Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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.


sniperz11 said...

An excellent post shiv. Thanks for clearing up a lot of questions.

More info about the Tank development is found at the tender document released by DESIDOC. As can be seen, its been on the tables for some time now.

The Indigenous engine will be comparable to the MTU 890 series engines being developed, at 40% of the cost. the 890 is the most advanced engine being tested today- its half the size of the MTU MB873 on the Leopard 2A4, and is much more fuel efficient.

As for the Arjun, the present MTU 838 engine in service is old, big and fuel hungry... its the same engine that was in service on the LEOPARD-1 tank in the late 1960s.

The info about the tracks was interesting... please provide more details like this about your AVADI trip.

P.S. Happy Diwali to all.

Mihir said...

Why not let Kirloskar Oil Engine Co. develop the engine? They have a lot of experience in designing and building large diesels. Or maybe even M&M - they make excellent diesel engines, and might be willing to develop something larger than the current CRDe.

Mihir said...

Something interesting, though totally unrelated:

M&M, Warrenville in joint venture for diesel engines

sniperz11 said...

A high sp. power engine is a totally different ball game... its easy to build a diesel engine. Its slightly more difficult to build a bigger one and join up many cylinders, but its possible. Now, try to add that many cylinders, keep the same power, reduce the size to a quarter of the original, and increase the rpm. And improve its reliability and ruggedness... you see the problem.

Kirloskar may be good at making small diesel engines. I think they've built engines of around 580 h. But increasing the power from 500 hp to 1500 hp entails an exponential increase in difficulty.

Coming to MBT engines, the kind of expertise you're looking for exists with very very few firms... Wartsila, Perkins Condor, and the Russians. Honeywell has expertise with Gas turbines, but they are being phased out.

MTU is the best and has the most experience, beating the others by a mile. The US guys are looking at MTU for their engines. They bought 6 890 engines in 2002 for testing for their future ICVs. The Koreans, Israelis and others license produce the MTU engines for their tanks.

We'll need MTU or someone else to teach us the basics and guide the project. Once the expertise is built up, Kirloskar, M&M and Tatas can take over.

Mihir said...

That is the entire point. Why ask DRDO to start from scratch when the private sector already has experience in this field? Granted, they don't make tank engines (though the Kirloskars make 11,000 hp marine engines), but five years back, they didn't have common rail tech either.

sniperz11 said...

I just explained it Mihir, MBT engines are a totally different ball game altogether, something thats far from a 11,000 hp marine engine. There is no expertise in that area. Which is why DRDO needs to build it up. Once thats done, we can bring in the private firms.

Anonymous said...


You are wrong about the GMS

its already in trials and all the hardware is ready, and so is the software. whats left is finetuning and that should take 1-2 years.

Anonymous said...

i was at avadi last year when they said they were testing the gms..dont know what goes into it but it was definitely the local one not the imported one

ok and ur wrong about it going on the s2nd batch

'coz the first batch of 124 will get the imported gms
second batch wud get the indian gms

so its not beyond 2nd batch its the 2nd batch

happy diwali

Shiv Aroor said...

anon: happy diwali. actually you're quite wrong. first of all, the GMS is not being tested at avadi. second, you went last year? i went a few weeks ago. and i was told that the indigenous GMS still has some issues to be ironed out, which will be done in partnership with a foreign firm. the 50 Arjuns are to complete delivery by next year. so even if it took two years for the indigenous GMS to be ready, it wouldn't part of batch 2. and we're talking of batch 2, though that's the real question isn't it! will the army order more. if yes, how many more?

Anonymous said...

shiv, no you are wrong again

i never said they tested the gms at avadi

i said i was at avadi and they told me they were testing the gms, got it?

ok the stuff they are talking about "issues 2 be resolved" is upgrading the gms with a new optical autotracker, thats coz the new GMS for batch 2mk2 whatever u call it for next order iof Arjun has to be even better than current arjun

the basic indian GMS has its hardware and software ready and is same as the imported one
in any trials integration is the ky part

they had a couple at the DRDO lab where they were ready for installation into a gun tank for prototype trials and the trials went well i should know coz i know about the software rig

we didthe test rig for both the gms we did the documentation as well we bid for the sukhoi contract too but it went to someone else

Anonymous said...

another thing i remember is that indian gms is like the original arjun gms now on arjun from abroad
its like got asll the stuff u said and is ok

but next gms has to be with everything as part of one block with functional LU (??) spelling

its gotta have laser missile capability also not addition to gms like now but within it

dont know whether u understood
so they have to upgrade it

Mihir said...

Sniper, a tank engine, as you rightly pointed out, is one which is designed to meet some very stringent criteria, but it still is a diesel engine, not a cryogenic booster! The Kirloskar Group or M&M might not have the tech to develop one now, but that doesn't detract from the fact that they possess far greater expertise in this field than DRDO does. They will be in a far better position to solve development problems because of their previous experience. And yes - they will also be in a better position to arm-twist all and sundry to ensure induction of the tank on time ;)

sniperz11 said...

Mihir, by that logic, we should be asking RC plane manufacturers to build our future UCAV... after all they have more experience building UAVs. Or you should have asked Infosys to write the FCS for the LCA. After all, they have experience with computers.

