Arjun (tank)

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Arjun (Sanskrit: अर्जुन) is a main battle tank developed by India's largest defense contractor, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), for the Indian Army. The tank is named after Arjun, one of the main characters of the Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata.

The delays and failures in its development from the 1990s to the 2000s prompted the Indian Army to order vast numbers of T-90S tanks from Russia to meet the defense needs that the Arjun had been expected to fulfill.[4][5]

The Arjun features a 120 mm main rifled gun with indigenously developed APFSDS ammunition which has capability of defeating superior armor, one 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and a 12.7 mm machine gun. It is powered by a single MTU multi-fuel diesel engine rated at 1,400 hp, and can achieve a maximum speed of 70 km/h (43 mph) and a cross-country speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). It has a 4-man crew: commander, gunner, loader and driver. Automatic fire detection and suppression, and NBC protection systems are provided. All-round anti-tank warhead protection by the newly developed Kanchan armour is claimed to be much higher than available in present third generation tanks.[4]

In March 2010, the Arjun was pitted against the T-90 in comparative trials and performed well. Subsequently the Army placed an order for an additional 124 tanks on May 17, 2010.[6][7][8]


Initial plans and developmentEdit

Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), with Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) as the main laboratory, was tasked with developing the hull, armor, turret, running gear and gun, with the powerpack being bought from abroad.[9]

Although the development of the tank began in 1972 by the CVRDE, it was only in 1996 that the Indian government decided to mass-produce the tank at DRDO's facility in Avadi.[4][10]

Despite DRDO's attempts at indigenization, the Arjun relied heavily on foreign components and technology. DRDO received major design assistance from Krauss Maffei, the developer of the German Leopard 2 tank, and several other German firms. As a result, Arjun's design is very similar to that of Leopard 2A4 tank.[11] Initially close to 50% of the tank's components were imported, which included the engine, transmission, gun barrel, tracks, and fire control system[12] however, several of these have since been replaced by indigenous systems or are being supplied by Indian companies.[13][14] Recent reports from India indicate that the Russian T-90S will form the mainstay of its future force, despite that tank’s performance issues in hot weather.

The Arjun project has experienced serious budget overruns and repeated delays that resulted in a protracted development time of more than 37 years. While the government sanctioned Rs. 15.5 Crore(US$3.3M) for the initial part of the programme in May 1974,[9] by 1995, DRDO had spent Rs. 300 Crore (US$65.4M) due to changing requirements and inflationary cost increases.[15]

Production and DeploymentEdit

The Indian Army ordered 124 Arjuns in 2000.[16] The first five were delivered to the army in August 2004. The cost of 124 Arjun MBT will be around $471.2 million.[1] In May 2009 the Indian Army raised its maiden Arjun regiment. The army received 16 tanks from Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, Tamil Nadu, taking the number of tanks delivered so far to 45.[17][18] The first lot of 124 tanks were delivered to the Indian Army in 2010.


File:Arjun MBT model.jpg

As part of improving the Arjun to the Mark-II variant, DRDO is continuing to develop some new technology systems for MBT Arjun.,[19] in order to improve performance in areas like automatic target locating, tracking and destruction.[19] The Arjun MK-II variant is being developed in coordination with and with the involvement of the Indian Army and will feature several modifications that are being sought by it.[2]

DRDO is developing the Tank Urban Survival Kit which is a series of improvements to the Arjun intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments which includes defensive aids like laser warning, IR jammer, and aerosol smoke grenade system.[20][21]

CVRDE is in the process of developing tank simulators.[19]

DRDO is developing a Laser Warning Control System (LWCS) in cooperation with Elbit Limited of Israel to be equipped on the Arjun at regimental level trials with T-90s. The MCS is being developed by DRDO to help the tank reduce the threat of interference from all types of sensors and smart munitions of the enemy in the tank's systems. LWCS includes laser warning system, Infra Red jammers and aerosol grenade smokes, and will help reduce the signatures of the tank in the battle field and help it improve its survivability. DRDO is also co-developing the and Mobile Camouflaging System (MCS) technology along with a Gurgaon-based private sector defence manufacturer Barracuda Camouflaging Limited.

