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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Indian Army unsure about Arjun tank's role
May 2, 2007 - 9:36:46 PM
Of these, 186 were built at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.

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[RxPG] Pallu -, May 2 - The Indian Army seems unimpressed with the indigenously developed Arjun main battle tank - that has been 34 years in the making - and is unsure about the role in which it can be deployed.

These are the conclusions that can be drawn by the remarks of the army chief, Gen. J.J. Singh, during a war game conducted in Rajasthan's Thar Desert at which limited numbers of the Arjun were seen in action.

'We have to make sure the troops are not exposed to any disadvantage,' Singh replied cryptically when asked about Arjun's performance during the five-day Exercise Ashwamedh April 29-May 3. A squadron of 14 Arjuns was deployed during the drill.

Singh was speaking to reporters here on the penultimate day of the exercise Wednesday. Pallu is located some 400 km from Rajasthan capital Jaipur.

'If improvements are required in the system, it will be pointed out -,' the army chief maintained.

'We will draw lessons from the exercise on which area they - can be best exploited,' he added.

While not officially going on record, the army is known to be extremely unhappy with the Arjun, having listed 14 defects that need to be rectified.

These include a deficient fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally deserts - and its inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius.

At a review meeting with the DRDO last month, Defence Minister A.K. Antony is known to have asked the organisation to get its act together to rectify these defects or the government might have to take another look at the entire programme.

Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence has, in two reports earlier this year, remarked adversely on the slow pace of Arjun's development and asked the DRDO to quicken the process.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement - for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, the DRDO had announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.

Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne vehicle with a 120 mm gun.

The tank was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s. However, delays in the Arjun project, and Pakistan's decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine, prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.

Of these, 186 were built at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.

With the Arjun development delayed still further, India last year signed a fresh contract with Russia to buy another 330 T-90s.

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