Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The much awaited comparative trials of the indigenous main battle tank “Arjun”, is scheduled to happen next month. The “Arjun” tank will be pitted against the new Russian T-90 tanks in the trials which will take place in the state of Rajasthan.

The outcome of these comparative trials will determine whether the Indian Army will continue with the highly-criticised fleet of Russian T-72 tanks or start relying on the home-grown “Arjun” tank for future battles. The month-long comparative trials will involve a squadron of the” Arjun” tanks against a squadron of T-90 tanks. Each squadron consists of 14 tanks. According to the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has developed the “Arjun” tank at the Central Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE) at Chennai, if the “Arjun” tank performs well against the T-90 tanks, the Indian Army will be forced to order the Indian tank in larger numbers. DRDO feels that the “Arjun” tank could start replacing the T-72 tanks while the T-90 tanks will continue in the fleet.

As for the comparative trials, the main aim is to decipher what the advantages of the “Arjun” tank are, its strengths and weaknesses as well as its operational role in future battles. The comparative trials are being conducted to identify which border area sector the “Arjun” tank can maximise its potential. The trials do not seek to assess whether the “Arjun” tank is superior to the T-90 tank or vice versa.

The forthcoming trials will involve the evaluation of the “Arjun” tank and T-90 tank by day and by night and comparisons will be made on their abilities to speed through rugged, sand-dune-infested terrain, their accuracy in firing even while moving, their abilities to operate for long periods over long distances and the fatigue they impose on their crews.

At present, the Indian army has only ordered 124 “Arjun” tanks and it continues to operate its outdated fleet of T-72 tanks. Although comparative trials of the “Arjun” tank were planned earlier against the T-72 tanks, it did not come through. DRDO, the maker of “Arjun” tanks, claims that the “Arjun” tank is far superior than the T-72 tanks but the Indian Army is not ready to field the T-72 for trials. Hence, the T-90 tank is being fielded for the trials with “Arjun’ tank.

If the “Arjun” tank performs well in the comparative trials, the Indian Army may extend its acquisition from the current figure of 124 “Arjun” tanks to a larger number. The “Arjun” tank is ready for production at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) near Chennai at a cost of $10 million.