The Indian Army has inducted its first Arjun Main Battle Tank armored regiment.
16 tanks were inducted to bring the 43rd Armored Regiment up to its strength of 45 and have been handed over to Lieutenant General D Bhardwaj, Director General Mechanized Forces (DGMF) by S Chandrasekar, Addl. DGOF (AV) after being flagged-off by Dr. A Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller, Research & Development & Distinguished Scientist, DRDO at Avadi.
The Arjun has been designed and developed by Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment(CVRDE), Avadi along with other DRDO and industrial partners. The Arjun features Kanchan Armour, hydro-pneumatic suspension, armament system, Integrated Fire Detection & Suppression System, system engineering and system integration of complex weapon platforms are some of the significant indigenous technologies of Arjun, developed by DRDO labs.
12 prototypes developed between 1983 and 1990 were subjected to field trials of more than 20,000 kilometers and 1100 rounds. Based on user feedback 15 pre-production vehicles were developed between 1990 to 1995, which were subjected to further field trials of more than 70,000 kms and 8000 rounds. After satisfactory trials, the army placed an indent initially for 15 limited series production in November 1997 and cumulatively 124 units in March 2000.
Since there was a long gap from the R&D phase to production phase from 1993 to 2000, challenges arose related to re-establishing production lines and vendor sources and resolving overseas issues like technology denial in view of the Pokhran tests, change over and mergers of OEMS for critical items and delayed initial commencement of production. In order to meet the production requirement, additional infrastructure facilities and machine tools were established at Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi and Ordnance Factory, Medak. However, the first pilot batch of production tanks was handed over to the army on 7th August 2004 in the presence of the then Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
During subsequent production, Army insisted upon the demonstration of medium fording capabilities of the Arjun. Both CVRDE and HVF worked to meet the stringent requirement of medium fording to a height of 2.1 meters of water with a preparation time of 30 minutes as a retro-fitment solution and successfully demonstrated it to Defense Minister AK Antony on 2nd July 2007. Subsequently, the production tanks were incorporated with all medium fording modifications and the next batch of nine tanks were handed over by September 2007.
Meanwhile, the army carried out the Accelerated Usage Cum Reliability Trials (AUCRT) in 5 phases on two tanks from November 2007 to August 2008 covering more than 8000 km and 800 rounds of firing in each tank. AUCRT is required for assessing the spares requirement for the entire life of the tank besides evaluation of reliability of tank. Each phase consists of a 1000 kilometers run and 100 EFC (Approximately 160 rounds of APFSDS and HESH – Primary and secondary rounds) over a temperature range of -5 to 500 degrees C. One of the main issues during AUCRT trials was the failure of the bearings of Transmission of M/s RENK, Germany, due to rise in lubricating oil temperature. However, this was immediately solved by modifying the software during AUCRT itself and the efficacy of which was proved for more than 4000 kilometers. However, a comprehensive solution of modifying the bearing assembly by providing a special coating was carried out to take care of the temperature problem and the retrofitting of bearing assembly was carried out on all tanks.
The outcome of the AUCRT trials was found satisfactory and the production tanks were cleared for induction, with minor modifications suggested during the trials. Both the CVRDE and the HVF along with DGQA (Directorate General Quality Assurance) agencies worked out methodologies to introduce all AUCRT modifications within the possible shortest time frame and the next batch of 17 tanks were handed over to Army by March 3, 2009.
As suggested by Army after AUCRT trials, Arjun tanks were subjected to rigorous trials and assessment by a third party audit (an internationally reputed tank manufacturer). After extensive evaluation, the reputed tank manufacturer confirmed that the Arjun to be an ‘excellent tank with very good mobility and fire power characteristics, suitable for the Indian desert’. They also added inputs such as quality auditing, production procedures and refined calibration procedures for further enhancing the performance of the Arjun. DRDO, will be incorporating all these inputs in the next regiment of 62 tanks before handing them over to the army by March 2010.
The regiment of 45 tanks will be subjected to a conversion training and field practice for a period of 3 months. Thereafter, the Army is planning to conduct a comparative trial with T 90 tanks in October-November 2009 to assess the operational deployment role of the tanks. The present batch of 124 tanks will be delivered by March 2010.