Army Today

On the Arjun Controversy

1. The Indian Armored Corps was a derivative of the Cavalry regiments of the British Indian Army. The conversion from horses to armored vehicles followed a logical sequence and at independence we 12 cavalry regiments on our orbat. These were namely:-
(a) Skinners Horse or 1 Horse
(b) 2nd Lancers or Gardner's Horse
(c) 3rd Cavalry
(d) Hodson's  Horse or 4 Horse
(e) 7th Light Cavalry
(f) 8th Light Cavalry
(g) Deccan Horse or 9 Horse
(h) Scinde Horse or 14 Horse
(i) 16th Light Cavalry
(j) Poona Horse or 17 Horse
(k) 18th Cavalry
(l) Central India Horse unofficially called 21 Horse

2. As can be seen the light regiments were equipped with STUART tanks and the others with various versions of SHERMAN both of American origin. There was also a collection of armored cars of British origin like the humber and others. These were used to equip the few recce squadrons then in existence. This profile continued with regular replacements coming from WW II surplus stocks as long as they lasted. This source of supply finally petered out by the mid sixties. In the mid fifties since most of our senior officers were either Sandhurst trained or had done courses of instruction in the UK, besides our anti American stance the source of supply changed to the UK & France. It was also affected due to the American support to Pakistan and supply of their new generation Patton tanks to them. This is the time we saw a replacement of the Stuarts by the AMX-13 and of some Sherman regiments by the Centurion Mk V.

3. By now the threat perceptions had increased and a degree of enhancement took place. By 1964 four more armored regiments had been raised, These were 20th Lancers, 45 Cavalry, 62 Cavalry and 63 Cavalry, 61 cavalry being the horsed cavalry after the merger of the erstwhile Royal Jaipur, Jodhpur & Mysore Cavalry squadrons. Also by now with our total tilt to the USSR and its improved armored vehicle producing capability which was easily available in rupee rouble exchange payments we were flooded with their T-54 tanks. A number of officers and men were also sent to the USSR for training. On the other hand not to annoy our rulers for over 200 years, the British a VICKERS tank was imported in around 1966. These were then produced serialized at AVADI and re-christened the VIJAYANTA.

4. To take a step back in time the Indo-Pak war in 1965 saw our old Shermans, AMX13's and Centurions were more than a  match to the Patton?s of the Pakistan Army. Post 1965 one armored regiment was raised every year which included my regiment 65 Armored Regiment. By now the T-54 tanks were entering service and the new raisings were raised on the discarded Shermans of the regiments being equipped with the T-54. The Vijayanta?s entered service in 1969 when the remainder of the Regiments shed their Shermans. A new variant the T-55 also entered service but were limited. There were now two schools of warfare within the armored corps, viz those equipped with soviet equipment and those with the centurions & vijayantas. The vijayantas produced indigenously had initial teething problems in their driving & maintenance aspect and this was drummed up to such an extent that we almost saw their end before they even got going. On a head to head the comparison between these two in total layman language could be as given in the table below ?


1  Armor protection light  Armor protection heavy
2 105mm Gun very Superior  100mm Naval Gun poor
3 Radio equipment easy to handle  Radio equipment poor
4 Driving & Maintenance had problems initially No problems
5 Epicyclic gear box Manual gear box
6 Ergonomics suited to Indian conditions Ergonomics suited to Russian conditions
7 Better class of ammunition  No APDS class of ammunition
8 Better sighting system  Outmoded sighting system


5. The 1971 war saw the face off between the armor of the Indian and Pakistani armies only in the sialkot sector. Here to the time tested Centurions kept the Patton's at bay, with the T-55 being used sparingly in Chamb and partly in the Gurdaspur sector. On the Eastern front the Pakistani armor consisted of the Chafee light tank which was no match to the T-55 & the PT-76 amphibious. The Vijayanta with which our one and only armored division was equipped never saw battle except for a minor action by a troop of Vijayantas of 66 Armored regiment somewhere in Northern Punjab. Post 1971 the economics of the country perhaps made the Vijayanta the largest fleet in the armored corps with the T-55 a close second and two  PT-76 regiments.

6. The post 1976 era saw a paradigm change in mechanized warfare coupled as it was with the rise of the late Gen K Sundarji. The number of armored regiments swelled to 60, Lorried infantry became mechanized and the Mechanized Infantry as a separate arm came into existence. Aspiration grew and the armored corps started looking ahead. The USSR had not got into its death throes, and unlike today we then felt that any thing American was a no-no we contracted for the T-72, a tank of 1956 design. At about the same time buoyed by the success of the vijayant, the DRDO launched the ARJUN project. As told to me by Col George Timothy of the EME, the original design intiator of the ARJUN it was to be an upgrade of the Vijayanta by adding all the requirements listed in the GSQR as also of obviating the faults of the vijayanta. The GSQR listed amongst other things a smooth barreled 120mm rhinemetal gun, a 1500 RPM engine and armor protection and electronics akin to the Leopard III of Germany amongst others. Engines were developed by Kirloskar but somehow not accepted and ultimately the engine of the leopard was imported for fitment. As time went by instead of rolling out a basic version and then augmenting it after field trials and introduction in service, the GSQR kept changing resulting in the behemoth that it is today. The induction and serial production of the T-72 had commenced and the T-72, then T-72M and finally the T-72M1 entered service over a varied period of time starting from 1977 almost 31 years ago. My regiment received its first consignment in 1984. The advent of the T-72 series saw the sun setting on the Centurions, the   Vijayanta, &  finally the T-55?s. The ARJUN meanwhile plodded along. The T-90 soon made its appearance more out of reaction to the Pakistan Army getting the T-80UD, an earlier version of the T-90 from the Ukraine, Also the production of the AL Khalid a deriavative of the Chinese version of the T-72 seems to have spurred us on to procure the T-90. Another factor was the tardiness of HVF Avadi in the overhauling of the T-72 as also the quality of work which left much to be desired.

7. Finally having seen the T-72 in combat all I have to say is as follows:-
(a) The gun is inaccurate beyond 1000m. On the move it has a FRHC of 68% as given by the manufacturer whereas the Arjun has achieved almost 85%

(b)  The radio equipment was pathetic, I believe it has been replaced by an Israeli set.

(c)  The ergonomics are uncomfortable to say the least, The Russians lay down a max ht for t-72 crews at 5? 7? compare it to Indian Sikhs, Jats or Rajputs.

(d)Neither the ARJUN or the T-90 have been exposed to battle.

(e) The T-72 blew up like can of sardines when 200kg IED exploded under its hull bottom.

(f)  Its external fuel tanks are prone to catching fire.

8. In all fairness why blame the ARJUN, The DRDO or even the MOD. If all you can do is pull out a GSQR from Jane's Armor cut & paste it this is what you will get notwithstanding almost 5000 Cr of taxpayers money going down the drain. The only comparison that strikes me from history is the SUPER TIGER of the Third Reich produced towards the end of the Second World War or  Howard Hughes wooden airplane.

I rest my case. 

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