I. Arjun MBT.
The Arjun was once viewed on par with western tank designs such as the M1 Abrams and Leopard 2, though the Indian-produced tank is now considered by some as obsolete.
The Arjun (named after the Indian mythological hero "Arjuna") represents the first indigenous Indian tank design. Having received priceless experience in the local license production of the Vijayanta (essentially the British Vickers Defense Systems Mk 1) and years of armored warfare lessons in the two Indo-Pak Wars, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) set about to design and produce their own MBT to satisfy the eventual need for a replacement tank in the Indian Army. The resulting Arjun became a tremendous effort - brought about with outside help from Germany, Netherlands and Israel
- by local Indian companies. Unfortunately, the system has been plagued by cost overruns and project delays and - in some inner circles - is believed to has run its useful course.
As such, this once-promising tank system is considered obsolete by some.
Despite development beginning as early as 1974, the first Arjun prototype did not appear in 1984 and was designed to be a 40-ton main battle tank mounting the then industry-standard 105mm main gun
. Since the early Indian Army requirement was laid down, however, the Arjun has ballooned into a heavier 58-ton displacement with the larger and more potent 120mm main gun.
Externally, the conventional design of the Arjun shares many similarities with current-generation main battle tank models found elsewhere. The system accommodates four personnel made up of the driver, gunner, loader and tank commander.
The driver situated in the hull while the rest of the crew is fitted into the 360-degree traversable turret. The Arjun retains a respectably low profile and fits 7 roads wheels to each track side and features upper armor skirts for added protection. External fuel tanks can be stored at the rear of the hull for increase range. Overall, the Arjun is designed with sharp clean lines though with very little in the way of sloped angles, particularly along the sides of the turret.
The Kanchan modular composite armor is of steel construction while Explosive Reactive Armor can be added as optional. Some amphibious capability has been demonstrated which only enhance the systems overall value.
Armament consists of the powerful 120mm rifled main gun
ready to fire HEAT, APFSDS or HESH
projectiles as well as LAHAT
anti-tank missiles. As is standard practice among modern tank systems, a Mag 7.62mm Tk715 anti-infantry machine gun if fitted co-axially in the turret alongside the main gun.
Beyond that, a single 12.7mm (.50 caliber) HCB anti-aircraft machine gun is fitted to the top of the turret
. A total of 39 projectiles of 120mm ammunition are carried in specialized containers that are kept separate from the crew for an added level survivability. Up to 12 smoke grenade dischargers are fitted to the rear side faces of the turret (six to a side).
Extensive attention has been placed on the Israeli Elbit-brand two-axis fire-control system - this coupled with the Arjun's complicated - yet state-of-the-art - hyrdopneumatic suspension system and gun stabilization components theoretically allow the Arjun to achieve a good "first-hit" capability on par with most any current generation MBT.
Power is derived from the German-based MTU 838 Ka 501-series turbocharged, water-cooled, diesel-fueled engine generating some 1,400 horsepower tied to the German-based Renk transmission system
. This powerplant is mated to an Indian-produced turbocharger allowing for speeds of 72 kilometers-per-hour with a range of 200 kilometers
. A more powerful 1,500 horsepower engine was also in the works at one time.
It was envisioned that the Arjun chassis
- as with most other armies maintaining a capable MBT design - would be used in a myriad of related yet specialized battlefield support vehicles. Among them was a developed prototype Armored Recovery Vehicle though an armored reconnaissance, a 155mm-armed self-propelled gun (known as the "Bhima"),
bridge layer and air defense vehicle were also planned. An interesting combination of the Arjun turret and a T-72 class chassis has also appeared in the prototype form of the 120mm-armed Tank-EX "Karna" mbt development.
As it stands, the Arjun has undergone trials for battlefield acceptance. However, the system has fallen well short of expectations with deficiencies in its fire control system as related to accuracy, consistent engine failures, poor speed and suspension troubles. The tank has also had issues when operating in the hot regional temperatures. These issues, along with cost overruns, have forced the Indian government to cast its disappointment with India's first indigenous tank design to that point that the Ministry of Defense has looked outwardly to fulfill India's tank needs.
It was last reported that "some" progress had been made in rectifying the Arjun's shortfalls.
