NEW DELHI, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The Indian army will take at least 124 of the controversial Indian-made Arjun tanks by April, according to media reports.
But the army still doubts its performance as the country's proposed main battle tank to replace hundreds of Russian-made T-90 tanks.
W. Selvamurthy, head of research and development at the Defense Research and Development Organization, made the announcement, saying many of the tanks are already being manufactured and getting readied for delivery.
"All of them will get inducted into the armed forces in March and April," Selvamurthy said in a report in the Times of India newspaper. "Other organizations are also giving us orders."
He was speaking at the valedictory function of a training course at the Defense Institute of Advanced Technology at Girinagar, near the city of Pune.
The DRDO project manages the Arjun, which has been designed and is being made by Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment at Avadi, in the state of Tamil Nadu.
But the project has been 35 years in the making, and getting the first batch operational has been a battle in itself, lasting a decade, according to a report in the Hindustan Times newspaper last May.
Around 45 examples are already being used by the army, said the report. Yet the vehicle faces extensive comparative trials with the T-90s to see just how much the military can depend on it.
The Hindustan Times article said the Arjun was plagued with a number of major problems concerning its fire control system, suspension and poor mobility due to its excessive weight, coming in at just under 60 tons. The T-90s weigh in at around 45 tons.
Performance issues rose as early as 2000 prompting the army to begin ordering the T-90s instead of waiting for improvements to, and delivery of, Arjun tanks.
More than 390 T-90s were ordered in 2001, and last November another 347 were ordered. Also, as part of the deal, the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory in India has begun the licensed manufacture of another 1,000 T-90S tanks. The army is also upgrading nearly 700 T-72 tanks.
In July 2008 the army said it needs nearly 1,800 dependable tanks to replace the older Russian T-55 and T-72 tanks. This will be met through the progressive induction of 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S tanks and 124 Arjuns.
The Arjun measures just under 33 feet long and 12 feet wide. Armor is a Kanchan steel-composite sandwich development. A 1,400hp diesel engine gives it an operational range of 280 miles with a speed of 45 mph on roads and 25 mph cross-country.
The 120mm rifled main turret gun can fire the LAHAT anti-tank missile. Secondary armaments are a MAG 7.62mm Tk715 coaxial machine gun and an HCB 12.7mm AA machine gun.
Indian media reported in May 2008 that the tank was found to have low accuracy, frequent breakdown of power packs and problems with the gun barrel. Details of failures during trials were embarrassingly noted in question-and-answer times by ministers and elected representatives in the nation's parliament, the Lok Sabha.
The DRDO said it needs to have up to 300 rolling off the production line in order to see where all the performance issues lie. It wants the army to eventually take at least 500 tanks before any serious upgrades can be considered.
The Arjun tank is named after one of the main characters of the Indian epic poem the Mahabharata. The discussion of life and karma is the longest epic poem in the world, being roughly 10 times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined.
The Arjun news comes just after the end of a joint exercise by the Singapore armed Forces and the Indian army in Devlali, India. Soldiers from the 23rd and 24th Battalion, Singapore Artillery, and the Indian army's 283 Field Regiment took part.
The exercise, which included live firing of the SAF's FH-88 Howitzer guns and 155mm Battery guns from the Indian army, was the fifth in the Agni Warrior series. It began on Oct. 9 and ended Oct. 26.