$1B for new Arjun Indian tanks. Is the T-90 already a history?

NEW DELHI, ($1=74.05 Indian Rupees) – On Thursday, September 23, the Indian Ministry of Defense awarded a contract to the local state-owned Heavy Vehicle Factory [HVF] for the supply of 118 main Arjun Mk-1A battle tanks to the Indian Army. The country’s Defense Ministry has signed a contract to supply more than 100 Arjun Mk-1A tanks worth more than $ 1 billion.

India fired an unusual guided missile from a tank and bothered China
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The implementation of this agreement is carried out under the Make in India program, which has been implemented for more than a year to acquire the necessary competencies and develop technologies for the production and localization of various weapons for the Indian Army.

It is noted that the Arjun Mk-1A is an updated version of an earlier version of the Arjun tank, developed by Indian gunsmiths.

“Thanks to 72 new modifications, this tank will be able to provide good mobility in any area,” said the Indian Ministry of Defense, probably alluding to solving the problems that were in the previous version.

The first five samples will be delivered to the army within 30 months, after which it is planned to deliver 30 new vehicles a year.

It will be recalled that currently, the main battle tank of the Indian Army is the Russian T-90, which was located in India in the early 2000s. But for about 10 years, local gunsmiths have been trying to replace it with a machine of their design.

India wants tanks – is this the chance for the T-14 Armata?

India is launching a process to acquire a new main battle tank for its army. The new tank or Future Ready Combat Vehicle [FRCV] should replace the obsolete and depreciated Indian T-72M Ajeya tanks.

The Ministry of Defense of India has published the requirements under which New Delhi will evaluate the future proposals of the participants. The new tank will need to operate in a variety of metrological conditions and geographical terrain, including desert fields or high altitudes. According to preliminary planning, India will want to acquire at least 1,700 new tanks and serve the Indian army by 2050.

India is making heavy demands on the future armored vehicle. New Delhi wants a tank with modern technological capabilities, including autonomous mode and even artificial intelligence. India says this tool will pave the way later for a family of support platforms based on a modular approach and a primary standardization platform.

This situation, of course, raises some questions. For example, it is not clear from the published document whether the tank will have to be entirely foreign or jointly with India under the “Made in India” program? We know that India has a sizeable military-industrial complex. However, this is not the case with our military developments. Over the years, New Delhi has shown a lot of hesitation about its plans in the defense industry – it wants to acquire, but at the last moment, it thinks and stops a critical project.

We recall that on the table of the Minister of Defense, there are still projects relevant to Indian defense. Still, the unclear position “what exactly does India want” prevents decisions from being made. Such is the case with naval fighters, which have to equip the new Indian aircraft carrier. The MiG-29K no longer has the same advantage after Boeing’s F-15 overcame its hard takeoff from a short runway.

What does India want?

Some requirements make an impression. India wants a tank between 40 and 50 tons with a high working range and high power according to the tank’s mass. This characteristic suggests that New Delhi will try to find a more portable tank than the existing T-72M Ajeya.

Requirements for the firepower of the tank are not missing. In addition to the standard ammunition used by the tank’s cannon, the tank should also have a weapon system to fire ATGMs. Day and night optical device, automated fire control system, threat sensors, as well as a multifunctional tracking system “hunter-killer.”

Besides passive, active, reactive, and ballistic protection, the tank should have stealth control technology. The tank must be able to fight in a network environment and have a battlefield management system. It must cope without problems in high radiation or chemical environment and have the means to wage electronic warfare.

New Delhi wants its new tank to be easy to transport by transport aircraft and easy to maintain.

We can see that India is looking for a next-generation tank and based on the characteristics. Still, the vehicle it needs to own, India is taking its hostile relations with China seriously. The question is – however, how many manufacturers can meet these requirements, and this auction is not intended for the forecasted winner – the T-14 Armata of Russia?

Opportunities

There are not many manufacturers in the world that can offer the requirements of New Delhi.

The United States can only offer M1 Abrams. The United States is working on a significant modernization of the tank; even some activities have already been completed. For example, the latest updated version of the M1A2 SEP V3 has an integrated Israeli system for intercepting enemy ammunition with radar and impact elements. This system is the same one that the Israelis use in their Merkava tank. But experts see a problem in using this system when using ammunition flying at 1500-1700 m / s. JTRS is the new fire control system integrated into the tank. But the main problem is that this tank is constantly being updated, not a unique finished product or model.

The Turks began their Altai battle tank project years ago with two main goals – to upgrade their tank brigades with a locally produced machine and to export abroad. Some even cited India as a potential buyer. But Ankara is seriously lagging, and this lag is costing the integration of new technologies. Turkey still has no real idea whether it will start mass production and, if so, when. And many of the parameters of the Turkish tank do not meet the requirements of the Indians.

German and French options are also on the table for possible negotiations. Leopard 2A7V, for example, has several significant improvements, particularly the most modern electronics today. This is, to some extent positive, because the fire control system, day and night optical sights meet the set Indian standards. But both France and Germany are working on their future tank, which should replace the Leopard 2A7V and Leclerc. The new co-produced tank expects to have a 130-140 mm cannon.

The Russian advantage

And although there are at least a few more tank manufacturers in the world that would try to win the big order, Russia is also likely to participate in this race. At the same time, my country should offer two options – T-90 and T-14.

Moscow has its advantage, mainly because of the current tank that needs to be replaced – T-72M Ajeya. Will the story not be repeated as in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when France and Germany were named favorites but won Russia with its T-72 model? And isn’t this deal tipping the scales in Moscow’s favor?

Russia then agreed to grant a license for local production of the Indian tank T-72M Ajeya, and very quickly – a year after selecting the winner. In this way, even then, Russia guaranteed the following – the production of an Indian tank would be in line with the production of a Russian tank.

And this is a huge advantage today – there are built production lines that do not need to be renewed too much but reconfigured. Issuing a production license for, say, the T-90 in the Indian version would shorten much of the long and challenging adaptation process.

The other country, Russia, realizes that because of US pressure on other countries not to buy Russian weapons, Moscow could easily part with another license in favor of the next half-century of cooperation. Another advantage is the fact that Washington does not issue licenses very quickly, let alone almost ever.

Will it be the T-14?

As early as a year ago, when the conflict between India and China broke out high in the Himalayas, some media began to write that India would want new tanks to replace the current ones. That is already a fact. But the media reported something else – the T-14 Armata could be that choice, and if India decides to choose it, it will completely change the world market for tanks in favor of Moscow.

Why is the T-14 suitable? First, all the Indians’ conditions are either fulfilled by the Russians or are easily fulfilled. The tank is the only currently developed fourth-generation tank globally, will soon go into series production, has an autonomous mode of operation. In addition to firing state-of-the-art projectiles and ATGMs, it can also fire shots armed with small nuclear warheads.

The T-14 is the fastest tank in the world. Once made in Russia, it assumes that one of the first things is to cope with the cold metrological conditions of Siberia, which solves an unresolved Indian problem – the Himalayas and high altitude.

Separately – various tests show that Armata has more than an excellent anti-missile system, tested not against anyone, but against the best man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile currently in the world – Javelin. But the T-14 Armata has another advantage – the crew is in a separate capsule, which increases the chance that even after a stroke, the team will remain unharmed and alive – something that other tanks do not currently have.

The T-14 will soon enter production. Another advantage is that the Russians can make changes initially, but as you can see, they will be cosmetic. Of course, there is always the opportunity for Russia to offer a highly modernized version of the T-90 and the opportunity for France and Germany to regain the lost battle of the last century and deliver what the Indians want.

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