Less than impressed with the results of desert tank trials, India’s Army has rejected the T-72 tank engines upgraded by the state-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory and opted instead to buy the V-84MS engine that powers Russia’s T-90 tank.
An Army official said five T-72 tanks powered by the upgraded V-12 engine were put through three months of trials in the Rajasthan desert. The trials, which ended in September, also included five T-72 tanks equipped with the V-84MS engine.
The official said the V-12 engines had a much lower thrust and heated up much faster than the V-84s.
“In all, the upgraded V-12 engine of the T-72 tank was rejected by the technical panel of the Indian Army and the V-84MS engine of the T-90 tank was selected,” he said.
A Ministry of Defence official confirmed that the Army is negotiating with Moscow-based arms export agency Rosoboronexport to buy V-84MS engines by the end of this year to upgrade an initial batch of 300 T-72 tanks, with the goal of outfitting all 1,500 T-72 tanks. The price tag for the engine is part of those talks, he said.
The T-72 upgrade program is expected to cost $1.7 million per tank, and includes an updated fire-control system, navigation gear, radios, thermal imaging systems and night-vision devices.
The Army in 1997 issued a request for proposals to upgrade its entire fleet of 1,500 T-72 tanks. The Defence Ministry in 2001 decided to upgrade the tanks in batches, with the first 300 to be completed before 2007.
On the short list of bidders are PCO-Cenzin, Warsaw; ;El-Op Electro-Optics, Rehovot, Israel; and Thales, Paris, for the fire-control system. ;IAI Electronics, Yahud, Israel; LITEF, Freiburg, Germany; and Reutech Defence, Natal, South Africa, are vying to supply the land navigation system, while BAE SYSTEMS Electro Optics, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Tadiran, Holon, Israel, are short-listed for the radio sets.
Israel Military Industries, Ramat Hasharon, Israel; AVIMO, Somerset, England; and Thales have been short-listed to supply thermal imaging systems for the tanks. India’s Bharat Electronics, Bangalore, will supply night-vision devices. The engine upgrade was given to state-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadhi, in 2001.
A senior official from India’s Ordnance Factories Board, which controls the Avadhi factory, said only five engines were upgraded and there would be no negative financial implications stemming from the Army’s decision.
A senior Defence Ministry procurement official said the government has received the technical specifications for aspects of the T-72 upgrade program. Trials for these various systems will be carried out as soon as the next budget is in place by February. Companies will be invited to bid based on the technical trials. The first order of engines and other gear for 300 tanks is expected in 2005 and should total around $510 million, the Defence Ministry official said.