FMBT Part II: India’s future main battle tank now grapples with a weight issue - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 2 January 2012

FMBT Part II: India’s future main battle tank now grapples with a weight issue

The Arjun Mark II hydro-pneumatic suspension will be refined for the FMBT... and will be developed by CVRDE by 2030 into an "active suspension" system

Features of the FMBT
  • Weight: 50-tonnes
  • Engine: 1800 Horse Power
  • Transmission: CVRDE-developed
  • Armour: Active Protection System (APS)
  • Gun: 120 mm smoothbore
  • Suspension: Hydro-pneumatic
  • Active suspension after 2030

by Ajai Shukla
CVRDE, Avadi, Chennai
Business Standard, 3rd Jan 12

As the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) begins designing the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the army is sending out typically mixed messages on the vital question of how big and heavy India wants its tanks. While insisting that the DRDO’s 60-tonne Arjun tank weighs too much to move around the riverine terrain of Punjab and J&K, the army has demanded features in the next Arjun model (Arjun Mark II) that will raise its weight to 65 tonnes.

Planning for the FMBT --- the Gen-Next tank that will follow the Arjun Mark II by 2020 --- is even more contradictory. The army wants the FMBT to weigh just 50 tonnes while bettering all the Arjun’s features.

Officials at the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, who will develop the FMBT, say it is impossible to build the FMBT 15 tonnes lighter while also improving crew protection; fitting a more powerful gun that can slam projectiles through improved enemy tanks; and making the FMBT faster and more powerful.

The CVRDE director, P Sivakumar, told Business Standard during an exclusive briefing on the FMBT, that it would meet weight targets only if the army identified its inescapable needs rather than demanding every feature available. One example is crew protection. The FMBT will have a cutting-edge Active Protection System that detects incoming enemy projectiles (which travel faster than rifle bullets); and then fires a projectile to hit and degrade the incoming warhead. But the army also insists on the conventional armour plate that has traditionally protected tank crews.

“If you want a 50-tonne FMBT you must choose wisely. If your Active Protection System can reliably defeat enemy projectiles, why do you also want the heavy armour plating of passive systems? Whatever you use --- composites, lightweight materials, etc. --- the weight of the tank will rise. Similarly, how can you increase your tank gun’s ability to penetrate enemy tanks without a weight increase?” asks Sivakumar.

Difficult choices like these are delaying the finalisation of the FMBT’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), the document that will specify its capabilities and major systems. With nothing settled, the DRDO is readying for a heavier-than-planned FMBT. Business Standard reported yesterday that CVRDE is developing an 1800 Horse Power engine, rather than the 1500 HP needed for a 50-tonne FMBT.

While foreign consultancy will drive the engine design, CVRDE will play the central role in building a transmission system, which transfers engine power to the FMBT’s tracks. Sivakumar, himself an accomplished transmission designer, says that the CVRDE’s home-grown design will be vetted by a consultant, who will be chosen from three candidates: Ricardo; AVL; or US-based South West Research Institute.

“CVRDE has a tradition in transmission design. We built a 1500 HP transmission for the Arjun, which was not used because the engine design was changed. We have also built the “aircraft mounted accessory gearbox” that is standard fitment in the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. It is 35 kg of magnesium alloy, spinning at 16,800 rpm. This gearbox has successfully completed some 3000 flights,” says Sivakumar.

The FMBT will be armed with India’s first smoothbore 120-millimetre tank gun. While the rest of the world has long used smoothbore guns --- which fire anti-tank missiles and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds --- the DRDO alone has stuck with rifled guns. There is confidence that the changeover will be smooth: the DRDO developed a smoothbore gun for the T-90 tank after Russia illegally blocked gun technologies. The DRDO is also working with Israel Military Industries (IMI), which developed the smoothbore gun for the Merkava tank.

Cushioning the FMBT’s ride will be one of the Arjun’s unique successes, its hydro-pneumatic suspension unit (HSU), which smoothens the jerks from driving fast over uneven cross-country terrain. The Arjun’s smooth ride allows its gun to accurately hit a suitcase two kilometres away while driving at 30 kmph. The initial FMBTs will have improved Arjun HSUs, while CVRDE proposes to develop an “active suspension” by 2030. This has sensors scrutinising the terrain just ahead of the tank and making anticipatory adjustments before the tank’s tracks roll over that area.

“The future is active suspension. The FMBT will initially roll out with hydro-pneumatic suspensions but we are commencing R&D for active suspension. It takes some time to develop a reliable active suspension. No tank has managed it so far,” says Sivakumar.


  1. By the time FMBT comes around, tanks will be a relic of past. They are already at their last leg of their evolution and can't go much further.

