The Russian-made T-72 tank fleet of the Indian Army is undergoing an upgradation programme to equip thermal imaging capabilities to its night vision system, the Lok Sabha was informed today.
Defence minister AK Antony told the Lower House in a written reply during question hour that the process of upgrading the night fighting capabilities of the T-72 tanks with thermal imaging was an ongoing process.
He said the fleet was being optimally used and was the mainstay of the present tank fleet. "The entire fleet of this tank is fully battle worthy with high mission and operational reliability."
Of the total holding of T-72 tanks, a part of them was already equipped with high-end technology night vision device, which was fully integrated and exploited, he said.
India currently operates about 1,800 T-72 tanks.
Antony also said ten indigenously produced T-90 tanks under Transfer of Technology agreement with Russia were handed over to the Army on August 24 this year and the tanks' salient features were similar to the first lot of T-90 tanks imported from Russia.
India had in 2001 bought 310 T-90 tanks from Russia with the scope for manufacturing 1,000 of them indigenously through technology transfer. Last year, India had placed a follow-on order for 300 more T-90 tanks from Russia. Antony also informed the Lok Sabha that the government had signed a contract for upgrading MiG-29 fighter aircraft with Russia's RAC-MiG on March 7 last year and the process would be carried out in two phases -- Design and Development (D&D) phase in Russia and Series Upgrade in India.
While the upgradation of six MiG-29 aircraft under the D&D phase commenced in August last year, the Series Upgrade for the remaining aircraft was expected to be carried out from June 2010 onwards.
The total cost of the upgradation programme would be $964 million, Antony said.
IAF currently has about 60 MiG-29s being operated by three of its leading fighter squadrons. Two of these squadrons are deployed in Punjab and the other in Gujarat.
Antony said the IAF's bid to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft was at the stage of field trials of the six competing fighter aircraft and the contract is likely to cost Rs42,000 crore.
The IAF had issued the tenders in 2007 and the six competing companies -- American firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russian MiG, Swedish SAAB, French D'Assault, European consortium EADS -- had submitted their bids in early 2008, following which a lengthy technical evaluation of the bids were completed early this year.