With the Arjun program moving along at a such a slow pace, it has been decided by the government to purchase large quantities of Russian-made T-90 main battle tanks for the interim - at least 347 are to be imported - a move no doubt spurred along by Pakistan's increasingly numeric armored forces.
License production of the T-90 has also been granted to India to locally produce the Russian tank.
As it stands, some 32 pre-production Arjun vehicles have been built along with an initial prototype and 12 follow-up models. A planned 124 is currently still on order, though a vastly lower figure than the original 1,500 to 2,000 tanks envisioned at the projects beginning.
With this joint partnership between Russia and India, Russia has offered its design arm to help in a new next-generation Indian tank venture, announced in 2008.
The system is expect to be made ready by 2020 which could effectively spell the end of the Arjun.
With so much promise and optimism for India's first home-grown tank, the project has fallen into a sad state of affairs. When first unveiled, it was compared favorably to the western M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 series of tanks - those tanks themselves were designs with origins in the 1970s - but with the current pace of Arjun development, the system will be viewed as obsolete by most should she ever see operational service.
If production is truly capped at 124 examples, her reach will in no way compare favorably to other more successful tanks in her class.
The Arjun might very well join the likes of the failed American-German joint venture of the ambitious MBT-70.
II. The Arjun Mark-II, Future MBT of the IA.
Announced specs/upgrades by the DRDO
The FMBT's are intended to replace the T-72 MBTs in the Indian Army in a post-2020 situation.
"For engine development, we have formed a national team comprising members from the academia, the user, industry and the DRDO. We have also gone in for an international consultant."
"We are confident that we will be ready with the FMBT prototype in five to seven years."
"We are trying to involve all the stakeholders -- the user [the Army], quality control personnel and the production agency -- in this project and the industry will be our partner. We will go for a modular design so that we can always upgrade the tank when new technology comes in."
"The immediate task for the CVRDE [Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment] is to develop the Arjun-Mk II tank and demonstrate it to the user and go for the production of 124 numbers in the HVF (Heavy Vehicles Factory]."
"With this upgrade, the commander can carry out his hunting job at night with his thermal sight and engage targets more effectively."
"The penalty for using these bricks (explosive armor reactive panel) is that they will add 1.5 tonnes to the tank's weight. But we can prevent top attack and side attack. We can add to the tank's protection from missiles and rocket-propelled grenades."
-- S. Sundaresh, Chief Controller (Armaments and Combat Engineering), DRDO.
* FMBT's engine will be two-thirds the size of Arjun Mark I MBT's engine and will generate 1,500-horsepower. First prototype of the indigenous engine would be ready by 2016. FMBT will weigh 50 tonnes.
* Project to develop the transmission for the tank is being launched. Engine and transmission ( aka "Bharat Power Pack") will meet the FMBT's mobility requirements.
* Volume occupied by the electronics package will be low.
* A total of 93 upgrades, including the advanced air defence gun system for firing at attack helicopters. Missiles firing capability to destroy long-range targets and bring down attack helicopters.
* Panoramic sight with night vision for the tank's commander. An automatic target tracking system to add accuracy when firing on a moving target.
* Explosive reactive armor panel which will comprise explosives in metallic brick form. These bricks will be mounted all round the MBT. When the enemy ammunition hits these bricks, they will explode and retard the energy of the projectile. Tanks armor will not be penetrated.
* Improvements in material, fuel injection and filtration technologies will contribute to the reduction in the engine size without compromising on power.
* Indian Army has placed an intent for production of 124 Arjun-Mk II tanks.
* Phase I, 45 tanks will roll out with 56 upgrades, including the missile firing capability and the commander's panoramic sight with night vision.
* Phase II, the remaining 79 tanks, with all the 93 improvements, will come off the assembly line. By 2013-14, the first batch of around 30 tanks will go out, Dr. Sivakumar said.
* 124 Arjun-Mk II tanks would cost Rs.5,000 crores.
1. DRDO Arjun (Lion) - Main Battle Tank - History, Specs and Pictures - Military Tanks, Vehicles and Artillery
2. DRDO Reveals Specifications of Arjun Mark-II, Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) | India Defence