  2. "“The future is active suspension. The FMBT will initially roll out with hydro-pneumatic suspensions but we are commencing R&D for active suspension. It takes some time to develop a reliable active suspension. No tank has managed it so far,” says Sivakumar."

    Active Suspension is very much in use in the Japanese Type-10 and the Korean K-2 Tanks. This technology has been there since at least the 90s. Plus both these tanks can acheive close to 70kmph in both forward and reverse while having the ability to fire unhindered due to their active suspension coupled with active stabilization of their main gun!

    Also, the comment about choosing between ADS and armor plating is absurd. Even the Israelis are thinking of useing "both" because the ADS can never guarantee 100% protection! The solution is to obviously make armor platting lighter.or using different materials or geometry to reduce the amount of plating required thereby reducing weight!

  3. As T-90 is already below 50 tonnes, so it is immaterial for FMBT to be less or more than 50 tonnes.

    There may not be the brochures available for FMBT anywhere, so none is able to specify and pinpoint their parameters.

  4. Anon @ 16:13
    The weapon itself may become relic, but the concept will live on. It usually evolves into something that fits the need for that day. In my opinion, just like the aircrafts, tanks have the potential to become full automated "pilotless" weapon systems to support the GIs on the ground (or for that matter) drones in the air. Just as the knives and swords become bayonets, the tank will become something that makes more sense for the decades (or even centuries) ahead. But, before we get to the startwars version of the tank, we need to continues to build on our abilities to develop a tank, there are no short-cuts. If we want to get to the stage were we are among the leaders in development (and not just manufacturing), we must take these hard and sometimes seemingly unproductive steps. Just like no one gets a college degree without going through years of primary, secondary etc education, no one can just jump into building the future without learning the past and the present. I look at Arjun, INSAS, ALH, LCA, ATV etc. as academic projects for the Indian Defense Industry that happens to have a some use for the battle field application. To me what is more relevant is what will be built tomorrow using the skills gained from these highly criticized projects of today.

  5. @ Anonymous 18:38

    Very few people actually believe that those tanks have operationally successful active suspensions. The best that has been operationally achieved is a semi-active suspension.

    Obviously, the use of active protection does not mean that the crew will sit exposed to the air outside. However, the conventional heavy armour plate will be dramatically reduced, even in the frontal 60 degree arc.

  6. Ajai Shukla,

    You are wrong. Even the British Challenger-2 has a rifled gun.

    So its not just the DRDO.

  7. @ Bayonet

    Thanks for your authoritative comment, but the Challenger II has switched over to a smoothbore 120 mm gun.

    Get current!

  8. FMBT @ 50 tons ..might not be an impossible task if DRDO considers the technological breakthrough and experiments being done on the future Materials Technology by the Tank Designers in US,Russia and in the Europe.
    1.Us is trying to make lighter tanks using combinations of CC fiber+ Advanced Reinforced Plastics/fiber + Sandwich of Ceramics plates..etc
    2.Even Russian and Israel companies were working on same technologies for their future tanks.

    Based on the threat perceptions the Frontal Arch/The Bottom/Both sides/and the Top being planned to use combinations of the above materials along with conventional metallic amour.

    With the invent of MMW radar /Seekars and guidance ...being used in Heliborn Tank killers like Apache and MMW seekers in ATGMs...the emphasis is on to make all Future MBTs Stealthy ..and these un conventional materials with some design slant/curvs will make these future tanks stealthy too.
    So Summary is to make use of CC Fiber/Plastics/Fiber Glass/Ceramics will me tanks
    --Lighter hence suspension and cruise speed will have better performance.
    --Targeting and weapon releasing accuracy will be increased.
    --Heat absorption will be minimal & reflection/cooling will be faster and hence will make these Tanks less visible on Heat/Imagery Spectrum .
    --Will be stealthier in the Radio spectrum.
    --Less weight means better fuel efficiency and better speed and range performance even with 1500 HP engine..also suspension systems will have less challange too to stabilize.
    -- Cross country handling and moving of these assets will be easier task compared to their 70+ tonner cousins in complex terrains.


  9. GhorcharrahGabbar4 January 2012 at 07:45

    APS systems cater for lower-velocity (comparitively; typically 800 m/s or thereabouts) HEAT (shaped-charge) projectiles such as ATGMs and those fired by hand-held anti-tank weapons. Armour plate is still needed for ballistic protection against high velocity attack. While deploying APS for 100% tank fleet is a fantasy, Gen II / Gen III ERA assures survivability against almost all HEAT threats and also disrupts kinetic-energy penetrators somewhat.

