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epicyclic train

Arjun MBT

Arjun (Sanskrit: अर्जुन) is an Indian main battle tank being developed by DRDO (Defence Research and Development) for the Indian Army. It is named after Arjuna, one of the heroes of the Indian epic 'The Mahabharata'.

History

Initial plans

Following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Indian government decided to indigenously develop a main battle tank, for introduction by the early 1990s. The programme was approved in 1972, and a General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) was released by the Indian Army.

DRDO, with CVRDE as the main laboratory, was tasked with developing the hull, armor, turret, running gear and gun, with the powerpack being bought from abroad. Originally intended to be a 40-ton MBT armed with a 105 mm gun, the Arjun’s project requirements were upgraded to 58.5 tons with a 120 mm gun.

In the process of developing the Arjun, India established the infrastructure to develop and manufacture modern armour. The Heavy Vehicles Factory located in Avadi, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is the facility that has been producing prototypes and pre-production models. The HVF has produced T-72s and Vickers main battle tanks in the past, and the Arjun is seen as a significant challenge.

While the government sanctioned Rs. 15.5 Crore for the initial part of the programme in May 1974, by 1995, DRDO had spent Rs. 300 Crore, due to changing requirements and inflationary cost increases. This was the highest over-run, percentage wise, for any DRDO project.

Production

The Indian Army ordered 124 Arjuns in 2000. The first 5 Arjun Tanks were given to the Indian Army in August 2004. The first 15 tanks were activated. Of the remaining 109 tanks, the Indian Army put the first five tanks from the production lines at Avadi through accelerated build quality and reliability trials, to verify whether the Arjun production has stabilized, with the requisite quality and performance requirements. The remaining 104 tanks are to be manufactured in batches. The first 14 of these were handed over to the Indian Army for winter trials. The planned production rate is currently pegged at thirty tanks per year, with the Army requesting fifty per year as the ideal.

Trials and exercise

July 2005

During the summer trials in 2005, it was reported that the Arjun suffered problems with its main gun sight, suspension system, and fire control system. Moreover, engine failures occurred in temperatures averaging 55-60 degrees Celsius.

Summer 2006

There are conflicting accounts of Arjun's trial results in 2006. It was remarked by Major General H.M. Singh in 2007 that the Firing Trials of 2006 demonstrated "the accuracy and consistency of the Arjun has been proved beyond doubt. However, the 2006 army trial results showed that "the decade-old problem of overheating persists" and that "tank’s main subsystems, the fire control system (FCS) and integrated gunner’s main sight, which includes a thermal imager and laser range-finder, are rendered erratic and useless by the Arjun’s abnormally high peak internal temperature, which moves well beyond 55 degrees Celsius. This is in testimony to the Parliamentary committee."

Exercise 2007

The Arjun tank was fielded during the exercise Ashwamedha in the deserts of Rajasthan. The army was extremely unhappy with the tank, citing 14 defects that included "deficient fire control system". "inaccuracy of its tuns", "low speeds in tactical areas", and "inability to operate over 50 degrees Celsius".

September 2007 winter trials

Staring with the September 2007 winter trials, the Indian army deemed Arjun's performance unsatisfactory, including at least four engine failures.

DRDO, on the other hand, has insisted the tank was a viable choice for adoption and suggested the unsatisfactory performance of the engine during the winter trials was due to sabotage.

2008 summer trials

According to an official Indian government press release and various other news sources, during the most recent "accelerated user-cum-reliability trials" (a.k.a Summer Trials) in 2008, the Arjun "was found to have low accuracy, frequent break down of power packs and problems with its gun barrel", and "the tanks also had problems with consistency, recorded failure of hydropneumatic suspension units and shearing of top rolls" as well as a "deficient fire control system", "low speed in tactical areas", and "the inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius".

A different path

In September 2008, the Indian army signed a deal with Russia to import 347 T-90 tanks and license build a further 1000 units. Transfer of key T-90 technologies has also been agreed upon as a part of the deal

In 2008, the Indian army announced plans to acquire an entirely new futuristic main battle tank not related to the Arjun, to be inducted after 2020. The Indian army has held an "international seminar on future MBTs", during which the parameters and requirements of this future MBT were identified. As a result, Russia has offered to team with India on developing this future tank. These developments do not bode well for the future of the Arjun project.

According to Jane's, the Indian army has confirmed that Arjun's production will be capped at 124 units: Lt General Dalip Bharadwaj, the Director General for the Mechanized Infantry, said that "Army will place no more orders for Arjun beyond 124 that was already contracted", because the "Army is now looking 20 years ahead and wants a futuristic MBT."

Specifications

The Arjun's (Mk I) development has spanned more than three and a half decades of identifying requirements, design, evaluation, redesign process involving the DRDO and the Indian Army. Weighing in at 58.5 tons, it is significantly heavier than the Soviet-legacy tanks used presently by the Indian Army, and requires changes to the army's logistics establishment to incorporate Arjun MBT, including new rail cars to transport the bigger and heavier Arjuns. The production facility for the Arjun, set up at Heavy Vehicle Factory in Avadi has started to produce the tank after the technology was transferred by the DRDO. The required logistical changes are also being made.

