Achieving Atmanirbhar Bharat in Tanks: Private industry has the potential to transform defence production, says expert

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August 29, 2020 2:42 PM

There needs to be close interaction between all three agencies –the user, designer and the manufacturer of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV).

There are still a lot of critical components that are being imported, including the engine.There are still a lot of critical components that are being imported, including the engine. (PTI)

The conventional triad of a tank is firepower or lethality, mobility or manoeuvrability and protection or survivability. “The design of the tank is the interplay of these three along with their various subsystems and communications to ensure it is able to carry out its assigned operational role in the desired manner,” opines an expert.

There needs to be close interaction between all three agencies –the user, designer and the manufacturer of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV). “The aim is also to ensure the highest amount of indigenization so that spares and replacements of sub-assemblies do not pose a problem in times of conflict. We need to ensure modernization through indigenization as per the policy of Atamnirbhar,” Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, ( Retd ), tells Financial Express Online.

“The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has made vital contributions to the design and up gradations of tanks and their subsystems thereby enhancing their fighting potential considerably in order to enable them to meet the challenges of the emerging battlefields. However, we are still dependant on a lot of critical components being imported. Private Industry has the potential and the base to step in and this will help transform Defence Production,” Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, ( Retd ), says.

Which agencies are involved in the Tanks and their build for the Indian Army?

“The three agencies involved in the induction and manufacture of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) are Army Headquarters, principally the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces, who work on the General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) based on their interaction with Armoured Formations and other Directorates in Army Headquarters, they represent the User. DRDO who are basically the designers and work on the R & D of AFVs is carried out under the vertical of Armament & Combat Engineering ( ACE ), mainly by Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment ( CVRDE ) along with other laboratories such as Ammunition Research & Development Establishment ( ARDE ), and High Energy Material research Laboratory ( HEMRL ) to name a few. CVRDE was the lead laboratory for the design of the Arjun tanks. Thereafter, the manufacture is carried out by Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), which is co-located along with CVRDE in Avadi. The HVF comes under the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB),” he explains.

According to Maj Gen Singh, “HVF was set up in 1961 and the first production started in 1965. It has been intimately involved in the manufacture of the Vijayantha tank which was based on the licensed design of Vickers Mark I, upgrades of the T-55 and of course the assembly and upgrades of both the T 72 and the T- 90. It has also manufactured the Arjun tank which is India’s indigenous tank. They are also involved in the manufacture of variants such as the Bridge Layer Tank (BLT) and the Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV). Base Overhauls of tanks is also carried out by HVF. ”

Future AFVs must modernize to retain their cutting edge due to the dynamic nature of warfare. It needs to be a complex system of systems, with state of the art cutting edge technology in order to spearhead our operations across all spectrums of conflict in all terrains. “The future AFVs being designed and manufactured indigenously will have the advantage of being based on our concepts of warfighting and thereby optimally fulfil our requirements,” he concludes.

Sharing his views regarding the Main Battle Tank `Arjun’ a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous says, “Soon after the 1971 war, the design of the Main Battle Tank `Arjun’ was started in 1972. By the time the tank underwent various stages of development and was fielded for comparative trials alongside T-90 tanks, in 2010 the first Brigade of the `Arjun’ Tank was operationalised.”

However, after the first order for the `Arjun’ Tanks, the Army Headquarters has yet to place an indent for additional tanks. A large number of up-gradation and modifications has been carried out. There are still a lot of critical components that are being imported, including the engine. The weight of the tank remains the biggest challenge for the Army.”

Charter of DRDO to be reviewed

In an effort to further focus on indigenous development of futuristic defence technologies, a five-member expert committee to review the charter of duties for all laboratories of the DRDO has been set up.

This will be headed by Professor V Ramagopal Rao, Director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi who will submit his report in 45 days.

“DRDO should focus on cutting edge technological areas. It has a habit of jumping into every demand put forth by the Armed Forces for conventional weapon and other systems result in replacement delays, not meeting QRs and below standard products. This is an area that needs attention,” said a senior officer on condition of anonymity.

“It is heartening to see the private sector finally being permitted to manufacture weapon systems. They get hold of requisite technology more easily,” he added.

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