  10. GhorcharrahGabbar4 January 2012 at 08:09

    (contd from my previous comment) ...DRDO has yet to get the magic explosive formula right for Gen II / Gen III ERA like the Russian Kaktus.
    Can we get a 50-ton FMBT ? YES - WE CAN ! It involves extensive analysis of hit distribution in contemporary armoured warfare (check out I'll summarise the article written by Manfred Held (the inventor of ERA)as under :-
    DRDO has yet to get the magic explosive formula right for Gen II / Gen III ERA like the Russian Kaktus.
    Can we get a 50-ton FMBT ? YES - WE CAN ! It involves extensive analysis of hit distribution in contemporary armoured warfare (check out I'll summarise the article written by Manfred

    - Analysis of hits on all Iraqi tanks by Manfred Held; 308 knocked-out tanks inspected in a scrap yard.
    - Distribution of tanks hit T-55 (65%), T-62 (17%), T-72 (18%)
    - Hits by HEAT (66%), KE (25%), Others (9%)
    - 77% hits on turret, 23% on hull

    Clearly, there is an obvious trend compared to the last such analysis by Manfred Held post-1973 Arab-Israeli conflict where turrets in 1991 received more 'attention' - the same may be attributed to increased size, vastly-improved FCS and ammunition ballistics.

    Therefore, the distribution of armour between the hull and turret can be optimised to improve the turret protection. Incorporation of contemporary ERA, additional spaced-armour augments the turret protection further.

  11. GhorcharrahGabbar4 January 2012 at 08:55

    (contd from my previous comment) ...
    I read somewhere of active suspension as being adopted in the K-2 (Black Panther) and the Japanese Tank X. I think the author has got it wrong on some important issues. These are pre-production tanks that have yet to be accepted into service in their own countries. Secondly, these tanks have adjustable suspension but NOT 'active' suspension. The only inspiration that I can draw from these designs (the Japanese one in particular) is that the front two road-wheels can incorporate adjustable suspension to augment maximum gun depression, albeit in the frontal arc.

    Ah yes, the DRDO did not develop the 125mm gun for the T-90; I think it was an internal effort by the OF Kanpur and Misra Dhatu Nigam Ltd. I had covered it in some detail in my 'unwelcome' comments in the context of the Truth-Trials between Arjun and the T-90 that were extensively debated in BroadSword's blog and comments thereto. THE DRDO WAS EMPHATIC IN PROPOSING THE 120mm RIFLED GUN FOR THE FMBT - UNTIL FORCED TO REVISE ITS CONVOLUTED PROPOSAL AT THE VERY OUTSET OF DESIGN DELIBERATIONS OF THE FMBT.

    In short, the FMBT MUST, MUST, MUST be below 50t (weight with full combat load). AND IT IS POSSIBLE!! THE DRDO HAS NOT DONE ITS HOMEWORK - while they can talk authoritatively on sub-systems technologies, the tank design as a whole sub-system needs wider professional inputs.

  12. What a waste of time this project is going to be. This only show that we have learn't nothing messing up the Arjun Project.

    Sarkari "Senior Scientists" will make unmarked deadlines .. so that they can easily retire, before actually coming up with something worthwhile.

  13. Shukla Ji, Is CVRDE thinking on the lines powering the futuristic tank with bio-fuels like Jathropa based bio-diesel ? I think it would be a good idea to future proof our tank given the oil shocks

  14. @ GhorcharrahGabbar

    Thanks for posting your views. I can debate with you on some of them, but you certainly have a valid viewpoint that is shared by many of our planners... e.g. 50 tonnes weight; 120 mm smoothbore gun; APS; active suspension (am I right in concluding that you agree with the need for this?)

    What about the ongoing debate about 3-man versus 4-man crews?

    By the way, a high percentage of Iraqi tanks were knocked out from the air. This I personally observed on several visits to Iraq. How come Herr Manfred does not include those in his analysis? Did he analyse only tank-to-tank hits?

  15. Ajay Ji,
    Your comment...

    "By the way, a high percentage of Iraqi tanks were knocked out from the air. This I personally observed on several visits to Iraq."

    You are absolutely correct about this point.. and that it was due to of Iraqi Tactical/ Technical blunder.

    Iraqis used sands to hide and camouflage their tanks..i.e. they buried their MBTs totally inside the sand except the gun barrel to protect their visibility from satellite and other airborne imagery reconnaissance system…and anticipated a US ground attack forces will get a kick of surprise…..what they forgot that US did also had AH-64-D Apache Tank Killer Helicopters which had MMW longbow radar and combined with IIR (Uses Heat Spectrum/Temperature differentiation) and MMW (uses MMW Radar Spectrum) seeker guided ATGMs those MBTs will be picked one by one and destroyed .

