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Why India's order for 118 Arjun Mk-1A tanks for Rs 7,523 crore is a big deal

·4 min read

The Ministry of Defence on Thursday sealed a contract to procure 118 Main Battle Tanks Arjun for the Indian Army at a cost of Rs 7,523 crore, in a major move to boost its combat capabilities.

The defence ministry placed the order for the Arjuna Mk-1A tanks with the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi, Chennai.

Speaking on the new order, the defence ministry said: "The order, worth Rs 7,523 crore, will provide further boost to the 'Make in India' initiative in defence sector and is a big step towards achieving 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat'.

Big deal over MBT Mk-1A

The MBT Mk-1A is a new variant of Arjun Tank designed to enhance fire power, mobility and survivability, infused with 72 new features and more indigenous content from the Mk-1 variant.

Arjun has been a mainstay for the army for the last 15 years.

The Arjun Mk-1A has 54.3 percent indeginous content against the 41 percent in the earlier model.

Known as the "hunter killers", the latest version of the tank is equipped with a massive 120 mm rifled gun and Kanchan armour, making it the most potent armoured system in the inventory of the army.

The tank, which has been designed and developed by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) along with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, can take on the enemy during day and night conditions and in both static and dynamic modes. The tank is particularly configured and designed for Indian conditions and hence it is suitable for deployment to protect the frontiers in an effective manner.

The Arjun Mk-1A also has a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with stabilised sighting that works in all lighting conditions. The secondary weapons include a co-axial 7.62-mm machine gun for anti-personnel and a 12.7-mm machine gun for anti-aircraft and ground targets.

The defence ministry stated that development activities commenced from June 2010 and the tank was fielded for user trials in June 2012.

The tank has undergone extensive trial evaluation in various phases covering 7000 plus km (both in DRDO and user trials) of automotive and substantial firing of various ammunition during 2012-2015.

Earlier in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A) to the army at Chennai.

Speaking on the occasion, the prime minister had said, "I am proud to present Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A). Tamil Nadu is already one of the largest automobile manufacturing states of the nation. I can now see the region becoming the largest tank manufacturing state of the nation."

"The Made in Tamil Nadu tank shows India's ethos of courage. The armed forces have time and again shown that they are ready to protect the nation. They have also shown that India is committed to peace. We have shown courage and valour as well as restraint and commitment to protecting India's sovereignty," the prime minister further added.

Criticism of the Arjun Mk-1A

However, the tank is not without its criticism. While the tank is commendable in multiple areas of firepower, mobility, protection and crew comfort. Its weight remains a contentious issue.

The tank today weighs 68.25 tonnes, making it among the world's heaviest. There are some experts who believe that the tank would remain limited largely to Rajasthan's desert region and that the MBT's bulk and weight excluded positioning it in Punjab or adjoining areas, as its cross-country mobility was restricted by the sizeable nominal ground pressure (NGP) it exerts.

Transportability of the tank owing to its weight is another issue.

When the Ladakh standoff began, India airlifted thousands of additional soldiers, tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the border. That cannot be done in the case of the Arjun tank. Moreover, one also needs a lighter tank in the mountains because the dynamics are different.

The Arjun Mk-1A can't easily be transported on trains as well, because this would require building dedicated Mobile Bogie Well Wagons used by the Railways to transport military equipment.

The entire Indian logistics support system is created and fine-tuned for medium-weight tanks and hence, it is a Herculean task to create a parallel network for just four regiments of Arjun MBT, which is more or less a desert theatre-specific system.

With inputs from agencies

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