Indian Army’s Armour Profile
Delay in decision-making which is enhanced by the innumerable agencies involved, departmental rivalries, general lack of urgency in getting things done and proper resource management, is affecting the Indian Army’s armour profile. What is worrisome today
Delay in decision-making which is enhanced by the innumerable agencies involved, departmental rivalries, general lack of urgency in getting things done and proper resource management, is affecting the Indian Army’s armour profile.
THE INDIAN ARMY NEEDS to spell out its priorities as far as induction and modernisation programmes of their battle tanks are concerned. The delays in decisionmaking are substantially enhanced by the innumerable agencies involved, departmental rivalries, general lack of urgency in getting things done and proper resource management. What is worrisome today is that even the desired ammunition of tanks is in short supply.
The Army had started inducting Arjun tanks as far back as 2004 but it was much later in 2009 that the tank was fielded in strength. The Army equipped two regiments with Arjun tanks out of the 124 Arjun main battle tanks (MBT) ordered by it earlier. As a result of the satisfactory feedback by the units and from the tank crews, an additional 124 Arjun Mark II tanks have been ordered subject to satisfactory development of the upgraded Mark II version of the tank for equipping two more regiments. These tanks will have substantially upgraded capabilities of firepower, mobility and protection. The development of Arjun Mark II tank with 43 improvements has commenced and limited technical trials incorporating the improvements have been carried out in Rajasthan. First batch of MBT Arjun Mark II is likely to go in for production by 2014-15 at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) Avadi.
As regards the T-90 tanks, 310 T-90S tanks had been ordered from Russia in the first instance. Of these, 124 fully-assembled tanks were directly imported from Russia and 186 kits were imported for assembly in India. The first indigenously assembled T-90S rolled out from HVF on January 7, 2004. These tanks stand fully operationalised. Additional 347 T-90S tanks were inducted into service which brings the total to 657 T-90S tanks. As per media reports, the Army total requirement is 1,657 T-90S tanks. The defects in the fire control systems of T-90S tanks due to excessive heat in the turrets during the summers, is being remedied through air conditioning of the interior.
On September 13, 2013, a major deal was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for the manufacturing of 236 additional T-90 tanks for the Indian Army. The order, worth over 6,000 crore ($940 million), will be executed by the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory that already has a licence from Russia to manufacture T-90 tanks from kits purchased from Russia. Another contract, worth about $470 million, has been signed for the deliveries of the Invar missiles, which will be installed on Russian-built T-90 tanks. This has to be completed within the next five years. Invar is a laser-guided anti-tank missile with a range of five kilometres (three miles) and the capability to penetrate explosive reactive armour (ERA). According to local media reports, India plans to purchase 25,000 Invar missiles for its T-90 tanks, including 10,000 to be procured directly from Russia and 15,000 more to be manufactured domestically under a Russian licence.
Upgrading of T-72 Tank
The programme launched to modernise the T-72 M1 Ajeya MBTs is still unsatisfactory and has not progressed much. About 1,700 T-72 M1s have been manufactured under licence at HVF, Avadi. The T-72 M1 modernisation programme under Project Rhino will extend the service life of the MBT by 20 years; enhance their accuracy with new fire control system (FCS) whose trials are under way. This will give night fighting capability through a thermal imager integrated with the tank’s FCS. Three hundred T-72 tanks of the Army have been fitted with thermal imaging stand-alone sights (TISAS) while 300 more are in the pipeline bringing the total to 600 TISAS. Thus about 1,000 remaining T-72 tanks will be fitted with more modern integrated fire control systems. However, the overall night fighting capability of India’s armour is currently inadequate and operationally unacceptable. The tanks are additionally being equipped with new type of explosive reactive armour (ERA) panels which will provide protection against kinetic energy as well as tandem warhead, chemical energy projectiles for better protection, along with a laser warning system and new radio sets for better and more secure communications. A new power-pack is also under consideration to further enhance mobility, especially with the heavy ERA packages that are being strapped on. An auxiliary power-pack for environmental control and integrated fire detection and suppression system are also being introduced. Gun barrels capable of firing conventional munitions and guided missiles are likely to replace the existing barrels. The modernisation of the T-72 is way behind schedule due to complicated procurement procedures exacerbated by delayed decision-making and in-house disagreements.
The T-90, the improved T-72 M1 tanks and Arjun tanks, will constitute India’s armour might in the future till a new MBT is chosen or designed indigenously. Meanwhile, light tanks for the eastern theatre are still being debated.
The mechanised infantry is currently equipped with the BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle (ICV) named Sarath. Over 1,000 of these have been manufactured since 1987. A new variant is the 81mm carrier mortar tracked that is based on the chassis of the Sarath ICV and has been indigenously developed to enhance the integral firepower available to mechanised infantry battalions. Other variants include a command post, an ambulance, armoured dozer and engineer reconnaissance vehicles. The ICVs are being equipped with thermal imaging night sights and image intensifiers. The Army had ordered 198 carrier mortar tracked vehicle, which have since been delivered. The ICV BMP-2/2K is being modernised by upgrading its existing NBC System, fire detection and suppression system, ERA panels to provide extra protection and a new powerpack. The scheme to fit environmental control for ICV BMP-2 is in an advanced stage of procurement. Additional battlefield surveillance radar (medium-range) mounted on high mobility wheeled vehicles are also being procured.
The Indian Army has planned for a futuristic infantry combat vehicle (FICV) to replace the BMP-2 with key operational and performance parameters envisaged in the Indian context. A project to build 2,600 FICV costing approximately 60,000 crore has been approved by the government. This project is a pioneer in ‘Make High-Tech’ category where for the first time the defence industry has invited participation by private established agencies.
T-90S Battle Tank