Army scuttles Arjun trials to push through T-90 purchase - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 25 November 2012

Army scuttles Arjun trials to push through T-90 purchase

The T-90MS on display at Defexpo 2012 in Delhi 

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Nov 12

Top army generals are undermining India’s Arjun tank to push through a Rs 10,000 crore order for T-90MS tanks from Russia. Senior defence ministry (MoD) sources tell Business Standard that Arjun trials, proposed for the plains of Punjab, are being scuttled to prevent any high-profile Arjun success from jeopardising the import of more T-90s from Russia.

A proposal from the tank directorate for Arjun trials in Punjab has been placed on the backburner after instructions from the Military Operations (MO) Directorate. The powerful MO Directorate, more than any other branch of the army, deals directly with the army chief.

At stake here is the Rs 10,000 crore purchase of 354 new T-90MS tanks for six tank regiments for the China border. Business Standard had first reported the raising of these regiments (Sept 17, 2012, “In a first, Indian tank brigades to defend China border”). In the proposal that the government is considering for two tank brigades and a mountain strike corps, the army has put in the cost of 354 T-90MS tanks.

These new tanks will supplement the 1657 Russian T-90S, and 2414 T-72M tanks already deployed on the Pakistan border. So far, there are just 128 Arjun tanks in service, with an order for another 118 in the pipeline.

Contacted for comments, the Indian Army denies that the MO Directorate is blocking any trials.

Even as the Arjun tank --- developed in India by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) --- outperforms the T-90 in comparative trials held by the army, support for Russian tanks inexplicably grows. With the Arjun’s performance established, the army is now arguing that the 60-tonne Arjun is too heavy for the soft soil of Punjab and J&K; it must therefore be confined to the deserts of Rajasthan. That would mean that only 4-6 of the army’s 65 tank regiments can operate the Arjun tank.

The DRDO rebuts this logic, as do the tank units that actually operate the Arjun. “The Arjun’s heavier weight is distributed over a larger area because of its larger tracks. Its “nominal ground pressure” is lower than the Russian tanks. So the Arjun can actually move more easily in Punjab,” says S Sundaresh, the DRDO’s Chief Controller of R&D for armoured vehicles.

This is validated by history, says Lieutenant General (Retired) RM Vohra, who won a Mahavir Chakra in the 1971 war while commanding 4 HORSE, a tank regiment equipped with Centurion tanks. He says the 42-tonne Pakistani Patton M-48 tanks got mired in the soft soil of Asal Uttar, in Punjab, while the 51-tonne Centurion moved around that battlefield easily.

The T-90MS, a new, upgraded version of the T-90S that India bought in 2001, is regarded as well suited for the extreme cold of Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where the two new armoured brigades will operate. The Arjun, in contrast, is designed to withstand the heat of the Indian plains, where the T-90S has repeatedly malfunctioned in high temperatures. The T-90S now being built under license at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, near Chennai, have proved less reliable than the Russia-built T-90S that were delivered initially.

“The army is justified in wanting the T-90MS for the China border. But it is wrong in scuttling the induction of the Arjun in Punjab and J&K. The Arjun must be given a fair chance. How can a Russian tank be given preference over an Indian one?” says a senior armoured corps general who is still in service.

The six tank regiments being bought for the China border will be divided between two armoured brigades, one located in Ladakh, and the other one in the north-east. Both sectors have valleys and plateaus in which China could attack with tanks. The new tank formation will safeguard these approaches and also provide a retaliatory capability in case of Chinese attack.


  1. Ask Russia to provide ToT for fighter Jet engine, for buying their tanks, planes, Aircraft-carriers, frigates, missiles. I am sure, there is immense profit for Russia in Indian arms bazaar. But India needs more than just weapons.

  2. its sheer insane,that our military is more incline towards foreign imports than to inhouse material.the main reason behind our faliure in area of R&D is lack of Coordination,cooperation & sense of urgency to develop inhouse capability to minimize imports.Overdependence on foreign imports cripples capability in long term.

  3. Is Antony seeing this. he who stops contracts on mere suspecion should stop this and order fast tracking of a 1000 Arjuns.

  4. pl put your influence there at Army HQ and push Arjun. As an retired Maj General of Armoured Corps, you should have enough influence there.

  5. One should not get taken in by the claims of DRDO that the Arjun can move around easily in Punjab. There are a host of associated issues concerned with engineer and logistics support that are not in place for such a deployment, other than in Rajasthan. An established and proven technology is any day better than a tank that looks like a bus and is an amalgamation of technologies from all over the world. Col Shukla you should stop the blatant and one sided reporting about the Arjun.

  6. The Thar desert and areas from Suratgarh-Jaisalmer are the optimal,primary theatre ideally suited for the Strike Corps to operate - and if the Arjun has outperformed there, then it needs to be produced for that area.
    Responsibility-wise, there should be a lot more tank units than 5-6 ORBAt'd to operate in Rajasthan - they should have a 'horses for courses' approach for the Desert, DCB, and high desert theatres.

  7. "A tank that looks like a bus," sir, suggest you get yourself out of whichever ivory tower you're stuck in and go look up a bus. And how is an "amalgamation of technologies from all over the world," a bad thing, pray?
    And finally, what species of soldier puts up an anonymous comment. I hope you're retired; shudder to think my nation is being defended by people who can't summon the courage to put their name to a comment.

  8. Anonymous at 10:59

    If the Arjun looks like a bus to you, then you probably have no idea about either the Arjun or buses or have serious eyesight issues.

