The Indian Army has accepted an improved version of the Arjun main battle tank (MBT), designated Arjun MK1-A, for service following a month-long validation trial in the Indian state of Rajasthan, according to local media reports.
The trials were completed at the end of December 2018. The production of the first batch of Arjun MK1-A MBTs is likely to commence in the coming months at the Indian Ordnance Factory’s production facility in Avadi in southern India. Overall, the Indian Army is expected to receive 118 new Arjun MK1-A MBTs in the coming years.
The new version reportedly has a total of 14 new upgrades over the existing version. These include an auto-target tracker, an automatic gear system, and an upgraded suspension system. Fitted with a 120-millimeter gun and displacing a weight of 68 tons, the new Mk1-A is still considered to be too heavy by the Indian Army.
The Arjun MK1 tank, based on the German Leopard II MBT design, was designed and developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) back in the 1980s. Notably, the DRDO MBT design concept was flawed from the beginning. The tank was too heavy and had too little horsepower. The project was shelved on multiple occasions by Indian defense ministers, which resulted in a development time span of over four decades. The Indian Army was still ordered to procure 124 Arjun MK1 tanks by the Indian MoD.
Around 80 Arjun MK1 MBTs have been operationally deployed with the service to date, half of which, however, remain grounded for technical reasons. As I reported previously, in 2016 75 percent of Arjun MK1 MBTs were found defective due to various technical problems — e.g., the tanks’ transmission system, targeting, and thermal sights were malfunctioning or underperforming — and missing spare parts. In total, 90 separate technical issues were recorded.
The DRDO has been working an improved version of the Arjun, the MK2, which reportedly features more than 93 improvements over the MK1. About 60 percent of the components of the tank are locally manufactured (the first batch of MK1 had less than 30 percent), which makes it less dependent on foreign imports in order to avoid spare part bottlenecks. The Indian Army has reportedly placed an order for 118 Arjun MK2 MBTs.
The Arjun MK1-A MBT is an interim step between the MK1 and MK2. “The Army was okay with the ‘MK1-A’ version, but wants the next version to be lighter than its present weight of 68 tons,” the Tribune News Service reports. The DRDO has reportedly modified the tank’s chassis to reduce the overall weight of the Arjun MK2 by three tons.