    On those High Heat Summer days ..temperature would rise to +55 ‘ C and that would also made the Iraqi Tanks Hidden inside sands Hot ..During evening when the ambient temperature fallen down…quickly…Iraqi tanks still were quite Hot and didn’t cooled so quickly like sands around…resulting the Hot Iraqi MBTs very clearly visible on the Heat spectrum (for IIR seeker and guidance based ATGMs) ..due to the extreme Heat Contrast…scenario …ultimately those Static and Heated Iraqi MBTs were proved to be the sitting ducks for US AH-64 Apache and AH-1 s…. apart from the Heat Contrast/spectrum …Those solid METALIC MBTs were also clearly identified and targeted by MMW radars/seekers based systems/ATGMs (because of the vulnerability of METALS on the Radar Wave Spectrum) ….I think within first few days only almost all Iraqi MBTs (Except those which were deployed within main cities like Baghdad etc) were destroyed without any/minimal resistance.

    So today conventional Tank Killer role is totally shifted to those Apaches/Cobras or Drones using advanced ATGMS……displaying a basic shift …on how the future wars will be fought and Tanks will only have a limited role of fighting and controlling Urban environments.
    That means on future Tanks, priority has to be given to SURVIVAL than packing it with lethal heavy and firepower punch ….we have seen the same Merkavas and Abrams doing in their respective a days.


  16. GhorcharrahGabbar5 January 2012 at 03:42

    @ Broadsword

    I am not a proponent of active suspension. Its adoption even in conventional wheeled vehicles is a long way off developmentally. It promises superior ride quality, and for tanks a pre-stabilisation of sorts, and nothing more. The cost-benefit analysis precludes the adoption of the active suspension - unless its another one of those DRDO hobby projects at public expense !!! Adjustable suspension, yes ! The same has seen MBT service as a feature in the Swedish S-tank to elevate and depress the fixed gun on a turretless tank, or as a prototype design incorporation in the MBT-70 programme. The Korean KlA1 has hydro-pneumatic suspension and torsion bar springs. The suspension system also provides vehicle attitude control or 'kneeling' capability, which increases the main gun depression angle to a maximum of minus 10°.

    Herr Held's analysis caters for air-launched anti-tank projectiles as evident from the majority of the hits (66%) attributed to HEAT warheads; of the 66%, a small percentage is for top-attack munitions such as Hellfire and others. The complete article is not available to me right now - so apologies for generalising somewhat.

    I propose a four-man crew with mechanically assisted loading, implying a small eight-round mechanised magazine in the bustle (a la ready-bin)that facilitates manual loading by a human loader. The eight-round specification basically caters for one major engagement and also helps reduce ammunition stowage above the turret ring and a consequent reduction in the size of the bustle to control turret (hence armoured) volume. I, unabashedly, draw design inspiration from the Merkava in this respect. The large No of other benefits of a four-man crew remain pertinent and applicable.

    Can we fit a four-man crew in a MBT mounting a 120mm smoothbore main gun and keep the combat weight below 50 tons - YES. The Korean K1A1 is 54.5 tons - its a late 90s' design. Optronics and digitisation hold the key to design changes to achieve weight reduction / control.

  17. Broadsword >> "but the Challenger II has switched over to a smoothbore 120 mm gun."

    No it hasn't. Get your facts straight please.

    In any case, this change has got more to do with commonality with NATO ammunition rather than any advantages the smoothbore gun has over its rifled bore counterpart.

  18. Small correction; Challenger still uses the L30, one tank was trialed as smoothbore but any switchover has not yet taken place. The motivation is due to interoperability and the lack of L30 manufacture.

    Additionally when will the readership see any hard evidence of illegal activity regarding the transfer of technology of T-90 components, at the moment it seems only to be allergations?

  19. @ Mihir

    What is it that you are arguing? On the one hand you insist (quite contrary to facts that most followers of armour technology know well) that the Challenger II is not switching over to smoothbore.

    On the other hand you argue that this has "to do with commonality with NATO ammunition rather than any advantages the smoothbore gun has over its rifled bore counterpart."

    So is it switching, or not? Make up your mind!!

  20. The elephant is still a subject of discussion. Kariappa must be turning in his grave. Wow !

  21. GhorcharrahGabbar6 January 2012 at 01:26

    I cannot help but question Mr Siva Kumar's self-professed (or CVRDE's) expertise in transmissions.

    Firstly, the expertise was sorely missed when the CVRDE was involved in mating the T-72 engine with the TN-12 transmission on the Vijayant. Secondly, in the powerpack era, leave it to the specialists who are providing the powerpack as a whole; or, at best outsource design to L&T or Leyland or Tatas with requisite R&D funds backing. Don't make it a CVRDE project for the sake of retaining the purse-strings - which is what CVRDE does all the time.

