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Ultimate Tactical Level Destroyers
Armoured combat vehicles continue to be the most sought-after weapon on tactical-level battlefields and India is no exception. The two ground wars – with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 – saw widespread use of tanks, tank destroyer vehicles and armoured personnel carriers (APCs). As of 2019, with more than 4500 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) divided into 67 armoured regiments, the Indian Army has one of the largest tank fleets in the world. AMARTYA SINHA takes a look at the current armoured capabilities of the nation as well as some of the ongoing projects undergoing development

The two world wars in the last century witnessed widespread casualties among soldiers from both camps and forced many European nations to invest in better research and development initiatives to develop better armour and boost firepower in order to counter threats on tactical-level battlefield. With the evolution of high-explosive warheads, mines and grenades capable of taking out infantrymen and light vehicles, shielding the soldiers and officers from enemy firepower became an abject necessity. Tanks and armoured vehicles were developed to cater to the needs of professional armies all across the world to take out enemy positions and mobile targets through LRDLOS (Long Range Direct Line of Sight) engagement and to protect the soldiers inside the hardened armoured compartment from enemy fire. While the evolution of India’s armoured fleet dates back to the 1950s, the country faced two massive ground wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 which witnessed widespread use of tanks, tank destroyer vehicles and armoured personnel carriers (APCs). As of 2019, with more than 4500 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) divided into 67 armoured regiments, the Indian Army has one of the largest tank fleets in the world. Following is a sneak peek into the current armoured capabilities of the nation and also some of the ongoing projects undergoing the developmental phase:

T-72 Main Battle

Tanks A Soviet-made second-generation main battle tank, the T-72 entered serial production in 1971. The original T-72 ‘Ural’ Object 172M's turret is made from conventional cast HHS steel armour with no laminate inserts. It is armed with the 125 mm 2A46 series main gun, a significantly larger calibre than the standard 105 mm gun found in contemporary Western MBTs. The T-72 is loaded with an automatic loading system, eliminating the need for a dedicated crew member, thus decreasing the size and weight of the tank. By the late 1970s, Indian Army Headquarters had decided to acquire new-generation replacements for its British-origin fleet of Royal Ordnance Factories-built Centurion and Vijayanta tanks, which were based on the licenced production of the Vickers MBT, and consequently, paper evaluations concerning the firepower and mobility characteristics of the two principal contenders being offered for full in-country production – the AMX40 developed by GIAT Industries of France and the Chieftain-800 (which later evolved into the Challenger 1 from Royal Ordnance Factories (then owned by British Aerospace PLC) – were conducted by the Indian Army. Between these two contenders, the army had by the early 1980s zeroed in on the 43-tonne AMX-40 MBT, which was still on the drawing boards and was meant to be powered by a 1,100 horsepower Poyaud V12X 12-cylinder diesel engine coupled with a LSG-3000 automatic power shift transmission built by RENK Aktiengesellschaft of Germany (offering a power-to-weight ratio of 25.6 horsepower per tonne and armed with a 120 mm smoothbore cannon). However, AMX-40 had only marginal protection by battlefield standards of 1980s.

After coming back to power, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi requested additional evaluation, including MBTs from the USSR, following which the Soviet Union's Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations made a formal offer to the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to supply the 37-tonne T-72M Ob'yekt 172ME4 MBT off-the-shelf, and according an approval for licensed-production of the 41.5-tonne T-72M-1982 Ob'yekt 172ME6 to the MoD-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) at Avadi. By early 1981, two T-72Ms — powered by a 780-horsepower diesel engine, armed with 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun and offering a power-to-weight ratio of 20 horsepower a tonne, were subjected to an exhaustive series of in-country firepower and mobility trials by the Indian Army. After review of trial results, T-72M and T-72-1982 (powered by a Model V-84MS four-stroke 12-cylinder multi-fuel engine developing 840 horsepower and offering a power-to-weight ratio of 18.8 horsepower/tonne) were selected as the Army's future MBTs, and a procurement contract for 2418 T-72s was subsequently inked, all of which are currently in service with the Indian Army.

T-90 Main Battle

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September 2019