In the mid-1970s, India started development on an entirely new, advanced main battle tank that would meet the needs of the country’s Armored Corps. An impressive mixture of firepower, armour protection and freedom, the tank was to be India’s first indigenously produced tank —and among the very best on the planet. The service date for the tank was set for 1985.
Instead, a tortuously long development period was endured by the Arjun. The final result, introduced into the army twenty-six years later than initially intended, is a mess of a tank which not even the Indian Army wants.
The Indian Army’s Armored Corps continues to be around for seventy-four years, tracing its roots to the 2Nd World War and has fought in each one of India’s wars with a neighbour and rival Pakistan.
Your choice to create an indigenous Indian tank was manufactured in 1972, soon after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. It was to be a forty-ton vehicle, equipped with a 105-millimeter gun. It would be small enough to be strategically mobile, capable of being shuttled on internal lines (roads and railroads) to vital sectors across the long border with Pakistan.
DRDO decided to make the tank, called a mostly Indian layout, Arjun. The Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, part of DRDO, was to design the gun, armour, turret, hull and running gear. Engine and the key gun will be imported. Unfortunately, India’s defense-industrial base was nowhere near capable of creating this type of vehicle. Like that were of an obstacle, India’s world-renowned bureaucracy and red tape machine were another enemy to progress.
Now, the Arjun Mk 1 is a sixty two-ton tank, complete with a 120-millimeter firearm, complex composite armour, a 1,400-hp turbocharged engine, and advanced fire control and thermal sights. The real product leaves a lot to be desired, even though the tank’s specifications are impressive.
By 2009, thirty-five years after it was originally imagined, Arjun was “ready ” for production. Despite shortcomings revealed in testing, the Indian Army was forced to purchase 124 Arjuns— enough to equip only two armoured regiments—to keep state tank production facilities open.
Arjun’s armoured protection evolved over thirty-five years. The tank is fitted with Kanchan armor, a constructed composite blend that is certainly supposedly similar to British Chobham armor. Kanchan is rumoured to be really capable of shrugging off point blank shots in the 125-millimeter gun of Indian T-72 tanks. Arjun is so well protected that its weight ballooned from the initial forty-ton specification to sixty-two tonnes.
This increase in protection came at a cost—decreased operational and tactical mobility. As initially specified, a forty-ton tank using a 1,400-hp engine would have an impressive 35-to-1 hp-to-weight ratio. Unfortunately, Arjun’s weight ballooned from forty to sixty-two tonnes, without any corresponding upsurge in engine power. Arjun’s horsepower-to-weight ratio sank to your average 22.5 to 1. The vehicle’s weight also means it cannot be used in the northern deserts of India and Punjab in India’s “Cold Start” strategy that is offensive against Pakistan.
The Arjun’s development interval was so long that major design choices became totally out-of-date.
In the long run, the Arjun ended up with a 120-millimeter rifled barrel gun, capable of firing High Explosive, Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot rounds, High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds and, possibly not extraordinarily for a former British colony, High Explosive, Squash Head rounds. DRDO maintains it will develop an indigenous equivalent.
How did end up being such a disappointment? GPS navigation, laser warning receivers, not explosive-reactive armour along with other innovations were only research papers in 1974, but by the early 2000s were must-have creations that added to weight the tank’s complexity and price.
The inability of DRDO to place its foot down and declare that it could not construct the tank on time as well as on schedule doomed the tank. India’s state of the military art was such that a lengthy development time would be out of necessity faced by a tank that is new. The more the tank job dragged on, the more the tank needed seriously to be redesigned to integrate new technologies. The tank was trapped for decades in a development death spiral, and the end product is correspondingly mediocre.
DRDO is not idle at work designing Arjun Mk II, that will purportedly comprise many improvements within the original Mk I. The Indian Army for the component is determined it needs no part of the Mk II until prototypes would much rather purchase an overseas tank, and perform satisfactorily. The army, for now, prefers the Russian T-90 tank and can express interest in the brand new T-14 Armata tank. Russian state media has reported that India is interested in the Armata as the foundation of a new, localised tank. Whether that’s true remains to be seen.