As you say T-72 BLT is in service, but how many. IA ordered 135 units in 2011? How many have been produced as yet. IA also ordered first 40 units of production series Sarvatra in 2006. BEML started producing in 2010? How many have been delivered. Even we saw a prototype of Arjun slide launched BLT being demonstrated. Who is producing it? There is a gap between claim of development and induction in full numbers. Even to this date whether we are not sure if the induction is complete or not. So, in 2001-02, when the decision was made to anoint T-90 as MBT till 2017, such factors would have weighed in. This is reaffirmed by induction of the two Arjun regiments, inducted in/after 2008, to a particular area.
Nelson – you need to first decide what is that you’re arguing about.
You have shifted the very premise on which the discussions have been built. Over last couple of pages, your arguments have taken different positions and each has different implications. Let me summarize your arguments (and my response) here for sake of clarity and reference:
(a) You have argued that one of the factors behind induction of T-90 tank (tank weighing less than 50T) was that the bulk of bridging equipment held by IA was MLC-50 rated. Induction of Arjun as MBT of IA, or even across other sectors apart from desert, would entail mass up-gradation and induction of MLC-60/70 class equipment. To that, I did back of the envelop calculation (using AM-50 and Sarvatra Bridge Layer System example) to show that the IA would be required to spend ~USD 200-300 million to upgrade the bridging equipment to MLC-70 standard of Sarvatra type.
(b) Next, you shifted the argument to the fact not only would AM-50 require up-gradation but also associated bridging equipment like MT-55, Kartik BLT, T-72 BLT and Kruppman floating assault bridge. On being pointed out (by me) that apart from AM-50 and MT-55, all other equipment are of MLC-60 standard, you brought in the argument that these MLC-60 standard equipment started becoming available only in mid-2000 and thereon.
Now, you do realize that by shifting the argument to point (b) above – which is the right positions as far as bridging equipment goes – you’re weakening the case for such mass scale induction of T-90?
However, first things first – I actually support the induction of T-90 tanks in 2002 and to some extent can even work with induction of second tranche. I could even understand the requirement for 2,000 T-90 in IA inventory if IA had been honest about induction of Arjun tanks. But it is not.
And these arguments about bridging equipment and weight and canal bridges and 4-man crew are all cooked up in retrospect to somehow delay and kill the Arjun program. However, we digress.
Coming back to 50T tank and bridging equipment of IA – when IA decided to express induct first batch of T-90 in 2002, the existing inventory of bridging equipment would have been of MLC-50 standard. So, during this period, the bridging equipment argument holds.
After Russians played hardball on ToT and no production could take place at Avadhi, IA inducted the second lot from Russia in 2006-2007 time frame. And post that, 300+ tanks have rolled out as of 2012 from HVF.
Now, you’ve yourself pointed out that Kartik BLT, T-72 BLT and other equipment (like Sarvatra) started becoming available in mid-2000. These MLC-70 standard equipment were not being inducted for Arjun tanks; these were being inducted because IA was in the process of replacing MLC-50 standard equipment (examples: MT-55 and AM-50) with new MLC-70 standard equipment. Existence of Arjun does not even feature in this decision on up-gradation of bridging equipment.
So, while 50T tank in 2002 and 2006 could be understood with respect to existing inventory of MLC-50 standard equipment, how does this bridging equipment argument hold up beyond 2008 when IA (Arjun tank or no Arjun tank) was as it is in the process of inducting new MLC-70 standard equipment across the board? Even a 50T T-90 tank will in future cross water obstacles and trenches on MLC-70 standard equipment.
This IA wide transition of bridging equipment to MLC-70 standard punctures holes into two other arguments against Arjun:
(1) That induction of Arjun would require substantial investment in upgrading the bridging equipment – as pointed out earlier, IA is at is going to upgrade the bridging equipment to MLC-70 standard, Arjun or no Arjun. So to say that induction of Arjun would entail additional investment is bridging equipment is plain incorrect.
(2) Arjun cannot be deployed across all sectors because of commonality of bridging equipment – again, if IA is upgrading entire bridging equipment paraphernalia to MLC-70 standard, all the engineering formations across the IA can support the Arjun tank.
Lastly, you spoke about numbers of these MLC-70 standard equipment in the IA and pace of induction. Let me ask you a counter-question – Does it appear that IA is losing sleep over this aspect? It does not to me. And that is because it knows it can manage for a while with earlier equipment which can support T-90 tanks.
Had IA been serious about induction of Arjun tank in large numbers, it would have been shouting from the rooftops about lack of bridging equipment holding up Arjun induction – and IA’s operational posture and readiness.
Didn’t it use the T-80UD in PA service argument to push the T-90 deal? And subsequently to get second batch of 330 T-90 in 2006? I’m yet to see the same level of eagerness when it comes to Arjun. In fact, as per interview of DG of HCF Avadhi which was carried IIRC in FORCE Magazine, IA has told HVF that it will not be inducting Arjun BLT. Any guesses, why?
And BTW, Ajai Shukla, one of the fiercest critics of Arjun, too accepts that Mk1 was ready for large scale induction by 2006.
This bout of discussion on the topic started due to news reports carrying Dr Sarawat's statement to such effect that Arjun cannot be deployed in Punjab and they are deployed in Rajasthan, not COAS or DGMF but DRDO chief. He also said that any future tank developed will be 50 tonne max, because of such reasons. I don't know why he is spreading this canard.
On the Punjab thing, he is simply saying what DGMF and others in IA have been saying for a long time. As for 50T FMBT - FMBT is as good as dead. As per reports by AS, IA has come around its senses to not ask for unobtanium and feels that iterative development of Arjun will serve as FMBT.