Heavier, more lethal Arjun tank poised for trials - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 23 November 2011

Heavier, more lethal Arjun tank poised for trials

The modified Arjun on which many proposed modifications are already done. Other improvements feature on another test tank. The graphic shows the proposed changes.

by Ajai Shukla
Avadi, Chennai
Business Standard carried a shorter version of this article on , 24th Nov 11

A heavier, more protected Arjun tank, called the Arjun Mark II, is poised for army trials. Scheduled for January and June 2012, successful trials would be the green signal for building 124 Arjun Mark IIs at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi, outside Chennai. These will supplement the 124 Arjuns Mark I already in frontline service.

Preparing the new Arjun for trials is the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, which steered the Arjun through a difficult and delayed development process; to its emergence as India’s premier main battle tank (MBT). In March 2010, after the Arjun outperformed the vaunted Russian T-90S in performance trials in Rajasthan, an impressed Indian Army accepted 124 Arjuns into service. But the army has made a follow-on order conditional upon 93 improvements to the Arjun, including 19 major modifications. The CVRDE is finalising these modifications.

Business Standard visited Avadi for a detailed briefing on the Arjun Mark II, the first time the media has actually inspected the tank. This reporter was given unhindered access, including the opportunity to speak to the engineers working on the tank and the army crewmembers that drive and fire it.

The Arjun Mark II’s most remarkable feature is its extra weight, 3-4 tonnes more than the earlier 62-tonne Arjun. For years the army criticised the Arjun as too heavy for India’s road and rail infrastructure; now it wants modifications that will make the Arjun heavier. Fitting Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) plates on the tank has boosted crew protection, but also increases the weight by one and a half tonnes. An equivalent increase comes from added mine ploughs, which churn up the ground ahead of the tank, uprooting explosive mines that would otherwise blow up the tank.

The Arjun Project leaders, V Balamurugan and GK Kumaravel, are unfazed by the weight gain. During gruelling trials this summer, the Arjun has demonstrated a crucial modification in the transmission system that makes the 65-66 tonne Arjun Mark II more agile than the lighter, 62-tonne Arjun Mark I.

“We ran the modified Arjun for 1,300 kilometres, gradually loading dead weight until it was 65.5 tonnes. We demonstrated that its performance, acceleration, torque, working temperature and fuel consumption were better than the Arjun Mark I,” claimed Balamurugan.

Also modified is the tank's hydro-pneumatic suspension which is now capable of handling a 70-tonne load. This also incorporates some newly-developed technologies to overcome occasional problems that the Arjun Mark I has grappled with during its development period: grease leakage and track shedding.

The trade-off, though, is in maximum speed. The Arjun Mark II does just 60 kmph, compared with the 70 kmph top speed of the Arjun Mark I. But the army has accepted this trade-off. “Tanks need agility and acceleration in battle, not sustained high speed. And the advantages of ERA and a mine plough are enormous,” says a tank officer.

CVRDE chief, Dr P Sivakumar, an award-winning transmission specialist, is jubilant. “Earlier the army was criticising my Arjun [for weighing too much]. But, after seeing its cross-country performance, even compared with a lighter 40-tonne tank like the T-90, they realise that the Arjun moves like a Ferrari. Even at 65-66 tonnes, it will beat any MBT in the desert,” he promises.

Sivakumar backs that with the endorsement of a team from Israel Military Industries (IMI), designers of the renowned Merkava tank. Talking to Indian Army generals after a “third-party evaluation” of the Arjun, Israeli experts declared that the Arjun, especially ruggedised for Indian conditions, would outrun any competition.

Another crucial improvement in the Mark II is the tank commander’s thermal imaging (TI) night sight, which replaces the day-only sight of the earlier Arjun. Now the Arjun can operate at night in “hunter-killer” mode --- the commander as hunter; and the gunner as killer. The commander scans the battlefield through his new TI sight; targets that he spots are electronically allocated to the gunner to destroy, while he returns to hunting for more targets.

The Mark II also equips the driver with a new night vision device based on “un-cooled thermal imaging”, allowing him to clearly see 300-500 metres, even on a pitch-dark night. The “image intensifier” device in the Mark I required some ambient light. A DRDO laboratory, Instrument R&D Establishment (IRDE), Dehradun, has built the new driver’s sight.

“We also now have an ammunition containerisation system. If the tank is hit, and the on-board ammunition explodes, it will blow outwards, saving the crew. A metallic box with ‘blow-off panels’ directs the explosion outwards,” explains Kumaravel.

The man who oversees the Arjun project, DRDO’s Chief Controller for Armament and Combat Engineering (CC-ACE), S Sundaresh, says: “Four major modifications --- the mobility performance at 65.5 tonnes; the commander’s night sight; the driver’s night vision device, and ammunition containerisation --- were validated this summer.”

