New Delhi: The defence ministry Tuesday granted approval to the Army’s proposal to procure 118 indigenously manufactured Arjun Mark 1-A ‘Hunter Killers’, the second biggest ‘Make in India’ project in the armed forces this year after the Tejas aircraft deal earlier this month.
The Rs 8,380-crore project was given the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which is led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Sources told ThePrint the Army will now issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and the whole process till the final contract could take at least one year.
“Three Acceptance of Necessities (AoNs) for an overall cost of Rs 13,700 crore were accorded,” a statement by the defence ministry noted, and according to sources, the Arjun tank project was one of them. The others were related to the Army’s Rs 5,300-crore project for protection and countermeasures for armoured fighting vehicles.
Known as the ‘Hunter Killers’, the new version of the indigenous tanks have all-weather capability, and better fire power and stability than the Arjun main battle tank (MBT).
The Mark 1-A weighs 68 tonnes and is equipped with a 120mm main gun, and will be the most potent tank to be inducted in the Army.
According to the contract, the first tank will be rolled out from the factory within 30 months once the formal contract is done.
At present, the Army currently operates two regiments of the MBT that are based in Rajasthan.
According to sources in the defence and security establishment, the present order of Mark 1-A for the two regiments will be the last for this system. This is because the Army is looking to induct lighter tanks, weighing 50 tonnes at most and a minimum of 30 tonnes.
Currently, India operates with Russian-designed T-90 tanks, which weigh around 46 tonnes, besides the T-72 tanks.
The Mark 1-A comes with 14 major improvements that the Army had sought, which are part of a total 71 new features.
The tank has undergone four upgrades to the firepower of the tank, besides new transmission systems. It includes an improved gunner’s main sight, integrated with automatic target tracking. This would enable the tank crew to track moving targets automatically and engage them even when Arjun is on the move.
The Mark-1A’s gun is controlled by a computerised integrated fire control system, giving the tank a high first round kill capability. The gun’s day-and-night stabilised sights, coupled with automatic target tracker, guarantee accurate engagement even in dynamic conditions.
Other than the conventional fin stabilised armour piercing discarding sabot and high explosive squash head ammunition, the Mark 1-A comes with thermo baric and penetration-cum-blast ammunition.
Last week, during a function, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also handed over a model of the tank to the Army
“A tank made in Tamil Nadu will be used in our northern border to keep our nation safe. This showcases India’s united spirit–Bharat’s ekta darshan,” Modi had said.