Indian Army’s Arjun Mk-1 Alpha Tanks ‘Desert-Storms’ India-Pakistan Border; Tests Firing Capability

The Indian Army demonstrated the combat capabilities of its Arjun Mk-1 Alpha tanks in a live-fire exercise at the Pokhran Field Firing Range in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer, on the weekend.

Konark Corps (XII Corps) GOC Lt. Gen. P S Minhas, Battle Axe Division GOC Major-Gen. Ajit Singh Gehlot and other officials observed the firing capabilities of the latest tank, The Times Of India reported.

This tank is the cavalry’s latest workhorse handed over to the service in February 2021 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chennai. The Defense Acquisition Council had cleared the procurement of 118 Arjun Mk-1A tanks (earlier called Mk-II) at an estimated price of Rs 8400 crore.

A senior official was quoted as saying by TOI, “Seeing the current scenario and challenges, the firepower demonstration of Main Battle Tank Arjun Mk-1 Alpha, which is an advanced version of Arjun, took place to check its capabilities in various parameters in the desert area, thus fulfilling army’s future requirements.”

One of the main features demonstrated was the ability to fire accurately while on the move. “The Mk-1A includes an improved gunner’s main sight, integrated with automatic target tracking. This would enable the tank crew to track moving targets automatically, and engage them even when Arjun is on the move,” the source added.

Arjun Mk-1A

The development of the Arjun Mk-1A tank has been an exhaustive and long-awaited process of about 48 years, since the commencement of the project at CVRDE (Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment) laboratories in 1972.

It was only in 1996 that the Indian government decided to mass-produce the tank at the Indian Ordnance Factory’s production facility in Avadi on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Chennai.

The Arjun tanks have seen a lot of improvement since its first variant, the Arjun Mk-1. The Mk-1, being the initial production batch, had undergone extensive trials and paved the way for the development of the Mk-2 (re-designated to Mk-1A).

While weight has been termed as the primary issue for the tank, its ground pressure is lesser than that of the T-72 due to inherent design features.

The Arjun had been developed focusing on increased protection against emerging threats of the new century. The turret and glacis are protected with “Kanchan” (gold) modular composite armor, which derived its name from Kanchan Bagh, Hyderabad, where the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) is located.

Kanchan is made by sandwiching composite panels between Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA). This helps in defeating APFDS (armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot) and HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank) rounds. Trials conducted in 2000, showcased the ability of Kanchan armor to protect the tank, even when hit at point-blank range by a T-72.

It also demonstrated the capability to defeat HESH (high-explosive squash head) and APFSDS rounds, which included the Israeli APFSDS rounds.

The tank comes with a new honeycomb design of non-explosive and non-energetic reactive armor (NERA) along with nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection equipment, along with mine sweeps and an automatic fire fighting system.

Indian Army Armoured Corps has cleared the upgraded Arjun Mk 1A after successful completion of final integration tests conducted in Rajasthan in 2019. It comes with 72 improvements over Arjun Mk 1 with 14 major upgrades.