Coming up for trials in January is an important new capability: missile firing through the Arjun Mark II’s main gun. Israeli LAHAT missiles were proof-fired from the Arjun in 2004, but the sighting and control systems are now being integrated into the gunner’s sight by its vendors, OIP Sensor Systems (Belgium) and SAGEM (France).

The army will evaluate these new capabilities during make-or-break trials next summer. Just one crucial system will come later, perhaps next October: a “laser warning counter measure system.” This senses the laser beam that incoming missiles ride, giving just 10-15 seconds of reaction time. Within milliseconds, the system automatically launches smoke grenades, creating a smokescreen around one’s own tank that leaves the missile operator without a target to aim at.

While the army keenly anticipates the Arjun Mark II’s capabilities, HVF and CVRDE are grappling with a related conundrum: the high cost of the tank, currently estimated at Rs 37 crore.

(Tomorrow: Part II: Bringing down the cost of the Arjun)


  1. Nice..

    But what is the green thing on the left side of the turret.

  2. Thanks Colonel for this one ...can't wait for Part II :) !

  3. This is awesome !!!

    Never tell where you are going or what you are going to post, don't mind that even a bit as long as masterpieces about desi products like these keep coming out. Thanks a lot !!!

    And yes, pics more pics please, they after all say a thousand more words

  4. Ajay sir,
    What is that green panel with white circle in center thing on right side of the tank ?

    Also do you have pics of mk2 ?

    thanks for the article :D

    I was checking the blog more than twice a day for past two weeks :D
    finally it came .

  5. Oooh thank you,now I can come!

  6. What green thing are you all asking about? Half the tank is green!

    Pics of Mark II? This practically is the Mark II. Other than the ERA panels, it is not going to look significantly different from the Mark I.

  7. We are talking about the picture that shows a rendering of Mk2. In that pic the tank is brown and various modifications are colored.

    The tank has a green panel on the left side of the turret. There is a white dot on the panel.

  8. @ Broadsword 10:39
    we are talking about the green panel just above the gun(as in picture)
    it has a white DOT(may be hole) in center.

  9. Thanks a ton Ajai Sir for the post.
    Arjun technology seems to have matured by now.
    After proving various systems & gunnery on Mark 1, the evolution of Mark2 is great step. This is indeed heartening to see the ERA and a SUB TURRET (mounted
    on the main turret). Sir, it will be kind of you if you tell us that is the turret indigenous.
    With heavier weight, Mark 2 will be suitable for Strike Corps, and they shall now start planning strike & insertion doctrine based on Mark2. For this tank, as I think, C-130 will not be suitable. Maybe this can be transpoted to ALGs by C-17 only. So just negative point with this tank is reduced airlift probability

  10. Shukla Ji, once again you proved why your blog readers were on your back to post the promised Arjun Article.
    BTW some of the points which i hope your remaining four atricles would clear are as follows
    1) Power pack of 1500 Horsepower and what is its present status
    2) Electrical turret control instead of the hydraulic as in Mark-1
    3) Improvements on the main gun and what are they?
    4) Any info on battle management System to be added to Arjun mark-1, and any information on the data links between the Tanks.
    5) Any information on the Active protection system that was supposed to be incorporated??
    6) how much truth is there in the following

  11. Nice article ,but i doubt Army will place good number of order after end of all trails , less lethal T-90 ordered more than 1600 nos earlier.

  12. We are refering to green panel on the animation of arjun.
    Upper part of the graphical arjun i;e turret is a bit slanted.is this change going to be incorporated in mk2 variant

  13. Thanks alot for getting the Images and Ideas..

    They could have done much better, They could have done some thing similar to LEOA4 evolution upgrade with ERA tiles

    And it seems Heavy ERA at turret front they could have added small era tiles like on Indian Ajaya T-72M1 on side and other places like on top, turret side, chassis..

    They also didn't change the FCS optical sight place, Their are serious flaw there, On leoa5/6/7 Germans change the placement of the Gunnery sight above the turret instead to at front with little or no Armour behind..

    Anyways, Better if not the best..

  14. That's the tank. The army must now order Arjun MKII in the thousands to replace the whole T-72's in service.

  15. Aaaah, that! The laser warning counter measure system.

  16. This is awesome!
    thanks a lot..

  17. Its heartening to see desi products making such rapid strives. However the finish of the machine is a major let down. I hate to admit but it looks exceptionally shoddy.




  18. the turret is slanted in animation from sides, is that a change in mk2?????

  19. This tank makes more sense..since Arjun is designed keeping an eye on survivability after getting hit instead of low lying and trying to remain hidden..ERP makes more sense so does plough...Arjun will be able to act as an road opener for less heavier tanks like t-72's ...all is well....as long as they keep it improving and making it more and more Indian in true senses...

