After delays, the process for procurement of 118 indigenous Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun Mk-1A has commenced, according to an Army source. The cost as obtained from the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi, is ₹8,956.59 crore.
“The file is currently with the Deputy Chief of Army Staff and will be shortly sent to Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to put up the case. The case is planned to be fielded before the Defence Procurement Board (DPB) and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in January 2021,” the source said. Issues with Arjun Mk1 ammunition, spares and repairs had also been resolved and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had set up an Arjun hub in Jaisalmer for spares and support, the source stated.
Stating that the Arjun Mk-1A would be without missile firing capability and would be incorporated as and when the development was complete, the source said that at the Arjun hub in Jaisalmer, 248 rotables had been deposited.
The Arjun Mk-1A has 14 major upgrades over the Mk1 variant, which were formulated and approved in October 2018. Subsequently, limited user validation trials were carried out on all the upgrades. Seven meetings were held involving various stakeholders to resolve all issues with respect to Arjun Mk-1A between October 2019 and July 2020. Following this, the Statement of Case with comments from all stakeholders was forwarded to the Deputy Chief of Army Staff — Capability Development and Sustenance, it has been learnt.
The Army has inducted two regiments of Arjun Mk1 between 2005 and 2010. Electronics would get obsolescent over 10-15 years and they needed to be constantly replaced, a defence official said. To address this, DRDO is working on obsolescence management of Arjun MBT and indigenisation of various assemblies and sub-assemblies, including Commander’s Panoramic Sight (CPS) and Gunner’s Main Sight (GMS) that are under indigenous development.
The indigenous CPS underwent successful trials earlier this month at the Pokhran field firing range and it was also demonstrated to the Deputy Chief of Army. There would be some summer trials, the official said. The indigenous GMS was expected to be integrated by March 2021 and then go for summer trials, the official said.
Once the indigenous CPS and advanced GMS were incorporated, the indigenous content of MBT Arjun Mk-1A would increase from 41% to 54.3% during production, two officials independently stated.
On the process and timeline of the project, the official explained that once DAC approved the case, the Army would place indent with the HVF, Avadi. “That is also expected to happen before March 31, 2021. HVF will then build the first five tanks in 30 months which are called ‘First of Production Model’,” the official stated.
These five tanks will be put through General Service Quality Requirement (GSQR) evaluation by the Army and will accord Bulk Production Clearance (BPC) if found satisfactory. Once BPC was given, production would be done as per an agreed schedule, the official said.
Observing that if subsequently more numbers were ordered beyond 118, it would immensely benefit the domestic industry and the ‘Make in India’ effort, the official added that the indigenisation content could also progressively go to 70% with more numbers.
Missile firing trials
The advanced GMS of the Arjun Mk-1A had built-in laser target designator and the tank was customised for missile firing, a second official said. The missile is under development at the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, and trials are under way. Missile firing is under way at the ARDE. “A few more trials are required,” the official stated.
To incorporate this capability on the existing Arjun Mk1 tanks, the DRDO had developed an external laser target designator, which could be retrofitted on the Mk1s in service, the official added.