Friday, November 5, 2010

India's FMBT to replace T-72 tanks beyond 2020

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on India's future main battle tank (FMBT) with a 1,500-horsepower (HP) indigenous engine. This tank will replace beyond 2020 the imported T-72 tanks, renamed Ajeya, with the Army. Various specifications for the FMBT have been finalised.

“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,” said S. Sundaresh, Chief Controller (Armaments and Combat Engineering), DRDO. The first prototype of the indigenous engine would be ready in four to five years.

The DRDO is launching a project to develop the transmission for the tank; the indigenous engine and transmission will together be called Bharat Power Pack and it will meet the FMBT's mobility requirements.

“We are confident that we will be ready with the FMBT prototype in five to seven years,” Mr. Sundaresh said. “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 FMBT will weigh only 50 tonnes compared to Arjun-Mark II's 62 tonnes. The DRDO is simultaneously working on Arjun-Mark II. The volume occupied by the electronics package in the FMBT will be less. The FMBT's engine will be two-thirds the size of Arjun-Mark I's, but will generate 1,500 HP compared to Arjun-Mark I's 1,400 HP.

Improvements in material, fuel injection and filtration technologies will contribute to the reduction in the engine size without compromising on power.

“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],” Mr. Sundaresh said. The CVRDE and the HVF are situated in Avadi, near Chennai.

The Arjun-Mk II tank will have a number of upgrades compared with Arjun-Mk I. Missiles can be fired from the former to destroy long-range targets and bring down attack helicopters. The tank's commander will have a panoramic sight with night vision. “With this upgrade, the commander can carry out his hunting job at night with his thermal sight and engage targets more effectively,” Mr. Sundaresh explained.

Another upgrade will see the introduction of an explosive reactive armour panel which will comprise explosives in metallic brick form. These bricks will be mounted not only on the front slope of Arjun-Mk-II tank, but all round it as well. When the enemy ammunition hits these bricks, they will explode and retard the energy of the projectile, which then cannot penetrate the tank's armour.

“The penalty for using these bricks 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,” the DRDO Chief Controller said.

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