There are three variants of this tank, Arjun Mk-I, Arjun Mk-IA, and Arjun Mk-II. The biggest visual difference between Arjun Mk IA and Arjun Mk II tanks is the side profile. While Arjun Mk IA turret has ERA panel only till half distance, the turret of Arjun Mk2 has been completely redesigned to cover full turret length. The firepower of the Arjun Mk II gun has been improved and it can easily fire all types of anti-tank and anti-helicopter missiles like the SAMHO missile.
The Arjun Mk.2 has the same basic design of Arjun Mk.1, but major changes for the new generation variant of Arjun Tank would keep up with the new technological changes which are been incorporated in the MBT’s world over. After supplying 119 Arjun Mark-I tanks - the order initially was for 124 - DRDO developed the Arjun Mark-II. The Arjun Mk.2 was to undergo summer and winter trails in 2011. If the tests are satisfactory, then the tank will be able to begin production in 2014. An agreement was in place with the army for another lot of 118 - or two regiments - of Arjun Mark II tanks.
In 2022 the Army will place an order for 118 Arjun Mk-1A Main Battle Tanks, or the MBT as they are popularly called. Known as the “hunter killers”, the latest version of the tank, equipped with a massive 120 mm rifled gun and Kanchan armour, will be the most potent armoured system in the inventory of the Army.
The Arjun Mark 2 features a Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) made dual axis stabilised commanders’ panoramic sight with Day/TI(LWIR) channels and a remotely operated 12.7mm NSVT air defence gun with its own Day camera/TI/LRF/FCC; FCC-MKII Fire Control Computer developed by Tata SED which can interface with the Gunners Main Sight and Commanders Panoramic Sight, and accommodates additional ammunition like the LAHAT missile, Penetration Cum Blast Round (PCB) and the Thermobharic (TB) round along with the existing APFSDS and HESH rounds, the Ex-M/s Fuches dual mode fuze in the rounds offers variable fuze settings for use against structures and vehicles; an enhanced APFSDS round with increased penetration capability; an improved rifled gun with a life of 500 Effective Full Charge (EFC); a muzzle reference system to ensure gun alignment with the Gunner’s sight and an Automatic Target Tracker (ATT) to help the gunner keep track of moving objects.
Additional passive protection is provided by Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) on the turret, glacis and the skirts; Advanced Laser Warning and Countermeasure System (ALWCS) provided by Elbit which consists of 360-degree laser warning system with a display and audio alert for the crew coupled with the multispectral aerosol smoke grenades. These can be operated in auto/semi auto/manual modes as set by the crew, the smoke grenades are opaque to visible, IR and laser wavelengths; a roof-mounted driver seat to minimise the shock from IED/mine explosions and an escape hatch in the floor for the driver; IR/laser resistant paint to reduce detection by thermal imagers and laser ranging/designation devices; a containerised ammunition storage with shutters in the turret to prevent ammunition cook off and blow out panels to minimise the effect of cook offs if it does occur; a track width mine plough made by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) with Pearson Engineering to plough out landmines.
Arjun Mk.2 has Battle Field Management System (BFMS) that enables the tank to get targetting feeds from UAV‘s and Helicopters, which provides the Arjun Mk.2 tank crew with greater awareness of their surroundings and better understanding of the battle zone. This will lead to improvement in coordinating with other Friendly tanks in the zone and also avoid Friendly kills. It also gives information regarding enemy tank movement along with their troops and help navigate terrain in the battle zone. The Self-Diagnostic System (SDS) added to Arjun Mk.2 is a health monitoring system, that not only tells the tank crew if it is having any problem but also point out the trouble area. It is also important if the tank has taken multiple hits from different position and from different ammunition. After a self-diagnose Tank crew will know exact damage inflicted on the Tank.
Arjun Mk.2 gets a new efficient 1500bhp engine which had been in development in India by DRDO, and there are reports that Indian private industry is also working with DRDO on the engine development. Currently Arjun Mk.1 is powered by German supplied 1400bhp engine which was of older design and technical parameters, but still a powerful and respected engine. NERA (non-explosive reactive armor) will be added to Arjun Mk.2, giving the tank additional protection against anti-tank munitions. Unlike ERA, NERA enables the tank to take multiple anti-tank munition hits, but also increased the weight of Arjun Mk.2 to 60 tons [some reports say 67 tons] from its current weight (Arjun Mk.1) of 58 tons.
Arjun Mk.2 will also get and improved Air-conditioning system for the crew, which will be powered from an APU drawing its power from the Main engine of the Tank. This will enable the tank crew to operate in higher temperature of desert heat without discomfort to the tank crew. Arjun Mk.1 already has hardened electronics that function perfectly even in the Rajasthan summer without requiring any Air-conditioning system.
DRDO Awards for the year 2010 for outstanding contribution in various areas of technology were given away by Defence Minister, Mr AK Antony at a function in New Delhi in June 2011. Pointing out the delay in the development of main battle tank 'Arjun', Mark-II and 'Kaveri' engine for the LCA Tejas, the Defence Minister said the DRDO must reorient itself to survive in a fiercely competitive world. He further said, “this objective can be achieved only through a judicious blend of creativity and innovation for developing high quality products and implementing projects on time.”
On 29 August 2011 Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, in a written reply to Shri Naveen Jindal in Lok Sabha, stated that "Limited technical trials with some major and minor improvements on Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun Mark-I, as part of MBT Arjun Mark-II, have been carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the deserts of Rajasthan. Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared the proposal for placement of indent for 124 Nos. of MBT Arjun Mark-II on Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi, Chennai. Placement of indent by the Army on Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is being further processed. The likely estimated cost of each MBT Arjun Mark-II with ail major/minor improvements will be approximately Rs.37 crore. The first batch of MBT Arjun Mark-II is likely to be productionised by 2015."
By early 2013 nearly 80 percent of the improvements/changes sought by the Indian Army had already been incorporated. Work on the remaining features was underway and there were trials in the summer of 2013 to satisfy the user requirements. The Arjun Mark-I had already outperformed the T-90, and the Mark-II would have enhanced night fighting capabilities with advanced equipment for the gunner, driver and commander. There will be better rough terrain and amphibious (fording) mobility, better surveillance and firing capability, as well as increased protection. The Mark-II had a better 120 mm gun, capable of firing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). DRDO was examining offers from Israel and Belarusfor the new ATGMs.
The Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) swiftly completed development of the Arjun Mark-2 in two years, by 2012. The Rs 6,600 crore order for 118 tanks was cleared by the DAC in 2014 but the order was not placed. The project was in a limbo since 2015 as the army focused on ordering more T-90 medium tanks from Russia. In 2019, the army ordered an additional 464 T-90s worth close to Rs 14,000 crore.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chairman S Christopher said 14 July 2018 necessary modifications have been made to the advanced version of the indigenous Arjun Mark II main battle tank as recommended by the Army. The Army had asked for 93 improvements to the tank which includes the capability of firing the anti-tank LAHAT missile, laser protection suite and improved armour.
the Indian Army had already ordered 124 Arjun Mk I tank and 118 Arjun Mk IA tanks. Besides this Indian Army planned to order a further 500 Arjun Mk II tanks. The army’s refocus on the northern borders with China following the ten-month standoff with the PLA may mean a diminished appetite for heavy tanks like the 68-ton Arjun. The army wants light tanks that weigh between 20-25 tons and medium tanks that weigh between 30 and 50 tons to equip its armored forces.
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