The New Indian Express
Army Tanks to Have Night Vision Devices
Nearly 3,500 battle tanks to be equipped with the devices at an estimated cost of `1,200 crore
New Delhi: As part of the efforts to ensure a level playing field with China and Pakistan, the Centre has decided to equip the Army’s nearly 3,500 battle tanks with night vision devices over the next five years. However, the state-of-the facility doesn’t come cheap at a staggering `1,200 cr.
The gaps in the night vision capabilities of the Army tanks was one of the poor defence preparedness issues flagged by erstwhile Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General V K Singh in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year. The letter had triggered an uproar in Parliament after its contents became public.
Singh’s predecessor, General Deepak Kapoor, too had raised the issue in January 2010, stating that about 80 per cent of the Soviet-origin 2,400 T-72 ‘Ajeya’ tanks, which form the backbone of Army’s main battle tank (MBT) regiments, were night-blind.
In marked contrast, all the Chinese tanks and 80 per cent of the Pak Army tanks had been equipped with better night vision capabilities.
Apart from the 60-odd regiments of the vintage T72s, India has two regiments of the indigenous Arjun MBT numbering around 120 and another 14 regiments of the Russian-origin T-90 ‘Bhishma’ tanks numbering over 800.
The Army deploys a majority of its 70-odd tank regiments along the 1,800 km-long international border with Pakistan in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir as the plains and the desert terrain are suitable theatres for tank battles.
Present, the T-72s have night vision devices for the three-man crew comprising the Driver, the Gunner and the Commander.
Until 1995, the T-72 Drivers could see only about 10m ahead during the night. Now, they have a night vision of about 75 to 100m due to Image Intensifiers (II) retrofitted on the tanks during an upgrade process undertaken some 15 years ago.
“While 80 per cent of the T-72 tanks have been fitted with the intensifiers, orders for the rest 20 per cent have been issued. The entire fleet of the T-72s will be covered under the Image Intensifiers project by 2014,” an officer from the Army’s Mechanised Forces Directorate told ‘Express’.
For the Gunners, the Army is in the process of upgrading the T-72 tanks with Thermal Image Stand Alone Systems (TISAS), providing for a 5km sight range. Till 15 years ago, the Gunners had only about 150m night vision.
“About 30 per cent of the T-72s have now been fitted with TISAS for the Gunners,” the sources said.
The rest 70 per cent would get the advanced Thermal Imaging Fire Control Systems (TIFCS) with ballistic computers fitted with various atmospheric, wing and temperature sensors that can automatically calculate these factors and provide an aiming mark on enemy targets to the Gunners.
The Army’s T-72 upgrade proposals were for procuring 700 Thermal Imaging Stand Alone Systems (TISAS) and 418 Thermal Imaging Fire Control Systems (TIFCS).
“The ‘buy global’ procurement plan for TIFCS is at the contract negotiation stage. We expect to complete the purchase and integration of the new systems in the 201215 five-year plan,” they said.