    I confess to being a DRDO-basher having worked with them very very closely on cutting-edge projects including the Arjun and CIDSS. Like all Govt R&D organisations, it stiffles individual merit and brilliance to serve the organisational interest by way of preferential outsourcing, foreign consultancy (with associated foreign jaunts / jobs) and a Daddy-Knows-Best attitude. Gen Israel Tal cut through such s**t when he oversaw and steered the development of the Merkava as a serving head of the Israeli Armoured Corps. In five years they had Merkava 1 up and running.

    More later...

  22. Broadsword wrote:
    "Thanks for your authoritative comment, but the Challenger II has switched over to a smoothbore 120 mm gun."

    It clearly has not and the plan to do so may never occur considering the finances of the British goverment, either way the statement above is premature.

    Is there any publically avaliable information regarding technology transfer refusals from Russia on the T-90?

  23. @ GhorcharrahGabbar

    You write: "the expertise was sorely missed when the CVRDE was involved in mating the T-72 engine with the TN-12 transmission on the Vijayant."

    The expertise was not there then. Sivakumar joined just 5 years ago!

    You write, "Secondly, in the powerpack era, leave it to the specialists who are providing the powerpack as a whole;"

    That's right! Let's just remain dependent upon Renk and MTU forever. Let's not even bring in India's private sector... it's so much easier to just pay someone who's already done it all.

    You write, "I confess to being a DRDO-basher having worked with them very very closely on cutting-edge projects including the Arjun and CIDSS."

    I had figured.

    "Like all Govt R&D organisations, it stiffles individual merit and brilliance to serve the organisational interest by way of preferential outsourcing, foreign consultancy (with associated foreign jaunts / jobs) and a Daddy-Knows-Best attitude."

    Firstly, this description could, in important ways, be true of the Indian Army too. Secondly, if this is true for all Govt R&D organisations, how do you explain the success of the Atomic Energy Agency and ISRO?

    You write, "Gen Israel Tal cut through such s**t when he oversaw and steered the development of the Merkava as a serving head of the Israeli Armoured Corps. In five years they had Merkava 1 up and running."

    Please read a book called "Start Up Nation" and you'll understand the reasons for Israeli successes like the Merkava. It is not just because some General Blimp came harrumphing along and sacked a bunch of people.

    This urge to cut and paste solutions from one template to an entirely different one needs to be guarded against.

  24. Ajai,

    You're dead wrong. The L-55 smoothbore was indeed proposed for a Challenger-2 upgrade, and a tank equipped with the gun was even subject to firing trials, but the project never moved beyond that stage.

    See this link for example. In May 2008, the British Under Secretary of State for defence equipment, support and technology in response to a question on the Challenger-2 upgrade, said, "The Challenger 2 capability sustainment programme is in the very early stages of the concept phase and no expenditure has yet been incurred."

    Now, there may exist a secret society that you are a part of and has access to certain "facts" that have not yet been brought out into the public domain, but until such information is made public, I'd prefer to stand by my comment, thank you very much.

    As for “making up my mind”, all I am saying is that this retrofit was proposed because of the obvious advantages commonality with NATO standard ammo would confer, along with the fact that the factory manufacturing the rounds for the rifled gun was shutting down. I do not see any confusion here. Do you?

  25. GhorcharrahGabbar6 January 2012 at 08:38

    @ Broadsword

    ISRO & DAE are looking after programmes that nobody, nobody would offer by way of technology transfer / joint-development or cash-and-carry thanks to technology-denial regimes and other international restrictions for reasons known. Notwithstanding you standing up for them, these agencies have struggled against odds - and continue to do so ! The military spin-offs of the DAE programme remain blurred - the actual results of the Shakti-series of tests will never be known; the available guesstimates in the public domain uniformly question the success the yields which I believe for reasons that need not be debated here. The ISRO part - well our launch vehicles have not been entirely reliable except for the PSLV. The military spin-off variants - Prithvi, Agni etc are besot with reliability issues. Ah yes... the ISRO still chose Russian cryogenic engines for the GSLV.

    When you are talking of a limited strength MBT fleet of 600-odd tanks (frontline formations only), it makes more sense to get technology off the shelf from Renk & others. Why, the Russians have gone in for Thales thermal camera for the T-90 Gunner's sight; the Americans are using an adapted version of the Rheinmettal 120mm tank gun; the Italian Ariete uses a licence-built German transmission from ZF. Why can' we ? Must we build every thing ?

    The last time we asked for a tank engine, the DRDO went into overdrive in developing a variable-compression ratio engine - the hobby club culture - its never crossed the prototype stage. The Israelis, despite their professed insecurity about technology-denial and export-restrictions by Western suppliers, have not developed a local power-pack - its the MTU-Renk powerpack for the Merkava. While we are assembling the V-12 for the T-72, has there been any successful DRDO /OFB effort at upgrading the engine output beyond 780hp ? Has the same been referred to any civil consortium ? Its a cherry ripe for the picking - so where's the expertise ? So yes Broadsword, I am for business with MTU and Renk as long as they are game to local assembly if not ToT.

