Indian Army to freeze Arjun MBT orders at 124

07 Jul 2008


New Delhi: Bringing a long festering internal debate back into public focus, the Indian Army has now said  that it would not increase the size of its orders for the Arjun Main Battle Tank. It has placed an order for 124 of these indigenously developed tanks with the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi. According to the Army's director general (mechanised forces) Lt Gen Dalip Bharadwaj, "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 Bharadwaj was speaking on the sidelines of an interactive session with defence private industry at CII here. According to Gen Bharadwaj, "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."

The Arjun debate has become increasingly confusing, and bitter, as various parties involved, such as the DRDO (developing agency), Indian Army (end user) and even the ministry of defence, which has over all responsibility for all matters related to defence, have hurled charges and counter charges at each other.

While reports keep emerging about the Arjun being a 'dud,' equally emphatic statements challenging such assertions also emerge – in the recent past, quite surprisingly, from within the confines of the ministry of defence itself.

In a nutshell, while the votaries for the Arjun tank claim that this is a thoroughly updated, and lethal, weapons platform which sports all contemporary features, its critics trundle out oft-heard complaints of shoddy quality and outdated features. What is indeed certain is that the Indian Army is yet to carry out the promised comparative trials of the Arjun MBT with contemporary systems already inducted for service, such as the T-72 and the T-90S MBTs. Such a 'shoot-out' would indeed have provided a lot of answers to old questions.

The Army has already increased its orders for Russian T-90S tanks by another 330 units, which it ordered last year, over and above the 1000 it already has on order.

Meanwhile, Gen Bharadwaj also announced that the Army, along with CII, would organize a two-day international technology seminar on Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) and Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) here on 22 and 23 July to discuss global challenges in designing, developing and producing FMBT and FICV.

Gen Bhardwaj said the seminar would debate the kind of MBT the Army needed, considering that might of the military was judged by both deterrent and offensive capabilities of mechanized forces and on the quality and quantity of equipment.

"Time has come to reassess our requirements. We are at the threshold of formulating qualitative requirements of FMBT and FICV. This is the future, as it takes about a decade for completing the process of designing and being ready with a prototype of FMBT and FICV. It could take another 5 to 10 years to finally induct futuristic MBTs and ICVs into the forces," he said.

The meeting would also provide defence planners, end-users, scientists and both private and public defence manufacturers a holistic view of applicability of tanks, be they heavy, medium or light, and wheeled or tracked vehicles in modern warfare.

"Considering India's expanding strategic reach and widening global standing as a military power, future armored vehicles should be capable of performing roles during out-of-area contingencies beyond its territorial boundaries," Bharadwaj said.

The meet would also try to provide defence industry an insight into the aspirations of the mechanized forces and try to gauge their capability to meet Army's future requirements.

Apart from looking at varying global perceptions on use of armored vehicles, the seminar would identify critical emerging technologies in the field to meet Army's requirements of FMBT and FICV. Already, seven foreign countries have confirmed their participation in the seminar including US, Israel, Russia, Germany, UK and France.

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