Arjun, Main Battle Tanked
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The Arjun tank has no future. It still cannot fire straight. The T-90, a far superior tank, can kill the Arjun. We would not cross any border with these tanks.
Strong words, from Brigadier D K Babbar, the Army's pointsman for the Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun project at the Mechanised Forces directorate until he retired last year from the 94th Armoured Brigade. Babbar, who spoke to The Indian Express, has reason to be disillusioned. So has Army chief General J J Singh who was more diplomatic last month: "We will see where we can use it to get optimum use."
It's not going to be easy.
Over 30 years after Project Arjun was sanctioned by Indira Gandhi's Cabinet to make a home-grown battle tank that would address the armoured deficit identified during the 1971 war, the Army is now faced with a troubling prospect: inducting a lumbering, misfiring, vintage design tank like the Arjun, and that, too, in large numbers.
This, after DRDO over-shot Arjun's project deadline by 16 years — from 1984 to 1995, finally closing the project only in 2000 — and the cost over-run is almost 20 times the original estimate. This is the highest percentage over-run for any DRDO project.
With five pre-production tanks forced upon the Army's 43rd Armoured Regiment in 2004 and 23 tanks to be handed over shortly, MBT Arjun is about to be pushed into full-rate production outside Chennai, with the Army bound by its commitment to buy 124 for two regiments, all of which are to be delivered by 2008.
Still having 58 per cent of its content imported - including its engine, the integrated gunner's main sight and tracks— the Arjun tank was put through confirmatory trials in the Mahajan ranges in July but the Army wasn't holding its breath.
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