    Gen Israel Tal knew what the Armoured Corps wanted, what it needed (including training standards for tankers) - so the general reality of 'The Start-Up Nation' was not instrumental in his success - it was his single-minded commitment, his acerbic drive, his technical / project-managerial abilities and realisation of what was possible and what was not !

    Good luck to Mr Sivakumar - he will need it.

    You and I need to have a drink to put our love for the DRDO in perspective.

  26. GhorcharrahGabbar6 January 2012 at 08:44

    @ Broadsword

    ... and you missed my comment in its entirety... I said

    "...Firstly, the expertise was sorely missed when the CVRDE was involved in mating the T-72 engine with the TN-12 transmission on the Vijayant. Secondly, in the powerpack era, leave it to the specialists who are providing the powerpack as a whole; or, at best outsource design to L&T or Leyland or Tatas with requisite R&D funds backing. Don't make it a CVRDE project for the sake of retaining the purse-strings - which is what CVRDE does all the time...."

    So there you are Broadsword, I do have a glimmer of faith in our private sector notwithstanding their questionable expertise and inability to produce a modest replacement for the jeep (Mahindra AXE...???)

  27. "The expertise was not there then. Sivakumar joined just 5 years ago!"
    That sir, is not true. totally.

  28. @Ajai sir

    sorry in advance if you find my comment sarcastic

    If you remember last year in response to one of your posts, i had argued that India needs to to have a tank with adjustable suspension like Swedish S2.

    At that point you had said that the Swedish tank was for defensive purpose, and the idea of adjustable suspension is not worth talking about.

    Now not you are talking about it CVRDE is working on just that.

    Should i say CVRDE stole my idea


    Joydeep Ghosh

  29. Ajai, this Ghorcharrah Gabbar gentleman should be asked to prove his credentials.As anybody who followed the previous debate saw, many of his comments were just google fu claims. For someone who worked on the Arjun, he basically came across as someone who knew very little about the design or even methodology employed. When countered, he responded with more and more aggression and verbal abuse. Basically, any one can claim to be anyone on the net. Very few are the real deal with actual experience and the grace to match.

    Furthermore, this business of organizations stifling brilliance is ironic.

    As many of my erstwhile colleagues who directly work with the Army and several are Army men themsleves, insist, nothing matches the institutional inertia of the Indian Army and its overwhelming attempts to turn out of the box thinking and brilliance into conformism. We are losing many brilliant officers at the rank of colonel (if they manage to stick around till then). In the Army, per these guys accounts, be an outspoken, out of the box thinker & its very likely some bigwig will chew your head off. Some of my colleagues who were posted to COIN areas - they actively sought out field postings despite being in engineering etc - saw dismaying levels of bureaucracy and conformism. The IA of course has procedures. But its establishment often follows those procedures at the expense of its people. Now, these guys are spread out amongst the DPSUs - where they actually work with some of the projects for their parent service, or have gone private sector. In either case, they feel their talents are better utilized.

  30. GhorcharrahGabbar7 January 2012 at 00:20

    @ Broadsword

    I am not defending the Army's interests here. There are yawning gaps between what the Army actually needs, what it thinks it needs and what it actually wants. The needs are dependent on perspective planning processes including identifying current performance deficiencies with reference to equipment held. Instead of developing a long term view, which may not always be clear or possible, the Army decides its needs based on inputs from the 'environment' and perspective planning which is a polite euphemism for trawling the Net. The 'environment' is the motley collection of mechanised field formations that generate comments and PowerPoint presentations based on their 'trawling' expertise.

    The end result is that the Army habitually inverts its wants into needs.

    I certainly do not claim any expertise in generic tank design - I dare not do so - but I do claim with conviction that I can contribute to a tank-design effort fruitfully even by merely playing the Devils' advocate.

    In India's case, the starting point for a new MBT design should be the weight limit and, possibly, the dimensions. These would have been a part of the baseline 'needs'. We can go on from there to deciding the design in terms of hull & turret internals, externals and so on. This process is iterative and needs seminal deliberations by users, maintainers, designers and builders. You can not have two or three Lieutenant Generals and a dozen other flag-tank officers of the Armoured Corps reaching a modus vivendi over a weekend at Delhi or Ahmadnagar on the design aspects of a Future MBT. For God's sake - they are not even the stakeholders, nor are they specialists. They have come to the table after being prepped by their staff on a diet of PowerPoint and a worldwide brochure survey of tank performances and sub-system offerings.

