October 18, 2021

INDIAN AEROSPACE DEFENCE NEWS

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T90 over Arjun MBT?

3 min read

Ny question is if arjun MBT is superior to t90 , then why it is not inducted in larger numbers ?~Lokendrasingh

We fail to realise something in case of Tanks of Indian Army. Apart from the budget or existing infrastructure (manufacturing to supplies), its the development and procurement timelines of both these systems which has impacted the numbers of both types in the inventory of Indian Army.

It was decided to mass produce Arjun in 1996 but the development issues and problems with imported content being replaced due to embargo after the nuclear tests, meant that the Tank was not into production yet. During this time Pakistan had imported T80UD tanks from Ukraine, which were superior to then T72M1 tanks of Army. And the issues between India and Pakistan meant that Army couldn’t wait for Arjun to go into production, and hence signed the first deal for 310 T90 tanks with Russia in 2001.

Arjun had started production and by 2004 , 16 Tanks were made available to Army. But then again production and maintenance issues with respect to more than 50% of content of tank being imported arose, slowing down production. During this time Pakistan was supporting USA in Afghanistan and was receiving Attack Helicopters with ATGMs and other donations. Hence it was decided to procure another batch of T90S as it was easy to produce, than waiting for resolving the issues with Arjun. Thus the second deal of 330 T90S tanks was signed in 2006.

It was not before 2009 that the production issues in Arjun had been resolved and 45 tanks delivered to Army. It took another 2 years to fully deliver the 124 tanks promised. But that was the main problem, it took a decade to manufacture 124 tanks at a very high cost and when Avadi was finally able to stabilize the production line, it was decided that the next Arjun order would be for an upgraded variant. Thus the production line came to an halt.

These issues with Arjun, tensions with Pakistan and the 2008 Mumbai attacks was the time when the third contract for another 347 T90S tanks was signed for. The T90S production run also had its problems, but kits supply from Russia and common parts with T72 ( of which Avadi built 200 tanks a year) meant that T90 tanks kept coming off from the production line at a decent rate.

After that it was a race between completing the Arjun Mk1A(then known as MK2) development and production of T90S to replace the T55/54 tanks. (By then Russia had granted a 10 years production licence to Avadi for 1000 tanks in total which included numbers from 2nd and 3rd orders). And the delays kept happening.

Even today budget constraints have meant that Defence ministry has not been able to sign the deal for 118 Arjun Mk1A tanks, even about a couple of years after Army accepted it.

Author

  • An independent analyst with engineering background. Besides covering military affairs, he is also interested in space, airlines, infrastructure, nuclear, energy and related issues.

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