Homegrown Tank Engine Project Begins

"It is proposed to take up a project on Development of 1500 HP Engine in the XI Five Year Plan. Preliminary Design Work has already commenced."

This was the testimony provided by the Defence Ministry on behalf of DRDO to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence for its fourteenth report, tabled in March this year and was in response to questions on the MBT Arjun programme. And, according to this piece in DefenseNews, work has begun.

The 1400 HP engine manufactured by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH (photo ©Copyright MTU) will power the first 124 Arjun tanks, though the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment has, according to the DefenseNews report, floated a "domestic and global expression of interest (EoI)" on October 31 for the co-development of a "1,500-horsepower Compact High Specific Power Output Diesel Engine". Officials at the laboratory had alluded to this when I was at Avadi for the Arjun MBT special report a few weeks ago, so it's finally now in motion.

This is good news. The MTU powerpack, coupled with the gunner's main sight (GMS) and tracks account for 58 per cent of the cost of a single Arjun tank. It seems reasonable to assume that MTU itself will offer to build the 1,500HP engine with DRDO, though there will of course be other, possibly more efficient, competitors.

Here's what the MoD had to say in March to the House Panel on Defence about manufacturing tank powerpacks in India: "Suitable indigenous power Packs are not available for application in MBT. Indigenous production of power pack through license production is feasible with enhanced production order for MBT Arjun considering the economy of scale. A project for developmentof indigenous power pack is planned in XI Five Year Plan."

Not much headway has been made on an indigenous GMS -- an indigenous laser range finder, day sight, thermal imager and fire control computer won't be part of the Arjun until beyond the hopeful second batch order. Here's what the MoD had to say about it: "There are few vendors in the world who can manufacture gunner’s main sight. DRDO is developing indigenous gunner’s main sight. It is likely to mature and be available beyond 124 tanks."

And finally, the tracks -- when I was at Avadi, I got the picture about why we're still importing tracks: the indigenously made rubber-coated metal pins that hold the indigenous track links together couldn't withstand the friction. The rubber would fray quickly allowing the pin's metal to come into contact with the track's metal, thereby quickly distorting it and resulting in a mobility breakdown. Since DRDO is still developing resistant rubber for those pins, we're importing the entire track assembly. Shouldn't take long though -- the CVRDE has apparently asked for this technology as well from some specialist agencies abroad. And this is what the MoD said in March: "Indigenoustrack is in advanced stage of development. It will be available for Arjun production tanks beyond 124 Nos."

Will post here in detail shortly on the Army's GSQR 2020, on its requirement of a supertank already expressed to the CVRDE. Oh, and have a chilled out Diwali if you're into that sort of thing.

Labels: , ,