New Delhi: The Indian Army and the country's premier defence research organization the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will jointly carry out comparative trials of the indigenously developed Main Battle Tanks (MBT) 'Arjun' and the Russian T-90S 'Bhishma' this summer. The face-off, which has been put off repeatedly for reasons unknown, has been on the cards for quite some time and is slated for the month of June.
If successful, the trials are expected to pave the way for rapid induction of the Arjun MBT into service. The army has been resisting placing large orders for the Arjun MBT saying that the indigenously designed and built tank represented "mid-level" technology as compared to the Russian T-90S 'Bhishma's more cutting edge technologies.
The DRDO may suggest that the Arjun is yet to be tested on a level playing field. Certainly, reports emerged last year which suggested that the Arjun had failed tests in the summer heat of Indian deserts, which drew quick rebuttals from DRDO and the ministry of defence.
Both the entities then hinted that the evaluation process may have had some glitches. Minister of state for defence production Rao Inderjit Singh went so far as to suggest "sabotage" as being a reason behind the tanks performing below expectations during the trials
DRDO has long argued that for proper maturity of indigenously developed technologies large orders from user agencies are a must. Compared to the Arjun's meager 124, the T-90S Bhishma has already garnered a mindboggling 1,657 orders from the Army.
The overall MBT force structure proposed in 2006 would suggest a force of 2,473 higher-end tanks (1,657 T-90 Bhishma, 124 Arjun tanks, and 692 upgraded T-72M1 Ajeya). These numbers are likely to have changed and a force level closer to 3,800 MBTs may be likely.
"The comparative trials of Arjun tanks with the Russian-made T-90s would take place this summer in June, before the army gets to induct the indigenously developed tanks," a defence ministry source said.
The trial in June, sources said, would be the first of the series under which the army and the DRDO would test and compare technologies and capabilities of the two tanks. They also suggested that both the tanks would be subjected to various other comparative tests in the coming months and the whole process would likely be completed by June 2010.
Detailed analysis of the tests would be carried out after the trials.