Arjun Mark 1-A tank | Credit: Ministry of Defence
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New Delhi: The defence ministry Thursday placed an order for 118 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) Arjun Mark 1-A, which will be the most potent armoured system in the Army’s inventory.

The Rs 7,523-crore contract is expected to be a major boost for the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Chennai’s Avadi, which manufactures the tanks also known as ‘Hunter Killers’. However, this is likely to be the last order for this tank, which weighs 68.5 tonnes, since the Army requires lighter tanks.

The Mark 1-A is a new variant of Arjun main battle tank, two regiments of which have been inducted into the Army since 2004.

According to a defence ministry statement, the latest variant has been “designed to enhance fire power, mobility and survivability”.

It added that the Mark 1-A is infused with 72 new features and more indigenous content from the Mark-1 variant, which will ensure “effortless mobility in all terrains”, besides precise target engagement during day and night.

Designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)’s Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), the tank is equipped with a massive 120 mm rifled gun and the Kanchan armour.

The defence ministry noted that the tank was designed and developed within two years from 2010 to 2012.

“The development activities commenced from June 2010 and the tank was fielded for user trials in June 2012. It took only two years to develop and field the MBT Arjun Mk-1A for user trials from the user requirement,” read the statement.

“Extensive trial evaluation was conducted in various phases covering 7000+ km (both in DRDO and user trials) of automotive and substantial firing of various ammunitions during 2012-2015,” it added.

In March 2020, ThePrint had reported that the Army had pushed for clearance of the tanks’ order. However, the process was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the plan, the first tank will be rolled out from the factory within 30 months from the announcement of the order.


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What sets Arjun Mark 1-A apart from its predecessor

The Arjun Mark 1-A tank comes with 14 major improvements that the Army had sought including four upgrades to the firepower.

Other major upgrades include new transmission systems, besides an improved gunner’s main sight, which has been integrated with automatic target tracking. This feature will enable the crew to track moving targets automatically and engage them even when the tank is on the move.

According to sources in the defence and security establishment, the Mark 1-A gun is controlled by a computerised integrated fire control, which ensures that it has a high first round kill capability.

Besides the traditional fin-stabilised armour-piercing discarding sabot and high explosive squash head ammunition, the Mark 1-A can also fire thermobaric and penetration-cum-blast ammunition.


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Weight of the tank is an issue for Army

While the tank has the best fire power, its weight of 68 tonnes is an issue for the Army.

As reported, India’s Armoured Corps, which primarily uses Russian tanks, has an operational requirement of medium-weight tanks that weigh anywhere between 40-50 tonnes.

The Corps is also keen on a lighter tank for certain areas like hills, riverines and islands.

The Arjun tank, first envisaged in 1972, was meant to replace the Russian T-72 that is still in service and was intended to weigh just 48 tonnes.

However, as more armour and systems got added over the years, the weight climbed to 62.5 tonnes for the earlier Arjun MBT and now to 68.5 tonnes for Mark 1-A.

The Arjun MBT had performed better than Russian T-90s during a desert trial conducted by the Army in 2010.

However, the two regiments of MBT were never used to full capacity due to issues related to reliability and availability of spare parts.

Furthermore, the weight of the MBT was a handicap since it was too heavy for roads, bridges and canals along the Pakistan border.

(Edited by Rachel John)


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