Jul 25, 2013 Rajat Pandit, TNN
NEW DELHI: The advanced version of the homegrown main-battle tank, Arjun, is all set to complete its protracted trials this year, which will include firing the Israeli-origin laser guided LAHAT missiles from its main gun.
This Mark-II version of the Arjun has "89 upgrades or improvements'' over the earlier 124 Mark-I tanks inducted by the Army. "The trials began in June 2012 at the Mahajan field firing ranges in Rajasthan. Phase-II of the trials, which basically revolve around the armaments, kicked off in May-June this year,'' said an official on Thursday.
Another round of the LAHAT missile firing will take place in the first week of August. "The remaining trials will begin in the third week of August at Pokhran. If the trials are fully successful, the production order for 118 Arjun Mark-II tanks will be placed,'' he said.
While the Army has inducted 124 Mark-I Arjuns, the force and other agencies had suggested the 89 improvements for the Mark-II version. These included the capability to fire missiles from the main gun, advanced laser warning and control systems, and explosive reactive armour plates for better self-protection of the tanks.
With the long delay in the indigenous Arjun project, which was sanctioned as far back as in 1974, the Army has progressively inducted around 800 of the planned 1,657 T-90S Russian-origin tanks till now.
The T-90S tanks, which are replacing the older T-55 and T-72 tanks, are going to be the main battle-tanks of the Army for the foreseeable future. DRDO, however, wants Army to order a minimum of 500 Arjuns to stabilise production lines and pave the way for the development of a "futuristic'' MBT. "The Arjun Mark-II, a crucial indigenous effort, will have better firepower, mobility and survivability over the earlier version,'' said another official.