As of the end of 2000, all the regiments of Army's Armored Corps did not require new tanks. Only eight regiments holding vintage Vijayanta tanks whose operational effectiveness is not up to the mark required new tanks. The ageing Vijayanta tank was to be replaced by 310 T-90 tanks within four years after finalisation of the contract agreement with Russia. In addition, T-72 tanks from Heavy Vehicle Factory, Chennai will be procured. Upgradation of T- 72 tanks is an ongoing process and will continue during the life span of the equipment.
In 1961 an agreement was signed with India and a factory was setup in Avadi, near Madaras in India to produce the Mark 1 Vickers MBT as the Vijayanta ["victory tank"]. This resulted in the first one rolling of the line in 1969.
The Vijayanta, which was first inducted in the 1970s, has now considerably aged. It has limited cross- country mobility, is prone to overheating in the desert and carries the 105 mm gun that has long been outgunned by other superior armament mounted on India's adversary's tanks. More than anything else, the armor thickness that it provides is not what anyone would ever call the ultimate in tank crew protection levels.
The Government accorded sanction in February 1984 for setting up a factory for manufacture of projectiles of 105 mm, 120 mm and 125 mm Fin Stabilised Armour. FSAPDS ammunition is a new anti-tank ammunition indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). These are required for Vijayanta Tank (105 mm), Arjun Tank (120 mm) and T-72 M Tank (125 mm). Although the factory was set up in March 1990 for production of FSAPDS ammunition, of three calibres, 105 mm FSAPDS ammunition for Vijayanta is being phased out and two other calibres of FSAPDS ammunition are still under development.As a result, there was drastic reduction in the requirement of FSAPDS ammunition. The utilisation of capacity ranged between 20 and 26 per cent during last four years (1990-94) and there was no likelihood of improved capacity utilisation in view of present load pattern projected by Army.
The the Bison project, sanctioned in 1981, was meant to update the Vijayanta Tanks. This was abandoned in 1987. A suitable engine to replace the existing Leyland L-60 was not found and this affected 1.700 Vijayanta Tanks.
Central Vehicle Depot (CVD) received 415 Vijayanta tanks for feeding to Army Base Workshop for base overhaul between 1983 and 1989. Out of 415 tanks, 296 pre mark1A tanks were withdrawn from overhauling programme and thus only 119 were required to be overhauled. Of these only 39 were issued to Base Workshop for overhaul and 14 received back duly overhauled. Even these 14 were not issued for use as of August 1997. The balance 80 tanks were not fed to workshop as of March 1997.
The repowering of Vijayanta tank entrusted to Heavy Vehicles Factory Avadi in 1990 could not take off due to Heavy Vehicle Factory's repeated failure to rectify defects in users' trials. Failure of Heavy Vehicles Factory to repower Vijayanta tank up to users' satisfaction rendered infructuous expenditure of Rs 15.99 crore on surplus stores and Civil Works.
The Defense Ministry stated in October 1990 that Vijayanta tank was likely to be fitted with the same engine as T-72 tank after confirmatory trials during May/June 1991. In July 1992, a Technical Evaluation Committee of the General Staff Branch, chaired by the Additional Director General (Mechanised Forces) reported unanimously that the design submitted by the factory should be selected for repowering of Vijayanta tank. The report, however, mentioned 15 shortcomings that would have to be removed prior to commencement of the repowering. These included crucial system such as air filtration system, cooling system and the drive lines.
In view of the deficiencies identified by the Technical Evaluation Committee, a decision was taken in January 1994 that five repowered tanks should be made available for accelerated user trials by June 1994. Only two repowered tanks could be supplied to the Army by July 1995. These tanks were subjected to trial in October 1995, but trials were disrupted due to overheating, breakage of compressor cylinder head and breakdown of air starting system. Since Army could not rectify the damages at site, further trials were shelved in December 1995. Trials on two more repowered tanks carried out in August-November 1996 also resulted in certain persistent problems. Consequently the Army expressed its inability in July 1997 to procure repowering kits and in September 1997 short-closed the repowering project.
Despite the fact that no repowered tank had been successful in user trial, the General Manager of the factory commenced procurement of materials and components for 135 modification kits in 1994-95 and by February 1998 an expenditure of Rs 12 crore had been incurred on this account. Out of these, materials/ components worth Rs 6.30 crore were identified as being capable of utilisation in manufacture of T-72 tank. However materials worth Rs 4.17 crore meant exclusively for repowering of Vijayanta tank are not suitable for alternative utilisation.
In October 1997 a decision was taken to discard pre mark 1A Vijayanta tanks.These tanks have since been declared obsolete. The reasons given by the Ministry in this regard were as follows. Vijayanta tanks were lacking in capabilities to meet present day battle requirements due to negligible protection, low mission reliability and absence of night fighting capabilities. These tanks were scheduled to be completely phased out from service in second half of nineties. Production of tanks and its spares stopped in 1986 and 1989 respectively.
The Mark 1A, Mark 1B and Mark 1C tanks have been held by different formations. Repeated evaluation of Vijayanta fleet has been done several times in the recent years to check its operational effectiveness, the most recent being in 1997. Field trials and statistical evidence clearly proved beyond doubt that the Vijayanta tank was no longer an operational asset as it has unacceptable levels of mission reliability and is not maintainable. Therefore, it has been decided by the Ministry to phase out the Vijayanta tanks and hold this equipment only till replacements are available. According to the Ministry, complete phasing out could not be carried out as scheduled due to slippages in production/procurement of T-72 tanks and in principle agreement existed on the necessity to import 310 tanks against the overall deficiency of the fleet.
The Defence Research Development Organisation [DRDO] Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment [CVRDE] has contributed towards building up Self Reliance in cost effective indigenous design and development of state-of-the-art weapon systems. This includes efforts to improve the combat effectiveness of Vijayanta by incorporating modern file control system along with new FSAPDS ammunition. Add-on Kanchan armour enhanced the immunity level.
An Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) has been designed adapting the basic Vijayanta chassis to replace the then obsolescent Sherman and Centurian ARVs which was optimized to keep the weight within 40 tons to achieve a lifting capacity of 10 tons and pulling capacity of 25 tons.
The Canal Embankment Assault Equipment (CEAsE) is a special type of bridging system being developed in collaboration with the Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) (R&DE(Engrs)), Pune. Six tracked vehicles required for CEAsE are being developed as variants of Vijayanta.
The Bridge Layer Tank Vijayanta KARTIK was designed and developed second generation Indian Bridge Layer Tank by CVRDE and R&DE (Engineers) during the year 1986. It features an extended and modified Vijayanta Tank Chassis integrated to a hydraulically operated bridge laying system. The 20 meter long 'KARTIK' class 60 MLC bridge carried by tank is one of the widest tank bridges in the world. The bridge can carry all types of tanks and other vehicles in service with the Indian army, including MBT ARJUN.
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