Armament

Armed with a 120 mm rifled gun, the Arjun is capable of firing APFSDS (Kinetic Energy) rounds, HE, HEAT, High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) rounds at the rate of 6-8 rounds per minute and the Israeli semi-active laser guided LAHAT missile. In addition, it is armed with a 12.7 mm AA machine gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. The Arjun can carry 39 rounds in special blast-proof canisters. Loading is manual.

A special prefragmented round is also under development. This shell has a proximity fuse designed to be used against low-flying aircraft, such as attack helicopters. This round could now be supplanted by the Israeli LAHAT ATGM which is to be acquired for the Arjuns.

The Arjun's rifled main gun is rare since only it and the British Challenger 2 tanks use rifled guns among modern tanks.

Fire control and Navigation

Fire control and navigation technologies are provided by Elbit, an Israeli defence company. The Fire Control System is stabilised on two axes, and with an extremely high hit probability (design criteria call for a greater than 0.9 Pk) replaces an earlier analogue one, which had problems due to its inability to function under the harsh desert conditions. However, the new fire control system also frequently malfunctions when subjected to temperatures greater than 42 degrees Celsius. The combined day sight from Bharat Electronics Ltd. and the thermal imager (formerly from Sagem, now reported to be from El-Op) constitute the gunner's primary sight. The first batch of tanks of the 124 ordered by the Army will have an all-digital Sagem FCS, whereas the second block will have the BEL unit, which will be used for all units thereafter. The commander's own stabilised panoramic sight allows him to engage targets and/or hand them over to the gunner. The Arjun has an auxiliary power unit to operate weapon systems in silent watch mode as well.

The tank incorporates GPS based navigation systems and sophisticated frequency hopping radios. The state-of-the-art Battlefield Management System, co-developed by DRDO and Ebit Israel, allows it to network with other fighting units. The Arjun has the capability to network with other tanks, thanks to its Battle Management System. In a search and engage operation, several Arjun Tanks can monitor an opponent and his moves, and eliminate him in a chase or ambush.

Protection

Arjun has been designed with Western design practices in mind, especially reflected in its crew protection features. With a crew of four, it incorporates heavy composite armour and significant crew protection measures, including ammunition separated from the crew, and blow off panels on the turret bustle, and an integrated fire detection and suppression system. It also incorporates nuclear, biological and chemical protection. Further, Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) panels can be added, though the current Kanchan armour is deemed sufficient for the Arjuns tank-killing role.

The turret has been designed with the ergonomics of Indian Army troops in mind. The typical crew consists of a Gunner, Commander, Loader and Driver. It is protected by a Laser warning system and smoke launchers for counter measures. To further enhance combat survivability, the tank has an auto-fire detection and suppression system. Ammunition is also stored in watertight containers to reduce the risk of fire.

The turret and glacis are heavily armoured and use "Kanchan" ("gold") modular composite armour. The Kanchan Armor got its name from Kanchan Bagh, Hyderabad, where the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) is situated. The armour is made by sandwiching composite panels between Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) to defeat APFDS or HEAT rounds. During the trials in 2000 ,the Kanchan was able to withstand a hit from a T-72 at point blank range, and was able to defeat all available HESH and FSAPDS rounds which included the Israeli FSAPDS rounds. A new honeycomb design Non-explosive and non-energetic reactive armour (NERA) armour is reportedly being tested on the Arjun.

Mobility

The engine and transmission are provided by German companies MTU and Renk respectively. The water cooled engine generates 1,400 hp and is integrated with an Indian turbocharger and epicyclic train gearbox with four forward and 2 reverse gears. A local transmission is under trials and will ultimately replace the Renk supplied unit. The tracks which were being supplied by German company Diehl are now being manufactured by L & T, an Indian company. The cooling pack has been designed for desert operations. The Arjun has a lower ground pressure than the lighter T-72, due to its design.

The Arjun has a state of the art hydro-pneumatic suspension. This coupled with the Arjun's stabilisation and fire control system allows the tank superb first-hit probability against moving targets while on the move. Its ride comfort is highly praised. Though on the negative side, it is a more maintenance-intensive and expensive system, even if more capable than the simpler and cheaper torsion bar system utilized on many older tanks worldwide. During trials the Arjun showcased its fording capability, by driving under 6 feet of water for 20 minutes.

A new 1500 HP engine is being developed that will eventually replace the present engine. An allocation of 40 crore Rupees has been allocated for the project which is expected to be completed within five years.

Variants

  • A 155 mm self-propelled howitzer variant of the Arjun (labelled 'Bhim') has been prototyped by fitting the South African Denel T6 turret, which comes with the G5 howitzer to the Arjun chassis. This project has been delayed as DENEL has become embroiled in a corruption scandal in India, and hence the Indian Ministry of Defence has suspended the Bhim.
  • A bridge layer based on the Arjun chassis has also been displayed by the DRDO Developed in cooperation with Indian industry, this bridge layer is deemed superior to the T-72 based units, as it can handle a larger load and uses a "scissors type" bridgelaying method, which does not raise the bridge high up into the air, and hence make it visible from afar.
  • Armoured engineering vehicles based on the Arjun are also assumed to be in development, as the Arjun induction will require units of a similar power to weight ratio or powerful enough to tow it, or recover it on the battlefield.
  • Tank EX: A new tank obtained by coupling a T-72 chassis and an Arjun turret. Only prototypes have been built so far.

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References

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