    There is a lot to for us to learn about the art and science of requirements' elicitation and specification from the world of software design. True, the stakes involved in tank design are far greater, but the processes and methology used in software design will make the equivalent job in tank design easier i.e to decide between our needs and wants.

    I could rave and rant on.... maybe later.

  31. @ GhorcharrahGabbar

    I do not agree with your contention that we have to develop rockets and nukes because nobody would give us those technologies... (and here you do a leap of logic) while we can buy Renk/MTU powerpacks, so we don't need to develop them.

    The point I'm making is: you can buy rocket and nuke technology more easily (ask my friend Mr AQ Khan in Pakistan if you don't believe me) than you'd ever be able to obtain the key technologies of engine design.

    That you can buy power packs (and not missiles and nukes) only means one thing. That the scientific superpowers realise that you can't do as much harm with their engines as you potentially could with their missiles and nukes. Besides, they can generate good money with those sales... enough to sustain their technology lead indefinitely. And, meanwhile, selling you power packs would further squash competition because there would be a lobby in the buyer country that would argue in favour of off-the-shelf buying rather than the painful process of development.

    The fact is that the route to great power is built not on missile and nuclear warhead technology, but on more widely usable technologies like the ones that go into power packs. And that is why the DRDO's "mission mode" power pack programme has to be supported, both morally and financially.

    They will build on their failures. You can't teach a child how to run by losing patience with his stumbling just as he's on the cusp of learning how to walk. Have some farsightedness, for God's sake!

    The Israeli example is utterly invalid for India. A tiny country like Israel, which has an assured technology relationship with the US, can do without engine technology. Not so an emerging giant like India. We have to have it. And, despite the naysayers and prophets of doom and gloom, the DRDO power pack programme indicates that policymakers have understood this point.

    You're right about the V12 engine for the T-72 not being developed further. But you're wrong on two counts in your deductions about that lapse. Firstly, it is an OFB assembly line manufacture... which is exactly what the MTU/Renk production line will be. In such an arrangement, the technology for key components is not transferred, so there is a limit to what you can extract from such a line. Secondly, it is an OFB line... and MTU/Renk are more likely to work with DRDO than OFB will ever be. The two organisations loathe each other. And so it would take the MoD to bring them together in such an arrangement. And that the MoD never did.

  32. @ Anonymous 10:41

    So tell me, when did Sivakumar join the Arjun programme?

  33. @ Arun

    GhorcharrahGabbar is the genuine article. I happen to know that for a fact.

  34. GhorcharrahGabbar7 January 2012 at 07:08

    @ Broadsword

    My apologies for appearing fixated, but there is not one DRDO-developed engine in service or awaiting production for vehicular propulsion, marine propulsion or aircraft propulsion, nor space propulsion. The previous efforts have been duds - VCR engine, Kaveri GTE etc. Why reinforce failures ? Why, the DRDO could have developed an auxiliary power unit for the Arjun or a smaller one for the T-72/T-90 or the numerous variants of the BMP adapted for specialised roles; the effort requires specialised design technologies (for instance the APU on the M1A2 is based on a Wankel-engine) and would have challenged their intellect. Why does DRDO want to develop a MBT powerpack straightaway ? It is incomprehensible !

    The hundreds of T-55s that we have discarded could be developed into Heavy APCs (HAPCs) as a developmental project of interest to the Army. I had heard of one such prototype that remained just that. The DRDO could optimise the KMT-6 mineplough design to something adapted for deserts instead of the original Tundra-based design. I could go on...

    There is the King Abdullah Design Bureau (KADB), a Jordanian refurbishment and R&D establishment that has done all that DRDO could have been...

    If the DRDO can play a part in the FMBT, it should be in FCS development, ammunition development and digitisation technologies. I can illustrate one such application in the field of signal/image processing wherein the thermal picture from disparate thermal observation devices can be fused and processed for change-detection to trigger a perimeter-intrusion alarm or some such response. A 'thermal' perimeter surveillance system comprising of daisy-chained commanders' / gunners' TI sights of the guard tanks in each troop of a combat team will be invaluable in coordinating local protection of assembly areas and vehicle waiting areas. I believe image-processing or signal-processing is the DRDO's forte so why can't they deliver, or conceptualise such a requirement. It could be modified for similar use by the hand-held thermal imagers that the infantry uses. Why, in case of a fixed / mounted HHTI the image could be processed for change-detection in the thermal picture to produce an audible, remote or vibrating alarm to draw an operator's attention, thereby ensuring that he does not need to have his eyes glues to the HHTI all night long.

    The conflicts in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the utility of specialised anti-personnel ammunition like APAM fired from tanks. The DRDO has not yet got down to the requirement - as the Army may not have asked them to do so. They have yet to succeed at developing out the 81mm smoke grenades fired by the T-72/T-90 or the BMP.