  20. Thanx for the information. Hope Arjun will progress further and with inclusion of 1500 CC engine, it may become most formidable under almost all circumstances.

    As I understand, many design features of Arjun's improvement have been incorporated in to T-90AM to which most of the Indian T-90's can be expected to be updated.

  21. get this to china border asap & get 200 more if it also placce there ..

  22. This was a good article... esp after i criticised your earlier post on F35.

  23. Thanks for posting this.. waiting for more :)

  24. @Anon 24th,11.52,
    Yeah the optic position is right in line with the Commander.I wonder what sort of Armour,if any, is behind it and what sort of anti-spall measures are there.If there is only optic elements and no protection behind than a HEAT or APDFS direct hit could be real bad.Wonder what the situation was on the original Leo internally.

  25. These tanks have night vision, fast rotating speed and modified engines. These are the best tanks India have ever produced.

  26. Mine plows are optional accessories. That weight shouldn't be counted for a normal configuration

  27. enuff paper tiger talk, get the tank to induction, then you don't need to write 5 parts in honor of arjun, shukla saab.

  28. this tank already has an obsolete profile juts like tejas, even by its look and guess the trials will never end. DRDO and HAL have apparently found a new way of deceiving the janta and hiding their failures in the name of mk1, mk2 and so on. the fact is mk1 is not even capable to be put to field for a minimal battle, so is the mk2. when will this drama end and you shukla sab, you're writing about this dud because business standard pays your bills? for god sake ! please tell me how will you have arjun replace the russian and ukranian tanks, will your army even accept that except for the pressure it has on it to induct tejas' and arjuns? This is shameful.

  29. Questions you need to ask the great scientists- what use is LAHAT with 6 km range when the gunner sight can identify enenmy at only 1/4 th of that distance.
    Why should there be a requirement of tube launched atgm if longer penetrators or du rounds can do the job nearly as well at 1/6 th the cost
    How does the era fare against that on t90ms/t90 am
    How about integrability with battlefield management system
    Lets not eulogise half mile efforts. Col shukla, may i request you to think with the headgear on, and yes i agree the t90 in its present form is no life saver and comparing arjun anrd t90 would be like comparing apples and you know what, but how long can we glorify rotten applrs and unripe oranges or worse still lemons masquerading as oranges

  30. ok.
    questions :
    1] what about the aps?
    2] is the mine plough, easily removable in the field? it might be unweildly in actual combat situations,
    3] why was era added ? is the rha insufficient? was the mk1 found to be lacking in survivability?

    4] is it really worth the speed trade-off, considering that it will werak havoc on escorting troops if the tank takes a hit.

    5] arent we getting a more powerful engine?

    6] what have imi and rafael added to the tank?

    7] how does the target aquisition compare to the m1a2?

    9] is this just for the 124 other tanks, or is there going to be a new order?

    10] are you sure u have ur numvers right with respect to the tanks being ordered?

  31. All the electronic and technical names are nice.. but how much of the components are indigenous? There is a article in the http://indian-defense-news.blogspot.com/2011/04/arjun-mk2-will-use-leclerc-and-merkava.html that most of the components are from Israel. So, we just assembled the parts and built a most sophisticated obviously fantastic machine

  32. Arjun Mk-2 is well meaning upgrade certainly but is 65.5 tonnes really wise ?

    Isn't this more a case where the engineers and the designers have freaked out leaving aside considerations like transportation, logistics etc ?

    Are these Mk-2 tanks rail transportable ? Do the current fording bridged support these weights ? Are these tanks tow-able by engineering recovery vehicles ?
    Are these tanks air transportable? Are these tanks suitable for the Landing Craft Utility operations ?

    All the specifications mentioned so far don't tell us about any Active Protection System. If one is going to be installed in the future wouldn't that take up a few hundred kgs too ?

    While the Arjun-Mk2 sounds like it is realizing the intended goal of the Arjun Project dreamed up nearly 2 decades ago, I would like to know what the designers and engineers think about Arjun vs other tanks available world wide like the Japanese Type 90, the Korean K2 and especially the Chinese type 99 tanks and the technology employed in them. How does the Arjun compare ?

    Also, is there a plan to ever integrate a mortar system into the tank like the Merkava so that the tank can defeat infantry defilade positions ? What about the battle field management and friend and foe detection system upgrades ??

    Is there a plan to install electronic counter measures in the tank in the future ? How about sensor fusion amongst friendly tanks ?

    The main disadvantage of tanks is their logistical requirements. Fuel, parts and ammunition replenishment make tanks vulnerable to enemies. Do the tank engineers have any insights into making Arjun more modular for rapid repair and replacement of parts ?

