India spent nearly 50 years trying to localise tanks, but up to this point, New Delhi hasn’t been able to realise its goal.
The Arjun MK1A is an improved version of the MBT Arjun that has 72 major and minor changes to increase combat efficiency. The Arjun MK1A was officially approved into service by the Indian Armored Force after a successful final test earlier this year, west of the Rajasthan test range. Arjun is a third-generation MBT that India has been developing since 1972, when this project was considered to be the most advanced in the world due to the recent appearance of the third-generation Soviet MBT, the T-64, and the ongoing development of well-known MBTs like the T-72, Leopard 2, and M1 Abram. Arjun was, so to speak, a cutting-edge endeavour at the time.
India invested Rs 500 million to construct two Arjun tank prototypes by the beginning of the 1980s, and the process up to this point had not been particularly slow. The Arjun programme, however, was stuck in the never-ending muck of India’s weapons development programmes after the prototype was built, and as time went on, the tactical requirements for Arjun grew more and more out of date.
The tank wasn’t given the go-ahead by the Indian government for scale production at the Arwadi Tank Arsenal defence project until 1996. Arjun initially intended to arm himself with a British 105 mm L7 spiral gun before switching to a NATO-compliant 120 mm smoothbore cannon. The MTU 838Ka-501 diesel engine, which was made in Germany, is still used in the Arjun tank, despite India’s claims that 90% of its components were produced there. The powertrain is provided by the Renk Mansell company.
Given India’s current capacity, it is unclear when India will be able to replace the German engine with a 1,500 horsepower domestic engine.
When compared to the MBT T-72 and T-90 in the Indian Army’s service, the 124 Arjun MK1s purchased by the Indian Army are only a very small portion of the total. The purchase of the Arjun MK1 may be considered a “charity” gesture for the Indian defence industry. According to Indian media, 75% of the 124 Arjuns were not prepared for battle because to a lack of spare parts and poor maintenance. The updated Arjun major combat tank is reportedly priced at $6.4 million, which is significantly more expensive than the average export price of a Russian-built T-90 main battle tank, which is 2.5 million USD.
In addition, the military predicts that, in the absence of mass production, the Arjun’s price might increase to more than $8 million, easily surpassing that of the Japanese MBT Type 90 and making it the most costly main battle tank in history. It is challenging to determine whether or not these enhancements are having a positive impact. As you can see, Indian designers insist on “just adding and not subtracting,” so the Arjun’s overall weight is constantly rising when compared to the original prototype tanks.
The Arjun, which had previously been ranked #1 in the world in terms of weight, gained weight when all 72 modifications were placed on it, requiring the designers to further enhance the tank’s capacity. India’s roads and bridges can hardly support the weight of this MBT due to the load of the suspension on the wheel axles. The updated MK1A Arjun tank, according to Indian media, will be able to compete with the top MBTs in the world, such as the US M1A2, Russia’s T-90A, or China’s Type 99A. Some military observers believe it’s probable that the Indian Army will have to agree to outfit a few Arjun MK1As due to pressure from Indian politicians;
Because India previously agreed to pay Russia $1.2 billion in technology transfer fees so that it can continue to produce 464 T-90S tanks, bringing the number of T-90S in the Indian Army to nearly 1,000 units, and Arjun is still the unfulfilled dream of more than 40 years of Indian defence industry, it is possible that the Indian Army will not use the Arjun MK1A as the backbone of its armoured force.