Army's futuristic tank programme is likely to be delayed, with the military still procrastinating over its requirements, more than six months after it was scheduled to hand it over to the country's defence research establishment. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is yet to receive a critical document listing the Army's technological and combat wish list for its Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT).
The DRDO was keen on finalising the design for the ambitious project by 2013. No indications have been provided by the Army as to when it will hand over the Preliminary Specifications Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), which is seen as a sanction to kick-start development activities on the FMBT. "The draft PSQR finalised by a former DGM is now being refined by the newly-appointed DGM. Nothing has been finalised yet, and we have not even started any discussions on it," said P Sivakumar , director of Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment.
The document, which is expected to provide a clear technological roadmap of the country's much-vaunted next generation battle tank by broadly listing its main features, is the precursor to the General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) document, which in turn, details its exact features. Due to the delay, drafting the GSQR document would go beyond the year 2012-13.
In September 2010, the CVRDE director had told ET that the Director-General of the Army's Mechanised Forces has communicated that the PSQR would be sent to the DRDO by December last year, once the army gets the necessary feedback from its various divisions relating to the FMBT. In order to ensure that it hits the ground running as and when it receives the green-light from the Army, the DRDO has decided to start work on the tank project based on the previous draft PSQR. "We are working on the design, based on the draft PSQR. But unless we get a clear confirmation, we will not be able to start action on the development side," Sivakumar said.
The design and development of the FMBT has been conceived under a rather tight timeline set by the Army. The DRDO has been told that it will have to finalise its design activities by 2013.
The country's military, which has projected a need for about 1,200 FMBTs, has indicated in no uncertain terms that it expects the tank to go into production by 2020. Initial development costs for the project, which is seen as crucial for the country's future battle readiness, has been estimated at Rs 1,500-crore.
The Indian Army's desperate need for stateof-the-art tanks has been well documented, with a significant portion of its 4,000-strong fleet populated by largely obsolete, nightblind Russian-made T-72 tanks, which have been in service for more than 30 years.
Its battles with the DRDO, marked by the Army's reluctance to induct the Arjun Main Battle Tank, have only recently subsided after the country's first indigenously-built tank comprehensively outperformed its current showpiece, the T-90, in war-games conducted last year. Sivakumar rubbished claims that the FMBT programme was to be shelved, and hence the delays by the Army. "It will definitely not be shelved, because there is a critical requirement," he said.