The state-run Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) have begun trials for the upgraded version of the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) Mark-II in the deserts of Rajasthan. This is the debut testing of the Arjun MBT Mark-II in which the end-user vis-à-vis the Indian Army will witness the exercise which will continue for over a month.
As per the Indian Defence Ministry, the development programme of the Arjun Mark-II tank is right on track and on schedule. Each of the dozen upgraded systems is being tested one after the other during these trials. The turret related tests of the upgraded tanks have been initiated and the tests of chassis automotive system will start from June 25 and extend for a month.
The Arjun MBT Mark-II will become the mainstay of the Indian Army’s armoured fighting units from 2014. The testing and trials of the Arjun Mark-II tanks comes after a year of the government giving the DRDO the go-ahead for the development project. After the current testing, the MBT will go for a first user trial in October 2011 and production is expected to start from July 2012 after the second user trial. If all goes as per schedule, the first batch of Arjun Mark II will roll out by the end of 2014. The Arjun Mark-II is slated to have over 90 percent indigenous systems on board, except for some hydraulic and electronic systems.
As for the upgrades, the Arjun Mark-II will have a host of changes. It is being armed with missile firing capability through a laser homing device. The device would have a range of about eight kilometers within which it will be able to destroy enemy tanks after homing on to the target using a laser. The Arjun Mark-II will also feature an indigenous engine that would replace the German engines of the 58-tonne Arjun Mark-I. The upgraded Mark-II version will be powered by an indigenous engine that will give it a top speed of 60 kilometer/per hour in normal terrain and 40 kilometer/per hour in harsh terrain.
The Arjun Mark-II will include better explosive-reactive armour (ERA) for the tank for protection from enemy missiles and rockets, improved sighting facility, night vision capability, Automatic Target Tracking (ATT) system, advanced air defence gun system, enhanced Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and an improved communication system. Mark-II tanks will have the ability to fire anti-tank guided missiles through the tank’s main gun. According to sources, Arjun Mark-II may have Elbit Systems of Israel’s Laser Warning System (E-LAWS) and Threat Detection System (TDS) and the Iron Fist APS (Active Protection System) developed by Israel Military Industries (IMI).
The Indian Army is currently operating 124 Arjun MBT Mark-I tanks and has placed an order last year for an additional 124 Mark-I tanks to keep the Heavy Vehicle Factory production line running before the Mark-II version was ready for manufacturing. The Indian Army has placed an order for 124 Arjun Mark-II MBTs which is valued at $ 1.1 billion.