The tanks costs over Rs16 crore a piece, official sources said.
Emphasising the need for self-reliance in defence equipments, Dr Pillai said, the country is producing only 30 per cent of it. ''Henceforth, the government has to come up with Component Design Execution Programme (CODE) for increasing the ratio to 70 per cent. This could be achieved in about seven years from now,'' he said.
''The DRDO has also joined hands with Indian firms for making software for the defence sector. We are working with L&T and BHEL to develop technologies for components necessary to the defence,'' he added.
''Arjun proved that the might of India in the field of research and development and the potential of public and private companies cannot be ignored by other countries,'' Lt Gen Bhardwaj said.
S Chandrasekar, additional director general, Ordinance Factory, observed that the Arjun tanks were one of the best in the world and had undergone rigorous and extensive evaluations.
''However, these tanks have crossed several hindrances, with denial of equipment and technology by foreign nations,'' he pointed out.
The tanks were flagged off by Dr Pillai.
The Arjun Mark I, as it is now so characterised, has been developed after three decades of identifying requirements, re-design and evaluation process involving the DRDO and the Indian Army.
Weighing in at 58.5 tons, the tank is much heavier than the Soviet-era T-series tanks currently deployed by the Indian Army.
Armed with a 120 mm rifled gun, it is capable of firing APFSDS (Kinetic Energy) rounds, HE, HEAT, High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) rounds and the Israeli semi-active laser guided LAHAT missile. In addition, it is armed with a 12.7 mm AA machine gun and a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun.
A special pre-fragmented round is also under development, which will have proximity fuse designed for use against low-flying aircraft and attack helicopters.
Also on the cards is the acquisition of the Israeli LAHAT ATGM, a semi-active, laser homing guided missile. The missile's trajectory can be set to match either tank (top attack) or helicopter (direct attack) engagements. The missile uses a tandem warhead which can defeat all modern armour, including add-on reactive armour.
The main warhead has a high penetration capability of 800mm, defeating all known armoured vehicles at high impact angles typical of top attack trajectories. The LAHAT is stowed like other rounds in the ammunition rack, and handled just like any other type of ammunition.
The LAHAT missile has a range of 8 km when launched from a ground platform, and up to 13 km, when deployed from high elevation. The missile hits the target at an accuracy of 0.7meter CEP and an angle of over 30 degrees.
IAI has completed a successful series of test firing on the Arjun tank and is ready for local production of the missile.
The Arjun's Fire Control System (FCS) is stabilised on two axes, and offers an extremely high hit probability. It replaces an earlier analogue one, which had problems due to the extreme conditions during tests. The first batch of tanks of the 124 ordered by the Army, will have an all digital Sagem FCS, whereas the second block will have the Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) unit, which will be used for all units thereafter.
The design and development of BEL's Indigenous Gunners Main Sight (IGMS) is a big step forward for localisation, given its demanding specifications. The commander's own stabilised panoramic sight, allows him to engage targets and/or hand them over to the gunner.
The tank incorporates GPS-based navigation systems and sophisticated frequency hopping radios. The state-of-the-art Battlefield Management System, developed by DRDO allows it to network with other fighting units. In a search and engage operation, referred to as the "Wolfpack/Hunter Network", several Arjuns can monitor an opponent and its moves, and eliminate it in a chase or ambuscade.
It is protected by a laser warning system and smoke launchers for counter measures. To further enhance combat survivability, the tank has an auto-fire detection and suppression system. Ammunition is also stowed in watertight containers to reduce the risk of fire.
Arjun incorporates heavy composite armour and significant crew protection measures, including ammunition separated from the crew, and blow off panels on the turret bustle, and an integrated fire detection and suppression system.
The typical crew consists of a Gunner, Commander, Loader and Driver.
The Arjun also incorporates nuclear, biological and chemical protection.
Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) panels can be added, though the current Kanchan armour is deemed sufficient for the time being. The turret and glacis are heavily armoured and use "Kanchan" (gold) composite armour. A new honeycomb design, non-explosive and non-energetic reactive armour (NERA) armour is being tested on the Arjun and is reported to be working perfectly.
The engine and transmission are provided by MTU and Renk respectively. The engine generates 1,400 hp and is integrated with an Indian turbocharger and gearbox. A local transmission is under trials and will ultimately replace the Renk supplied unit.
The tracks which were being supplied by Diehl are now being manufactured by L&T, an Indian company.
The cooling pack has been designed for desert operations.
The Arjun has a lower ground pressure than the lighter T-72, due to its design and offers a lower silhouette than comparable western tanks.
It also has a state-of-the-art hydro-pneumatic suspension, which coupled with its stabilisation and fire control system, allows superb first-hit probability. The ride comfort of the tank is highly praised though it makes the system more maintenance-intensive and expensive.