In February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had handed over the first Arjun Mark-1A to Army chief General MM Naravane in Chennai.
The Indian Army has finally placed an order for 118 improved Arjun Main Battle Tanks or MBTs, called Arjun Mark-1A.
The tanks, which will cost the Army Rs 7,523 crore, will come with 72 improvements — 14 major and 58 minor — over the current version.
Developed by the DRDO's Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) in the 1980s and the 90s, and built by the Ordnance Factory Board's Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Tamil Nadu's Avadi, the induction of the Arjun MBT into the Indian Army began only in 2005.
Between 2005 and 2010, two regiments of Arjun Mark-1 were inducted for the desert sector along the border with Pakistan in Rajasthan.
In a competitive trial organised by the Indian Army in 2010, the Arjun MBT outperformed the Russian-origin T-90, which is in service in large numbers, on every crucial parameter, whether driving across rugged sand-dunes or engaging targets and accurately hitting target. Yet, no more orders for the Arjun MBT followed, even as the Army inducted hundreds of T-90s.
The Indian Army currently operates two regiments of 124 Arjun Mark-1s in the desert sector along the border with Pakistan in Rajasthan.
Some of the improvements in the new version include upgraded firepower, new transmission systems, an improved gunner's main sight, integrated with automatic target tracking and day-and-night stabilised sights to enable the tank to engage targets accurately and even when it is on the move.
In February this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had handed over the first Arjun Mark-1A to Army chief General MM Naravane in Chennai.
Army's order for 118 Arjuns could be its last for the type
Amid the standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, where it deployed its T-72 and T-90 tanks, the Army felt the need of light tanks, which will have better mobility in high-altitude areas like Ladakh. Last year, reports said the Army was looking at options to buy light tanks off the shelf from foreign equipment manufacturers.
"The requirement for light tanks which could operate in the mountains is at least a decade old, it was revived more recently after the PLA's Type 15 light tanks appeared on the Tibetan plateau," an India Today report says.
The 68 tonne Arjun can't be airlifted to high-altitude areas like Ladakh like T-72s and T-90s, which were moved to Ladakh on Indian Air Force's heavy-lift transport aircrafts as China deployed its forces along the Line of Actual Control, experts point out. Operating and maintaining the tank in high-altitude areas will be difficult given its weight, even if it were to be moved somehow, they add.