Crucial Arjun Mk.2 User Trials From June 1

Image Courtesy Ajai Shukla / Broadsword
On May 10, the improved Arjun Mk.2 main battle tank prototype is all set to roll into the Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan for a week of firing trials. Formal user trials with the Indian Army are scheduled to commence on June 1. Much rides on the results of these trials, and expectations are high. At the very least, an indent -- or conditional intention to buy memorandum -- for 124 Mk.2 tanks depends on the tank performing on expected lines during these (and potentially, future rounds of) trials.

The Arjun Mk.2 trials come just weeks after Russia displayed an improved version of the T-90 tank at Defexpo 2012, and the timing is no coincidence. Russia has made it all but officially clear that the T-90 is superior in all respects to the Arjun, though this was hardly borne out in comparative trials between the Russian tank and an Arjun Mk.1 in 2010 (the DRDO says the Russian tank was uniformly drubbed). It isn't difficult to see, however, that the Arjun's loss is the T-90's gain, and vice versa. It is at this juncture and this atmosphere that the Arjun Mk.2 trials are set to commence, and for these reasons that they will be watched closely by stakeholders. Also:

* If the Arjun Mk.2 is not a success, the overall Arjun programme will be a dead loss, since the programme needs a minimum supply order, overall, of 500 tanks to amortize project costs.

* The T-90 license build programme hasn't been without problems, and years after the production line came up, there remain issues.

* The Arjun Mk.2 is crucial in every respect to the Army's faith and confidence in the FMBT that it wants from the DRDO.

The heavier Arjun Mk.2 incorporates some 93 improvements on the Mk.1 tank, 124 of which are already in operational service in two tank regiments in the Army.

Personally, nothing would be more satisfying than to see the Arjun Mk.2 meet all requirements. It is truly sad that India has to continue to cookie-cut Russian tanks at great cost, especially at a time when the paradigm of the land battle is in a process of deep transformation anyway.

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