    And where has the T-90 been established and proven? I meant from a superiority angle, else the long list of failures of the T-90 in desert heat, and its comprehensive defeat in comparative tests with the Arjun have firmly and unambiguously "established and proven" its inferiority.

    Engineering and logistics support come with the acquisition of a weapons system. Not the other way around.

    Ajai, congratulations on your promotion to Major General ;)

  9. Order an inquiry into the assets of officers involved. Govt. should tell the army that we will not buy any more tanks from abroad and ask them to work with the DRDO to fix the problems.

  10. While the Russian army has rejected the T-90 series, calling them inadequate and obsolete, the corrupt Indian Army generals and their corrupt buddies in MoD glady want to take in an inferior product.


  11. I will add another point to Mr Ajai Shukla about T-90MS, T-90MS is actually a flawed design, It design is worst than T-90S, The best is to upgrade T-90S rather purchase T-90MS, I will provide some proof of my point :

    1. T-90MS roof is inclined towards the frontal armour, the roof top have no composite armour is just 10-20mm thick RHA plate that can be penetrated with 50cal / auto cannon / RPG anything that is anti-tank or AP..

    2. T-90MS roof top dont have full cover of ERA tiles, there are big gaps..

    3. Even T-72 & LEO2 A4 have roof penetrations..

    I can only say the greed and corruption will cost Soldiers life and there family..

  12. Also i would like to add, If we are going for foreign tanks one should conduct MRCA type evaluation, It happened in Greece and right now in US for ICV..

  13. pl put your influence there at Army HQ and push Arjun. As an retired Maj General of Armoured Corps, you should have enough influence there.

    congratulations Shukla. That should make your life if not the day.

  14. Interaction with the armoured corps officers only indicate that while the Arjun has the better gun, better drivetrain, better armour and better electronics than the T-90, the sum of its parts is actually less than the value of its individual components. The common opinion is that the botched amalgamation of all the top notch technology makes it a inferior weapon system when compared to the T-90.

    So, maybe the Indian Army is correct but its about time we mastered at least the technology required to make a world class artillery gun or infantry rifle or a tank or a fighter aircraft or a submarine or...........

    Lets concentrate all our ability, our resources and energy in getting one thing right so that we cut down oru dependence on imports.

  15. Can you establish that there is an illegitimate and malafide motive behind Army's choice of T-90MS as against DODO's Arjun?

    If yes, come out with it.

    If not, then you wish the decision to field a tank be made by interested journalist like you?

    Come of it Shukla Ji. Choice of a weapon is not "democracy" nor "technocracy". It is solely a "military" decision.

  16. "T-90 tank: Technology transfer, supply of assemblies hit Russian stonewall" in 28.11.2011, report in Broadsword, states that we got T-90s without gun & turret armour because classified tech. So, what will we get from the most modern T-90MS??
    How Challenger-2 & Leopard-2 are performing in Europe??

  17. A pro-Russian person on BR claims that the Patton has 0.88 / sq cm pressure, whereas the Centurion as 0.95 kg / (though I can't vouch for the authenticity of his source).

    What do you or Lieutenant General (Retired) RM Vohra have to say to that ?

  18. Just order an enquiry. No more foriegn tanks are needed in India. If Arjun mk2 is good, then there is need for contest at all, buy 2000 Arjun mk2's directly. Also order an enquiry into these matter.
    Ajai sir, please yourself involve in this and try to speak with our defence minister. I am sure you will have some influence.

  19. Col.Shukla why not do a TV story on how the Arjun program was scuttled repeatedly atleast it would be an honour for the scientists who have given their blood and sweat for this program or for that lead scientist who died tragically in an accident while on his way to monitor the trials this summer of the MK2

  20. ----1657 Russian T-90S

    This number includes non built indian licence production T-90S.

  21. T-90 should be promoted based upon its own real requirements and capabilities on our borders. However this exercise should not be done by undermining the almost proven capabilities of the Arjun.

  22. Rahul Samanta(Kolkata)26 November 2012 at 17:33

    @Anonymous 26 Nov 2012 18:15:

    I don't know whether you, as a 'chamcha' of Army Chief or Military Operations Directorate does get a percentage of the commission money that comes with foreign equipments or not, but can you please prove that the Army 'does not' have a malafide motive behind scuttling the Arjuns? When the Arjuns(and that too MK1) were pitted against T90 in 2010 in comparative trails, who won? By how much margin? Did the Army said at that time that there may be some sabotage of T90 during the trails so that it couldn't perform properly....The answer is an equivocal NO. They accepted the supeority of Arjuns...Before the trails they were saying that Arjun technology will become obsolete in 10 years...By that logic, T90 will become obsolete in 2 years!!! lol because they lost to Arjuns....

    Loosers like you and the Army Generals(and not the soldiers who actually fight) will always try to prove to the world that everyone else, including journalists are blind to everything and the people of this country can be made fools...It is not your fault....You and the generals have inherited these traits from your forefathers who in turn learned it from the political diaspora of the day...Its a shame that this is continuing even today.....

  23. Dear Ajai,

    Very good article.


  24. Awesome article old man.. Finally journalist critiquing Indian laziness, unimaginative approach to solving problems such as buying things for God sake hope India doesn't turn out to be like Arabs.. Let's all hope.

  25. Arjun tank is by far more superior and more capable in comparison to T-72 which indian army wanted to upgrade about 1000 of it, if these amount is allotted to purchase of at lest 500 new Arjuns. I think Indian army is more beneficial than drdo, more over drdo is always there in life time service provider in any eventuality rather than its russian counter part.

  26. instead of buying new t 90ms, available t 90s should be transfered to the chinese front and more arjun should be ordered as replacement on the western front


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