    I have now begun to ramble... in short - the DRDO must do what it is best at, or find out what it is best at. Their biggest problem is a very large transitional scientist population (brain drain) that continuously impedes projects; their second biggest problem is an uninformed, inertial user community that drags the DRDO down under with them.

  35. I agree with Ajai, that India needs a comprehensive program to develop technology for power packs, be it gas turbines for ships and both civilian and combat aircrafts, tank engines and their transmission, diesel engines with AIP system for subs. The whole import TOT bullshit need to be seen through. The defence DPSUs will happily import and assemble because it assures them work without having to compete for it.

  36. In which case his comments are all the more strange. He criticizes DRDO for not having ERA expertise to develop advance ERA but does not even know about this

    Dr A Subanandha Rao, HEMRL Director, said the hybrid armour would take care of tandem warheads and also kinetic energy projectiles aimed at tanks in the battlefield. It would increase the survivability rate of tanks.

    Tandem warheads and kinetic energy projectiles are much more dangerous than the anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that are currently used. The kinetic energy projectiles have rod warhead with multiple sections, each enclosing a projectile and an explosive charge. These can prove to be lethal for the tank and its crew in a tank battle. Most modern-day tanks built by major tank makers in the US and Ukraine are now incorporating the hybrid armour. The tandem warheads also work on similar lines. The hybrid armour will drive back incoming tandem warheads and kinetic energy. It will work almost on the same pattern on which the HEMRL developed the explosive reactive armour (ERA) for the T-72 series of tanks.

    The hybrid armours are likely to be used on the latest Russian-origin T-90 tanks and the indigenous Arjun tanks, Rao said, adding that the Army had been involved at every stage of testing and developing.

  37. We have a major problem with Indian home made recipes. They are largely in the domain of a demotivated DRDO with no passion or penchant for real development. The private sector needs to be supported for constructive R&D.

    However what merits attention before that is what kinds of tanks and equipment are we looking at to fight the wars of the 21st century. Our needs to fight hybrid wars in a short duration intense battle call for small and many approach over big and few. We need to concentrate in developing those capabilities which can alter the battle space geometry by appearing unannounced - a capability which calls for a greater thrust on lighter, lethal and air transportable tanks to beat the terrain friction we shall face along our borders with Pakistan and China.

    To that end we need to concentrate on light tanks in a 1:3 ratio with medium tanks. Heavy lift is another capability we need to concentrate on if we wish to win today's wars with today's means.

    Need to change a lot - in the mind before we go active on gizmos with little meaning in tomorrows wars.

  38. GhorcharrahGabbar7 January 2012 at 21:58

    I lost this part on MBT weight distribution in the flurry of posts that I had put out recently.

    Of the 69 odd tons that the M1A2 (SEP2) weighs, the turret assembly alone is 26.9 tons (combat weight, with ammo); that's approx 42%. In the M1A1 it was 20.4 tons turret for a 60.3 ton tank; that's approx 33% which is a standard yard stick before the Americans added DU to the turret front.

    In case of the Leclerc the turret is estimated to weigh approx 16 tons of the 56 tons MBT weight (approx 28%) - a smaller turret (height) coz of eliminating the loader, but a larger bustle to house the autoloader with 22 rounds. As on date the Arjun turret is also approx 16+ tons (28%) and it is huge with considerable scope for reduction in internal volume (and hence eternal size).

    Which brings me to my point, that in a 50 ton tank, we can easily achieve a weight distribution of 66% (hull): 33% (turret) or trade-offs therein by mere design optimisation. After all the Japanese TX-X prototype mounts a 120mm gun and still weighs below 50 tons.

    I rest my case, thanks to all those who joined in for lively and enlightened reviews.

  39. Ghorcharrah Gabbar, your analysis is very rough and hence may not apply. Note the US tank weighs 60+ tons because of space also allocated for ammunition separation. The Leclerc and Japanese tank neither of which employ ammunition containers for the hull ammo.Basically, employing autoloaders for only the turret ammo and there is also a challenge of reloading the autoloader once the initial turret rounds are spent. The better tanks tend to keep their stowage less complicated which costs space. Basically also please note the threats of today will advance by tomorrow. If the US needs 62 tons to face todays threats, tommorows threats at 50T with APS still mean enough base armour may not exist across several profiles which is what the CVRDE head Sivakumar is referring to.

  40. GhorcharrahGabbar12 January 2012 at 06:06

    Sorry for posting yet again, this time not directly related to the issues under discussion - am much obliged and wiser.

    Just thought that all of us could share the benefit (whatever...) of a decent article on the US developmental choices and travails during the design & development of the Abrams.

    Check out the PDF document 'Critical Technology Events in the Development of the Abrams Tank' at


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