Exclusive: Faced with stubborn Army, DRDO hunts for third party quality inspector for Arjun MBT

It's been a sombre week for the Arjun main battle tank. Last week, the Army's DG Mechanised Forces Lt Gen Dalip Bharadwaj said that the Army would place no further orders beyond the 124 already indented for with the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) at Avadi. That alone has been the cherry on top for a morbid quarter for the tank programme. The Army is still stubbornly resistant to comparative trials of the Arjun with the T-90 and T-72. And earlier this year, the tank's gearbox failed during accelerated usage cum reliability trials at Pokhran. It now appears that the DRDO has lost faith in the Army as well.

According to my sources at Avadi, the CVRDE is now scouting for a "third party quality assurance agency" to undertake the inspection and quality assurance of the manufacture of the running gear, hydro-pneumatic suspension and track adjuster, manufactured by BEML, Kirloskar Pneumatic Company (KPC) Limited and KGF respectively.

Currently, CVRDE is the "inspecting authority" of all tanks produced by HVF. But it appears convinced that an outside certificate of approval is now necessary as a last ditch effort to persuade an obstinate Army. The agency will be identified by next month following a tender process -- the agency can be Indian or foreign.

The uproar over Arjun continues limitlessly, but one thing is clear. There is still no clear logic from the Army about why it refuses to conduct the promised comparative trials of the Arjun with the two Russian types. Enough has been said about the rationale, so I won't say more, though the clamour has gotten louder, and it's making the Army (or at least some of its generals) look like it's/they've got something to hide.

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