Within a year of the government approving a project for an upgraded indigenous main battle tank (MBT), India’s defence research agency has readied a Mark II version that will undergo summer and winter trials this year.The defence ministry had last May given its nod to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop the Arjun MkII MBT which would have enhanced features over the first lot of 124 tanks that have been delivered to the army over the last two years.
‘The Arjun MkII tanks will go for summer trials this year and later for winter trials at the end of 2011,’ a defence ministry official said here Monday.
The army is already operating two regiments of Arjun tanks in the western sector and has placed an order for an additional 124 – two regiments – of the 58-tonne tanks from the Avadi-based manufacturer, Heavy Vehicles Factory.
The army gained confidence in operating the Arjun tanks, despite the initial hesitation, after the first two regiments were pitted against the Russian-built T-90 MBTs early last year in comparative trials in the desert terrain.
The Arjuns, army officers said, had outsmarted the T-90s in all the parameters set for the trials and had prompted the army top brass to admit that the tank was one of the best they had operated.
The Arjun MkII will have about a dozen changes from the first lot, being armed with missile firing capability through a laser homing device.
Though the missile system had been tested on the MkI version of the tank about five years ago, it did not form part of the final design of the initial 124 delivered to the army, and nor will it be mounted on the second lot of 124, ministry officials said.
The system, they said, would have a range of about eight kms, within which it could destroy enemy tanks after homing on to the target using a laser.
Other modifications include better explosive-reactive armour for the tank to protect it from enemy missiles and rockets, improving the sighting facility to provide it a wider view of the battlefield, including night vision capability, and a better communication system.