India-China Row: Indian Army Starts Hunt For Stealthy, AI-Enabled, Next-Gen Tanks

As India, China border standoff drags on, the Indian Army is keen to acquire 1,700 hi-tech Future Ready Combat Vehicles (FRCVs), which are expected to have some AI and stealth features. 

The move, part of India’s military modernization process, is aimed at replacing the older T-72M/M1 Ajeya main battle tanks. 

According to a Request of Information (RFI), the Ministry of Defense has put forward a number of technical requirements. The FRCVs should be able to operate in a wide range of terrains, including on-road and off-road conditions, as well as areas of high-altitude, plains, and deserts.

The RFI published on June 1 says the FRCV must have the capability to destroy a variety of land targets which may comprise Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), armored vehicles, drones, and helicopters. It should be fitted with a remotely operated weapon station and anti-aircraft combat equipment to counter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The requirements of the MOD also include some high-end onboard equipment. The FRCV must also be laced with artificial intelligence (AI) and stealth features. It should also be capable of operating in a both network-centric and electronic warfare environment.

russian t14 armata battle tank 3d 3ds | Tanks military, Battle tank, Tank
File Image: Russian T-14 Armata Tank

ThePrint reported that the procurement process will be done in a phased manner and is expected to be completed by 2030. The procurement process will include a transfer of technology, performance-based logistics, engineering support packages, and other maintenance and training requirements.

The MOD has set a deadline of September 15 to receive replies from prospective vendors.

Ajeya Battle Tanks

The FRCVs will eventually replace the old Russian-designed T- 72 M/M1 Ajeya MBTs, according to Army Recognition.

The T-72 M1 Ajeya is a Russian- made upgraded version of T-72 MBT. Weighing 46,500 kg, its major armaments include one 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore gun, one 7.62 mm PKT machine gun, one 12.7 mm NSVT machine gun along with 12 smoke-grenade dischargers.

The Military Balance 2020 puts the number of MBTs operated by the Indian Army at 3,565. These include 122 Arjun, 2,418 T-72M/M1 Ajeya, 1025 T-90s, and 1,100 tanks of various models.

Till the induction of the FRCVs, the Arjun Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) will continue in thei service with the Indian Army.

Arjun MK II

The Arjun MK II or MK 1A is a new generation of MBT. Designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), it was unveiled at the Republic Day Parade of 2014.

The Arjun MK II is an improvement of the Arjun MBT MK I, and includes features like superior firepower, higher mobility, and better protection. The mobility characteristics of the Arjun MK II have been found to be useful to be operated in the desert conditions of Rajasthan, and DRDO has recently launched the battle tank for user trials in the state.

Weighing 68 tons, it is equipped with a 120 mm main gun. Its accessories include a laser range finder, a computerized fire control, an auxiliary power unit, thermal night vision and laser warning. Equipped with a GPS navigation system and NBC protection system, the Arjun MK series also has an integrated fire detection and suppression system.

In February 2021, the MOD granted its approval to acquire 118 indigenously manufactured Arjun Mark 1-A or ‘hunter-killer ‘.

The ‘hunter-killer’ is a new version of the indigenous tanks. In comparison to the Arjun main battle tank (MBT), they have an all-weather capability, better firepower, and stability. It is expected to include 14 major improvements based on Army recommendations.

Major upgrades to the Arjun Mark 1 includes new transmission systems, improved gunner’s main sight, integrated automatic target tracking. These upgrades are expected to enable the tank crew to track the moving targets and engage them while the Arjun is still on move.

Its gun is controlled by a computerized integrated fire control system, which enables the tank to have a high first-round kill capability.