    Sorry if this comment is very long but this is a very interesting subject to me.

  33. Any info on the new 1500 hp engine

  34. It's just Sexy!!!

    Glad to know the more.

  35. Where are the new sight and night vision devices ? Will they be put later ? When is APS gonna be installed ?

    Also how come APS is not among the major changes in arjun mk2 ?

  36. "anonymous at 16:57" writes "please tell me how will you have arjun replace the russian and ukranian tanks, will your army even accept that except for the pressure it has on it to induct tejas' and arjuns? This is shameful." ....poor guy, really burning up about the five part series on the Arjun and saying "your army"...well my dear anon, leave concerns about the indian army to indians while you tell your army to actually dismantle the terror infrastructure that it created to attack india, in pakistan and which is currently attacking Pakistanis. We are happy with the Arjuns and our Army, thanks very much!!

  37. Ajai, I was hoping you will touch on why the Indian rate of production for MBTs is so pathetic. Vijayanta factory was built with a capacity of 250 tank a year, and as far as I recall - it is decades in the past, Avadi managed 200/year. Unless they get the production up, our plains forces will be going nowhere.

  38. Sadly Sir, your bias of an armd corps offr of 80s/90s vintage spills out so blatantly. You really want us to fight a war with Pak tomorrow? A monolith of a tk that cant even be transported to plains leave aside mountains where we expect to fight next.In any case armr is fast losing the relevance that it unduly got for so long. Maybe you could write more on unconventional troops for we are the future of warfare.

  39. Looks mean... Hope it is accepted by the army.


  40. @Anon 24 Nov. 20:26,
    Logistics and transport issues were one of the biggest 'bahanas' or excuses used by the detractors of Arjun.It is a given that a new weapon will entail building up of logistics.Do forces stop induction of new arms due to need of new logistic set up.
    Army has plenty of TATRAs and trailers for Arjun and BEML produces BFAT wagons designed for Arjun with 70 Ton capacity.

    A railway engine itself can weigh up to 120 tonnes so there is no question of railway bridges going under an Arjun+wagon load and most of India is now on Broad Gauge!

    The requirement of other engineering, bridging equipment is simply a matter of acquisition and not of impossibility.Most existing bridges in any case are rated high enough.

    60 tonne plus tanks are not moved in mass by air.Perhaps when one or two are required,say as in an Afghanistan for local fire support against insurgents, is air-lift used.Heavy tanks move by surface or sea.The IAF -C17s to be acquired can carry upto 77 tonnes if the urgent need arises.
    Indian Navy is acquiring larger LHD ships for beach landings and Shardul class LPDs carry tanks,though I am not sure if they are wide enough for Arjun,they carry several T-series easily.Then again,these are mere matters of acquisition.

    LED-150 APS is probable for Arjun what is known in open media for active protection along with Advanced Laser Warning Countermeasure System a BEL-ELBIT product.

    Merkava is a uniquely Israeli Tank with its engine in front and large space at the rear.So they have space for troops,mortar etc. Israel is a tiny country and all their strategy is built on Defense and deterrence. They do not see themselves fighting wars far away from their borders and hence their tanks are big,heavy and unique.
    In the vast deserts and plains of India this is not a required or practical need.The BMP2 -CMVT is ideal for this purpose.

    Other Electronics are no big deal.Repair and logistics are common issue to all tanks.Arjun tanks like leopards have removable power-packs facilitating easier repair.

    Another bewailing I see is that Arjun is not 100% Indian or 100%!!
    That is a foolish quest to be had from Day 1.All countries have a learning curve and develope their tech as per need and requirements.It took years for the Abrams to evolve to be what it is today. Most western Tanks have learned from each other.Composite armour on Abrams is a brit innovation.The Rheinmetal German gun does duty on several western tanks and most western,korean,turkish, brazilian power backs have their powerpacks in one way or other connected to a GE or MTU or Renk .The Russian had their own learning curve.
    The only way to learn is persistence and acceptance of mistakes and failure to build up on a better tech.

  41. @Anon @25 November 2011 09:28, is that why the yanks have taken M1 Abrams to Afghanistan and taken the effort of 'Tank Urban Survival Kit' just for fighting an insurgency in a non-conventional scenario.The Leclerc,Leopard2 have been deployed to Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban,who by the way are not exactly fielding loads of armour.
    Transport for Arjun is no big deal and in extreme mountainous area,no heavy MBT will be deployed.there are other classes of weapons for that.There is a thing called weapons mix as there is no universal weapon that is a jack of all trades!

  42. I already see people complaining about the finishing quality of the paint job on a prototype. Not surprising at all, from my fellow Indian keyboard Generals. LOL

    By the way, SHukla ji, what about the new Engine promised?


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