The equipping philosophy of the army is governed by the 30:40:30 concept, wherein 30 per cent comprise of the obsolescent technology equipment, 40 per cent is the mainstay matured technology equipment and the balance 30 per cent of the state-of-the-art equipment. This ensures the gradual modernisation of the equipment and a smooth induction of new technology equipment to ensure that the army maintains its operational edge over our likely adversaries.
Design and manufacture of tanks is a complex process which has a long gestation period and requires a strong R and D and industrial base. Unfortunately, in both these aspects India lagged behind the few tank manufacturing countries in the world. It was only in 1974 that the project of design and development of an indigenous tank was taken up in the earnest. After a protracted delay of nearly 35 years the first regiment equipped with Arjun tanks was introduced into service in 2009 after the users were fully satisfied with its capabilities.
Today, the current holding of tanks exceeds 3,000 comprising of a few regiments of T‑55 tanks, the mainstay being the T‑72 M1 and a number of regiments of the state-ofthe- art T‑90S tanks and the indigenous Arjun tank.
The modernisation schemes for the tank T‑72 M1 include the installation of thermal image integrated fire control system (TIFCS), uprated engine with a minimum 1,000 HP and a commanders thermal imaging sight. For all tanks the endeavour is to provide an APFSDS ammunition having a higher penetration and the APAM round. To ensure that ground and aerial targets are engaged without exposing the crew the anti-aircraft Remote Weapon Station with a 12.7 mm MG would be fitted.
In the future battlefield survivability would be the key to success. Hence all tanks would be fitted with the ADS to ensure their survivability against CE ammunition attack including missiles. Better passive protection would be provided with the fitment of ERA panels, mobile camouflage systems and the advanced laser warning system connected to the aerosol anti-thermal anti-laser smoke grenade discharger system.
Future equipment profile
The T‑72 M1 (Modernised), T‑90S (upgraded) and the Arjun MK-II will be the mainstay for the mechanised forces for the next three decades. Modernisation / upgradation is an on going process for the tanks to maintain their superiority in the battlefield. Ideally upgradation schemes are implemented when tanks are due for periodic overhaul. However keeping in view the large numbers of T‑72 M1 tanks and the limited capability to overhaul, this process may not be possible. Hence the two would have to be done concurrently. To speed up the process the alternate method is to involve the private sector to take on one of the two tasks.
The upgradation of the Arjun tank is well underway and by 2012 the prototype of Arjun MK-II would be fielded for trials. The most important aspect is the ability to fire the missile from the barrel of the gun. Though this was proven earlier the same needs to be fully integrated with the FCS. So also is the upgradation of the APFSDS ammunition and the development of the APAM and the anti helicopter ammunition. Arjun’s Kanchan armour is among the world’s best, but there is a scope of improvement by fitting explosive, non- energetic reactive armour to further enhance its protection. Apart from the ADS, the mobile camouflage system and the advance laser warning system will further enhance its survivability. Strategic and operational mobility have been provided by the introduction of the new railway rakes and a 60 tonne tank transporter. Most of the sub-assemblies are now being manufactured in India thereby reducing its import content. To further exploit the success of Arjun its variants such as ARV, BLT, trawls etc. must be introduced at the earliest. The experience gained on this project would be gainfully employed in the design and development of the future MBT (FMBT).
The case for introducing into service a light tank has been amply justified. Limited number of light tanks would be required along our northern borders as also for OOAC. The greatest spin-off would be if a common wheeled chassis could be developed for the light tank, wheeled APC, SP Gun, AERV and a host of command and control vehicles. This would provide the holding and strike Corps in the mountains the desired flexibility to execute their task.
The most critical function in the future battlefield is the acquisition of real time intelligence. Whereas a lot of information would be available by electronic means from higher HQ’s, the Commandant of an armoured regiment relies heavily on his own eyes and ears. For this it is imperative that the recce troop of an armoured regiment is appropriately equipped with a specialist vehicle which has the ability to survive in a hostile environment and provide electro-optical surveillance. A number of such suitable vehicles are available in the world market and can be manufactured in India to suit our specific requirement.
F M B T
Any country takes 10–12 years of design and development for an FMBT to reach the production stage. Work has already commenced to ensure that it fructifies by 2020 so as to be able to replace the T‑72 M1 tank. With the experience gained with the Arjun tank project this is an achievable target if a dedicated team of scientists and users are exclusively earmarked for the project.
The relevance of the tank in the future battlefield has been questioned in various forums over the past four decades especially since the advent of the hand-held anti-tank missiles. A similar debate was initiated on the future of ships when missiles were first introduced in the 1950’s. Both weapon systems have survived and remain relevant, as for every new weapon system developed a counter system is already on the drawing board. Hence the future of the tank especially in the sub-continent is undisputed. What however needs to be ensured is that the most effective weapon system is fielded in the appropriate terrain and operating conditions. In war there is no prize for runners-up, hence to ensure fool-proof national security over the full spectrum of operations capabilities must be developed to field the best and the most appropriate equipment for the mechanised forces.
About the Author:
Lt Gen Dilip Bhardwaj PVSM, AVSM (retd)
The writer, a highly respected former Director General of the Mechanised Forces, crystal gazes into the future of the Tank in the Indian context. He extrapolates from the experience of recent conflicts to define the type of tanks we will need in the years ahead. He states emphatically that the “one size fits all” concept is not possible and therefore we would in the future need different types of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Mechanised forces would need to adapt to fighting in built-up areas. Therefore the present and the future generation AFV’s would have to be equipped with urban fighting and survival kits. Along our northern borders there is an inescapable need of deploying a limited number of wheeled light tanks. Wheeled tanks can also be employed in Out of Area contingency operations and riverine terrain. He surveys global trends to highlight that only four countries in the recent past have produced tanks. (This includes India’s Arjun). The Abrams / Arjun class of tanks have proved their effectiveness both in Iraq and Afghanistan. An invaluable and timely analysis.
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