After waiting 30 years for its indigenously designed Arjun main battle tank, the Indian Army has decided the tank is too heavy for combat.
“It has been decided to use the Arjun main battle tank only for training purposes and not for combat purposes,” said a senior Indian Army official. He added that the Arjun’s weight makes the tank difficult to transport and inhibits maneuverability.
The Arjun order also has been trimmed from 124 to 80 since it will be used only for training, said the Army official. The first batch of five Arjuns were delivered Aug. 7 to the Army by the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Chennai.
Another Army official said the 58.5-ton Arjun tank is much heavier and wider than the 46.5-ton Russian T-90 tank, which limits its operational mobility.
Problems plagued the Arjun from its inception in 1974 by India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation. The first prototype was conceived in 1984, but the Army found a variety of problems involving its weight, engine overheating and armor protection. Arjun was planned to be ready in 1990 and mass produced by 1997.
Following delays, the Indian government struck a memorandum of understanding with Russia in 2000 to procure 310 T-90 tanks. Under the deal, 180 tanks are to be produced under licensed production at the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory, and the remaining 130 will be provided to India either fully or partially built, and final assembly would be done in India.
An official of the Indian Ordnance Factories Board, which controls the Avadi factory, said production priorities at Avadi have been shifted, leaving only one assembly line to build Arjuns, while the other two will produce T-90 tanks and upgrade T-72 tanks.
A senior Indian Defence Ministry official would not confirm the Arjun order had been reduced, and claimed that the tank’s problems have been fixed.
The official acknowledged, however, there is a transportation problem because the Arjun is too large for the vehicles already used to transport the T-72 and T-90. Special transport vehicles have been ordered to move the Arjuns, he said.
The Arjuns will cost about $5 million apiece, sources said, which is higher than the T-90 tank because the cost of imported components in the tank have increased from 27 percent to 60 percent.
Early this year, an Israeli Lahat anti-tank missile was mounted on an Arjun tank. The Arjun has a 120mm gun, a 7.22mm machine gun for ground operations and a 12.7mm machine gun for the anti-aircraft role.
The 120mm gun has been procured from France’s GIAT Industries, the engine from MTU and the transmission system from Renk, both of Germany, and the fire control system from Oldelft Instruments of the Netherlands.