Its possible to ask Kirloskar and Co. to develop a tank engine, but expect that project to take years. Normal Engine mfrs will take forever just to learn the technologies involved. Its a totally different ball game from just making diesel engines.

Instead, send a contract to MTU or Wartsila, bring in the Private Cos as well, and collaborate to develop an engine. You'll save years of time.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Tata and Mahindra have gone to AVL, Austria for developing their 2.2 liter , 140 hp engines compliant with Euro III & iv. So how does that make India (not just DRDO) capable of making a 1500 hp, enginer (forget compact , efficiency etc.)

Mihir said...

Mihir, by that logic, we should be asking RC plane manufacturers to build our future UCAV... after all they have more experience building UAVs.

A UCAV as a system is far more complex and encompasses many more subsystems than an RC aeroplane. But a basic UAV flown by remote control and used for tactical recon could be developed by an RC plane manufacturing company is far less time than a new company with *zero* experience in that field. This experience would be instrumental in helping solve many developmental hiccups in a jiffy.

Or you should have asked Infosys to write the FCS for the LCA. After all, they have experience with computers.

That is a strawman argument. Infosys is into services, not product development. Also, a thorough understanding of flight dynamics is an essential part of FCS design. The software itself comes into the equation much later. I don't see any such similarities in the Kirloskar/M&M case.

Normal Engine mfrs will take forever just to learn the technologies involved.

Just like they took forever to learn a technology as complex and different as common rail injection? Engine manufacturers would do the job much faster than DRDO. By all means, collaborate with Warstila, MTU, or Uralvagonzavod for the technology, but it makes little sense to ask the DRDO to start from scratch if the private sector already has the kind of experience that will drastically reduce the development time.

sniperz11 said...

Mihir, I just posted the UCAV and Infosys as examples and metaphors rather than discussion points, and not as a discussion point. so I'll leave that for now.

As for expertise, Engine Mfrs are good... and I'm sure that DRDO will involve them. And I'm happy that you agreed that we need collaboration with MTU et al. Thats my point too.

But what makes you think that DRDO doesn't have experience with engine mfr. It has two labs- VRDE and CVRDE which have experience with this. So I wouldn't say that DRDO has zero experience.

Secondly, in many cases, the pvt firms are only license manufacturing engines. For eg, Tata Indica was mostly designed abroad. In many cases, these guys buy the tech from abroad. Also, like I said, there is a huge huge difference between a 100 Hp truck engine and a 1500 hp high sp. power tank engine that should have stringent reliability and operating standards. Just because the these companies have experience with small diesel engines doesn't mean that they can handle this, nor that we cut DRDO out of the eqn.

Thirdly, why remove DRDO.. they are developing the Arjun, and are closely tied with the users. Its obvious that they're in the best position to create a product that the user will want, and can easily identify user needs (at least better than M&M). its stupid to remove them

Ultimately, DRDO has adequate experience with engines, has close knowledge of the user needs and the tech required, as well as the military needs of the system, and they have close ties with foreign engine mfrs. Kirloskars, M&M and Tata have only the slight advantage of PROBABLY knowing slightly more about low power engines.

So who will you choose to work with MTU- DRDO or M&M. I'd choose DRDO. M&M can take part as well, in an observatory role, as a future license mfr. That would also help them gain exposure to engine tech and research. But if you're suggesting that they be involved to learn how, sorry... this project should be like a PhD, where both the teacher and student can bring something to the table, and know what they're doing, and not like a Kindergarten school where the teacher shows the kids the way to class.

Anonymous said...

DRDO is very good at starting new projects with catchy names and several foriegn trips, wastage of several 100 crores of money and after awarding gold medals for outstanding achievement awards to some of their young scientists, one fine day an announcement will come that the engine is only a technology demonstrator and close the lid on the coffin with a RIP stone. Its time to plug DRDO high tech Nautanki.

Anonymous said...

Shiv, would like you to comment on the news report,Is it new tank development program? Does Arjun in its present form 58 ton is history?
The Indian Army has sought a new generation main battle tank (MBT) even as it reluctantly prepares to receive the homegrown Arjun tank that has been over three decades in the making.

'What we have today is mid-level technology. What we need is a tank of international quality,' Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor said Tuesday.

'I have no doubt that the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) will be able to develop indigenous capabilities for coming up with a better answer and more versatile armoured fighting vehicle (than Arjun) in the future,' he added while speaking at the inaugural session of an international seminar on Armoured Fighting Vehicles, the first to be held here.

Kapoor's remarks were a clear indication that even as the Indian Army prepares to induct its first squadron of 14 Arjuns, it is not too happy with the tank.


Anonymous said...

I had a general question about India's tank purchases... why is India buying so many T-90s? I mean, how many do we need? Why is the Army expecting to have such a huge conventional military superiority against Pakistan by ordering so many T-90s at such huge cost to the nation? Isn't the Arjun good enough to fight the Pak T-80s and Al-Khalids? My opinion is that we're overspending on these gizmos. India has never historically been that strong vis-a-vis our neighbors? By insisting on military parity with China and superiority over Pakistan, we're going to overspend ourselves into the dustbin. What Reagan did to the USSR is what we will do to ourselves!