The state-run Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has started a fresh round of trials for the Arjun Mark II battle tanks with upgrades in the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan. According to DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta, the trials will continue for about two months and the focus will be on 19 parameters that will highlight the improvements in the tank. The Arjun MBT Mark-II is to become the mainstay of the Indian Army’s armoured fighting units from 2014.
According to DRDO, the follow-on order by the Indian Army of the Arjun Mark II tanks stipulates certain changes that are to be made in the battle tank. While the Indian Army has already accepted 124 tanks, the follow-on order hinges upon 93 improvements to the Arjun Mark II tank including 19 major modifications.
Regarding the major modifications and upgrades on the Arjun tank, these will include missile-firing capability against long-range targets, panoramic sight with night vision to engage targets more effectively, containerization of the ammunition, enhanced main weapon penetration, additional ammunition types, explosive reactive armour and an advanced air-defence gun to engage helicopters.
The Arjun Mark II tank will also witness a hike in the auxiliary power unit providing 8.5 KW instead of the earlier 4.5 KW. The tank will also feature an improved gun barrel; changes in the commander's panoramic sight with eye safe LRF, night vision capability for the driver and digital control harness. The Arjun tank is operated by a four-member crew comprising a commander-cum-navigator, gunner, loader and driver.
In an earlier statement, DRDO chief VK Saraswat had indicated that the new variant (Arjun Mk-II) is likely to achieve 90% indigenous component. The Arjun tank hull and turret has been modified to achieve the target weight of about 55 tons from 59-64 tons. Israeli firm Elbit is helping to enhance its firepower and battlefield survivability and IMI is helping to augment Arjun Mk II’s mobility, redesign its turret and hull and improve its production-line processes.
The Indian Army is now operating the 124 Arjun Mark I as part of two regiments in the western sector and has placed an order for an additional 124 tanks, primarily to keep the HVF production line running before the Mark-II version was ready for manufacturing. The Army has been skeptical about the capabilities of the Arjun tanks, but after the first two regiments were pitted against the Russian-built T-90 MBTs in comparative trials in the desert terrain, the Army has been convinced of its potential.