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Monday, 21 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 21 Jul

Indian Army rejects joint assessment of indigenous main battle tank

Ritu SharmaSun, Jul 20 01:50 PM

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) In a desperate bid to save the main battle tank (MBT) Arjun it has developed, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had suggested a joint assessment of the vehicle with the Indian Army to keep the project alive but this has been summarily rejected by the army. The army is also ambiguous on a suggestion by the DRDO that the tank be assessed head-to-head with the T-90 MBTs the army currently operates.

'Following the army's adverse report on the tanks after winter trials last year, the DRDO had suggested a joint assessment be conducted but the army refused this outright,' a defence ministry official told IANS. On its part, the Indian Army has made it clear that it will buy no more than the 124 Arjuns it has contracted for because it is unhappy with the tank on various counts. This apart, the army says the Arjun can at best remain in service for 5 to 10 years while it is looking 20 years ahead and needs a futuristic MBT.

The army had told a key parliamentary panel earlier this year that the Arjun, which has been in development for the last 36 years, failed to deliver at the winter trials conducted in the Rajasthan desert last year. The army said that many improvements would have to be carried out before it was satisfied with the tank. Fourteen Arjun tanks were handed over to the Indian Army for user trials last year but were returned to the manufacturer - the Combat Vehicles Development Establishment - with a list of defects.

These included a deficient engine and fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally the desert - and the tank's inability to operate in temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius. Allegations of 'sabotage' had surfaced after the winter trials. 'Following these reports, the DRDO sought a joint trial of Arjun and the T-90, but the army has not taken a clear stand on this,' the official said. Drawing a comparison between the two tanks, DRDO says Arjun has a greater power-to-weight ratio, a hydro-pneumatic suspension for a more comfortable ride, a stable platform to fire on the move, and a superior fire control system.

'The Arjun costs Rs.168 million while the T-90 costs around Rs.120 million. But then, the Arjun compares favourably with contemporary western MBTs of its class that cost in the range of Rs.170 to 240 million,' a DRDO official said. Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh has also hinted at a conspiracy to 'sabotage' the Arjun tank. 'The possibility of sabotage needs to be examined. The German engines fitted in the tanks were performing well for the past 15 years. I wonder what has happened to them overnight,' Singh had said in April, while commenting on the army's assessment after the tank's winter trials.

On its part, the army has rejected any suggestions of sabotage. Arjun was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBTs that were first inducted in the early 1980s. However, delays in the Arjun project and Pakistan's decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001. Of these, 186 were assembled from kits at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, near Chennai. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.

With the development of the Arjun delayed further, India last year signed a fresh contract with Russia to buy 330 more T-90s.

Major, cop killed in gunbattle
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Thannamandi (Rajouri), July 20
On the heels of militants blowing up an Army convoy killing at least nine soldiers and injuring at least 20 others at Narbal in Kashmir valley, the militants struck again killing a Major and a head constable of the Special Operation Group (SOG) of the state police last night at Kunda village, near here. Two jawans and a constable of the Indian Reserve Police (IRP) were severely injured in the attack.The deceased have been identified as Maj Bhanu Pratap Singh, a resident of Jaipur, posted with 43 RR, head constable Anjeeb Rana of Doda posted with the SOG, Rajouri, while Gyan Prakash and Ravinder Singh of 43 RR and Zaffar Javed, an IRP constable of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, have been injured.Army sources claimed that on specific information, a joint team of the Thannamandi-based 43 RR and the Rajouri SOG launched a search and destroy operation in Kunda near here on Saturday night. After cordoning the area, a search party led by Major Bhanu reached a dhok (temporary shed used by nomads in higher reaches) owned by Gulzar Begum of Shahdara Sharief area and knocked at the door. Begum who was inside the dhok at that time was allegedly used by militants, reportedly belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), as their shield, sources added.Even as the militants refused to open the door, Major Bhanu insisted on the militants, reportedly five in number, to open the door and release the woman held hostage by them. As soon as the troops broke open the door, militants fired on them and in the ensuing gunbattle Major Bhanu and head constable Rana died on the spot.

While trying to escape from the dhok, militants lobbed a grenade on the troops in which two jawans and a police constable received severe injuries. The Rajouri SSP while confirming that a Major and an SOG personal lost their lives in the operation said militants managed to escape after inflicting causalities on the security forces. Meanwhile, security forces have cordoned off the area and have launched search and destroy operation to nab the militants.

India, Russia plan to build futuristic MBT

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: Encouraged by the remarkable success of their pilot co-development defence project, the Brahmos missile, India and Russia are planning to design and build a futuristic main battle tank. Defence industry experts will discuss the new project when a delegation of the Russian Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) tank-building factory visits India this week to participate in an international seminar on the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) organised by the Army along with the Confederation of Indian Industry.

The two sides have already had preliminary discussions on the issue, according to UVZ Director General Nikolai Malykh. “We put forward this idea [of a joint tank project] at the turn of the 21st century,” he told journalists in Moscow. “The Indian side has now come up with a similar proposal. We will take the first step when our experts go to India to attend a conference on the future tank and prospects for the tank-building industry.”

“The new tank will consolidate India’s edge over the Pakistani Army armed with Ukraine’s potent T-80 MBT and the Al-Khalid MBT built jointly with China and Ukraine,” Ruslan Pukhov, Director, Centre for Analysis and Technologies, said. “Russia’s Uralvagonzavod would be the best partner for India in designing and building the new tank given a long history of its cooperation with the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi in the production of T-72 and T-90S MBTs.”

India has purchased over 1,600 T-90S MBTs built by the UVZ of which 1,000 will be manufactured at the Avadi plant.The Indo-Russian MBT is likely to incorporate the best features of prototype tanks developed at Russia’s leading tank-building plants — UVZ and Omsk Transport Machine-Building Plant — which are now being merged into a single corporation.

According to the Moscow Defence Brief magazine, the new tank will mark a great step forward in armour technology. It will feature higher speed, better firepower, sophisticated armour protection and a low silhouette. An armour-protected crew compartment will be sealed from the unmanned turret equipped with an automatic loader. The crew will be provided with a virtual-reality command information system linked to reconnaissance aircraft and will enjoy a smoother ride thanks to a new hydro-pneumatic suspension.

The new tank is likely to have a new main gun of up to 152 mm calibre and a new hunter-killer fire control system with target acquisition in optical, thermal, infrared and radar spectrums that will be accessible both to the gunner and tank commander, the Moscow Defence Brief said.

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