The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has inked a $2.8 billion contract with the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to license-build 464 additional T-90S main battle tanks (MBTs) for service in the Indian Army.
According to IHS Jane’s, the deal with OFB’s Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) was signed on November 6 and is part of a series of earlier contracts for the license-production of 1,000 T-90S MBTs.
HVF signed contracts in 2006 and 2007 to build 1,000 T-90S Bhishma MBTs. However, under 400 MBTs have been delivered to date.
“The program has faced recurring technological problems for several years, especially with regard to the MBT’s 125 mm smoothbore gun barrel, which has resulted in extended delays and cost overruns” according to IHS Jane’s. These problems have reportedly been resolved.
Notably, the November 6 contract is separate from the planned procurement of another batch of 464 T-90MS for an estimated $1.93 billion from Russia.
Under the yet-to-be signed contract, the T-90S MBTs are set to be delivered in kit form for assembly by HVF in Avadi in southeastern India. Since the early 2000s, the HVF has also assembled 400-450 T-90S tanks imported from Russia in kit form.
The Indian MoD’s Defense Acquisition Council initially approved the procurement of the 464 MS MBTs in kit form in November 2016. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) greenlighted the procurement in April of this year.
According to media reports, the Indian MoD is not willing to sign the contract unless Russian tank maker Uralvagonzavod increases local production of the T-90MS MBT from 40 percent to 80 percent. This will prove difficult to achieve as HVF does not produce engines or transmissions and the MBTs main gun comes factory-fitted from Uralvagonzavod.
The April 2019 contract was also discussed during the a meeting of the 9th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) that took place earlier this month in Moscow.
As I reported in April, Russian-made tanks constitute the backbone of the Indian Army’s armored force :
Russia delivered the first T-90S MBTs to India in January 2004. There are currently around 1,000-1,100 T-90 MBTs of both the MS and Bhishma S variants in service, although the operational readiness rate of the tanks remains unclear. According to one estimate, 850-900 are of the T-90S Bhishma variant. Of the two, the T-90MS MBT is the more advanced design.
The Army also operates the Arjun MK-I tank, an indigenously developed MBT based on the German Leopard II tank design. The 464 Tu-90S MBTs under the November 6 contract are expected to equip 10 armored regiments and will be delivered to the service within four to five years. The Indian Army fields over 3,000 MBTs divided into around 65 armored regiments.