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India’s light tank debate crosses shores

Sandeep Unnithan
Sandeep UnnithanJul 27, 2020 | 11:12

India’s light tank debate crosses shores

The PLA’s aggressive deployment in eastern Ladakh and its potential of quickly escalating into a full-blown conflict has seen the Indian army going in for fast track purchases to meet equipment shortfalls.

The PLA’s aggressive deployment in eastern Ladakh and its potential of quickly escalating into a full-blown conflict has seen the Indian army going in for fast track purchases to meet equipment shortfalls. On the list is a requirement for up to 300 air-transportable light tanks. There is a debate underway within the government — a section of the establishment favours imports, another wants the light tanks to be built indigenously.

main_modi-on-vajra_072720110516.jpgPM Modi on a K9 Vajra at the inauguration of the L&T facility in Hazira, Surat in 2019. (Photo: Twitter/ @narendramodi)

Top candidates for fast track imports include Russia’s 18-ton Sprut light tank. The Sprut’s 125 mm main gun, derived from Russian MBTs, means commonality of ammunition with the army’s existing T-90 and T-72 tanks. The Russian side indicates that the first 20 tanks could be made available in a few months. The indigenous alternative is a DRDO- L&T team up for a 35-ton tank based on the army’s in-service K9 ‘Vajra’ 155 mm self-propelled howitzer. The 100th unit of the Vajra, based on the Hanwha Techwin K-9, is to be delivered to the army this December. It was part of a Rs 4,500 crore contract signed in 2017 with all guns built indigenously by L&T at its Hazira plant. Discussions over the last two years have picked up speed. The project aims to field the first three tank prototypes in 18 months at a project cost of under Rs 200 crore. The DRDO design swaps the K9’s 155/52 mm howitzer with a modular turret and 105 mm gun made by Belgian firm John Cockerel Defence SA. The gun can fire at a 42-degree elevation, suited for mountain warfare. L&T’s highly automated production line set to be idle by the year-end can churn these tanks at a rate of nearly 100 tanks a year. The K9 light tank’s 1000 Horse Power engine will give it a power-to-weight ratio of 28 HP/ tonne.

What might finally happen — as CDS General Bipin Rawat has indicated in the past — is a balance between desi and videshi. The Army might end up importing a regiment of tanks (45 vehicles) and opt for indigenous tanks to make up the numbers.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: July 27, 2020 | 11:12
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