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Sunday, 11 May 2008

From Today's Papers - 11 May











Arjun loses battle to Russian tanks
Trials put on hold as Army opts for T-90 tanks
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 10
The Indian Army has made up its mind that it will not accept more Arjun tanks and opted to add more Russian T-90 tanks to its armoured corps. A total of 347 more such tanks will be purchased. Notably, 223 of these tanks will be assembled in India under a transfer-of-technology arrangement offered by Russia while 124 tanks will be supplied in “battle-ready condition”.

The Russian tank is cheaper by Rs 6-8 crore per piece and lighter by a few tonnes. Besides, it offers transfer of latest technology to India. The Army has put the further induction of Arjun tanks in the cold storage. Even the next stage of the testing that was to be conducted this summer has been put off, sources in the ministry of defence confirmed.

The sources said the Army had conveyed that it was not averse to carrying out more tests on Arjun, but the glitches had to be removed. So far, the Army had been handed over 14 tanks that were tested extensively, the latest being during last winter.

This come close on the heels of the deposition of the Army before the Parliamentary standing committee that Arjun, during the winter trials in Rajasthan, was miles away from meeting the requirements that are called the general staff qualitative requirements (GSQRs) in defence parlance. The committee tabled its report in Parliament.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation has not said enough words, but often it grumbles that the Army changes the GSQRs far too often. Arjun’s developers also talk of having open test between Arjun and T-90 tanks to have a comparative analysis before debunking an option.

Meanwhile, the Russian T-90 tanks will be fitted with the Russian-origin Invar missile, modified and indigenously made now by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) under the transfer-of-technology agreement. It is huge technology leap, as 223 of the tanks will come in semi-knocked down (SKD) kits or completely knocked down (CKD) kits as part of the process towards building indigenous capability.

The first lot of T-90 was inducted in 2004 and is known by its Indianised name “Bhishma”. The same will be built at the heavy vehicles factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu.

Though Arjun was now working on an up-rated German engine, the Army feels even if Arjun matches other international level tanks, it costs much more than the others.

After the Army representative slammed Arjun, standing committee chairman Balasaheb Vikhe Patil as well as the defence secretary and several other members had agreed that the committee would formulate a clear policy on India’s tank of the future.

Reports have been appearing in the media that the standing committee also thought that the Army was biased against Arjun tank and was in favour of continuing to use the Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks.

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