Indian army is one of the fastest developing armies in the world. Their budget is amongst the highest in the world and they are actively expanding their forces in all segments. Of course, the backbone of any modern military is consisted out of its ground forces and the Indian army pays due attention to them.
For many years the main battle tanks of the Indian army were provided by Russia. The mainstay in the army is T-90S Bishma, but the Indians also started producing their own tanks to become less dependent on importing.
The Arjun MBT project was started way back in 1972. Still, a complete lack of experience in tank construction dragged the entire project to the year 1996 when it was finally ready for the serial production. To make things even worse, it effectively entered the service from 2004. Of course, such a long development period increased the cost significantly and the tank became much less successful than it was intended to be. On the other hand, the fact that it actually started the era of tank building in India is a fact that can’t be ignored and from that perspective it was a worthwhile investment. Most parts were imported in the very beginning of the project but the Indian engineers managed to switch the production to domestic factories.
As the experience from the various battlefields were collected over the years, it became clear that the Arjun Mark I is not an adequate tank for the modern warfare so the new development begun in 2012 when the first Arjun Mark II was sent for the field trials. This is a radically upgraded tank that has no less than 93 improvements compared to the original model. It is equipped with the reactive armour and the urban survival kit which makes it a much more serious project than the first version. Also, with the help of the Israeli engineers it became capable of carrying LAHAT missiles and that increased its ability to fight the aircraft and armour at a long range.
The Arjun Mk I looks a lot like western MBTs, and the resemblance to the Leopard 2A4 is more than obvious. The gun is also in a NATO standard 120 mm calibre, but the Indians use the rifled gun instead the smoothbore guns that became a standard in most countries. It has the capability to fire SABOT rounds, as well as HEAT, HE and HESH rounds. It makes it a pretty versatile gun that can take out virtually any target on the battlefield. The newest addition of LAHAT missiles rounded up the firepower capabilities with the Arjun Mk II version and now it is more than a formidable opponent on the battlefield.
The armour protection with both variants is more than decent and the addition of ERA on Arjun Mk II only increased already respectable crew protection. In combination with the urban warfare survival kit it provides the protection that is at least equal as with the modern western tanks. The secondary weapon array consisting of 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns is enough to tackle almost any target on the modern battlefield.
The only downside of the tank is it weight. Much like its western role models it is a heavy tank and that produces certain logistic problems. This and the fact that it is not a cheap tank as it was planned to be, made the Indian government decide that only 124 Arjun tanks of each variant will be made and that the main tank of their armour brigades will be the T-90S.
All in all, this is a decent attempt of the Indian industry to provide a MBT that could face the other modern tanks on the battlefield. The future will show its real effectiveness but even with the things achieved so far, this tank is a success, mainly because it provided the Indian army with a local option for arming.