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  • Writer's pictureOlive Greens Institute

Significance of Induction of Arjun Mark-1A Tanks into the Army

In February 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the prototype Arjun Mk-1A to Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane at a ceremony in Chennai. The Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that it has placed an order worth Rs 7,523 crore to Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Chennai for supply of 118 units of the Main Battle Tank Arjun’s Mark-1A variant for the Army.

Arjun Mark-1A

The development of Arjun was started by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the late 1980s, primarily to augment the predominantly Russian-made armoured fleet. Trials of the earliest Arjun variant began in the early 1990s and the tank was inducted in 2004. Work on the variant Mark-1A, or Mk-1A, began in June 2010 and the tank was fielded for trials in June 2012. For the next three years, extensive trial evaluations were conducted by both the DRDO and the Army, followed by more trials, including field trials.

The Mark-1A variant adds 72 new features — 14 major and 58 minor — to the previous variant Mark-1. These additions have resulted in better all-terrain mobility and maneuverability in different modes of operation, better target acquisition, and precision firing during both day and night with a 360° view, and a multi-layered robust protective armor named ‘Kanchan’. The additions, along with its robust 120 mm rifled gun, have contributed to its categorization as the ‘hunter killer’. Trials of firing guided missiles from Arjun tank are in progress.

Arjun Mk-1A has more indigenous content than Mk-1, thus reducing dependence on foreign vendors. The new variant is also said to have added some comfort features for the four-member crew, who operate in tough conditions when deployed, and has a better transmission system. Some of the features also prepare the tank better for network-centric warfare — or effective use of information technology and computer networking in the battlefield.

An important stride towards Atam Nirbhar Bharat

The acquisition of 118 tanks would equip three armoured regiments, each regiment comprising 40 to 50 tanks. This acquisition holds significance in light of the Pakistan Army’s latest acquisition of two tanks, VT-4 and Al-Khalid. Both tanks, which are of Chinese origin, are comparable to the Russian origin T-90 tanks that are in use by the Indian Army.

Arjun Mark-1A is ideally suited for desert terrain, and even more effective and lethal compared to earlier variant due to the new additions. In exercises where Arjun squadrons were pitched against those of the T-90, Arjun is said to have matched the Russian opponent in some aspects and outperformed in some others.

However, the weight of the tank puts a limitation on its deployability in high-altitude terrains. While the 72 new additions have significantly increased efficacy, they have also added somewhere between 5 and 6 tones to a system that was already on the heavier side.

By virtue of these capabilities, this indigenous MBT proves to be at par with any contemporary in its class across the globe. This tank is particularly configured and designed for Indian conditions and hence it is suitable for deployment to protect the frontiers in an effective manner.

Big stride for indigenous capability

The new variant is said to have increased the proportion of the indigenous components. This will provide a further boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector and is a big step towards ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. This production order to the Heavy Vehicles Factory opens up a large avenue in defence manufacturing for over 200 Indian vendors including MSMEs, with employment opportunities to around 8,000 people.

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