A new improved 1500 hp engine.[22][23]

An anti-helicopter round is under development as well.[4]


Weighing in at 58.5 tons, the Arjun tank is significantly heavier than the Soviet-legacy tanks used presently by the Indian Army, and required changes to the army's logistics establishment, including new rail cars to transport the bigger and heavier Arjuns. The required logistical changes have been made but the cost of the whole project has increased.



Armed with a 120 mm rifled gun, the Arjun is believed to be capable of firing APFSDS (Kinetic Energy) rounds, HE, HEAT, High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) rounds at the rate of 6-8 rounds per minute and the Israeli semi-active laser guided LAHAT missile. The LAHAT, developed in Israel, is a gun-launched missile and is designed to defeat both enemy armor and enemy combat helicopters. In addition, it is armed with a 12.7 mm AA machine gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun.[24] The Arjun can carry 39 rounds in special blast-proof canisters. The Arjun uses a manual loader and has a crewman to reload the gun.

The Arjun's 120mm rifled main gun is a rarity, main battle tanks of most other countries have smoothbore guns as standard. The British Challenger 2 is the only other MBT equipped with a 120mm rifled gun.

Fire control and NavigationEdit

MBT Arjun Gunsim

The gunner's position.

Fire control and navigation technologies are provided by Elbit, an Israeli defence company. The Fire Control System is stabilised on two axes, and with an extremely high hit probability (design criteria call for a greater than 0.9 Pk) replaces an earlier analogue one, which had problems due to its inability to function under the harsh desert conditions. However, the new fire control system also frequently malfunctions when subjected to temperatures greater than 42 degrees Celsius.[25] The combined day sight from Bharat Electronics Ltd. and the thermal imager (formerly from Sagem, now reported to be from El-Op) constitute the gunner's primary sight. The first batch of tanks of the 124 ordered by the Army will have an all-digital Sagem FCS, whereas the second block will have the BEL unit, which will be used for all units thereafter. The commander's own stabilised panoramic sight allows him to engage targets and/or hand them over to the gunner. The Arjun has an auxiliary power unit to operate weapon systems in silent watch mode as well.

The tank incorporates GPS based navigation systems and sophisticated frequency hopping radios. The state-of-the-art Battlefield Management System, co-developed by DRDO and Ebit Israel, allows it to network with other fighting units. The Arjun has the capability to network with other tanks, thanks to its Battle Management System. In a search and engage operation, several Arjun tanks can monitor an opponent and his moves, and try to eliminate him in a chase or ambush.

DRDO have completed Visualisation with Enhanced Digital Elevation Model and Soil Profile Analysis for MBT Arjun Simulator (VEDSAR). It will provide the Army with information on the shortest possible distance between two points, and the kind of obstacles present on the terrain.[26]


The turret and glacis are heavily armoured and use "Kanchan" ("gold") modular composite armour. The Kanchan armour got its name from Kanchan Bagh, Hyderabad, where the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) is located.[27] The armour is made by sandwiching composite panels between Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) to defeat APFDS or HEAT rounds. During the trials in 2000, the Kanchan was able to withstand a hit from a T-72 at point blank range, and was able to defeat all available HESH and APFSDS rounds, which included the Israeli APFSDS rounds.[27] A new honeycomb design non-explosive and non-energetic reactive armour (NERA) armour is reportedly being tested on the Arjun.[28]

A Mobile Camouflage System has been developed and integrated into the Arjun as part of the 'Development of Defensive Aids System' project.[29] in collaboration with Barracuda Camouflage Limited,to reduce the vehicle signature against all known sensors and smart munitions.

An Advanced Laser Warning Countermeasure System (ALWCS) for the fire control system has been developed. This consists of a laser warning system, Infra-Red (IR) jammer and aerosol smoke grenade system. This is being developed jointly with Elbit Systems Limited of Israel. The ALWCS has been integrated on Arjun MBT and trials have been carried out.[29][30]


The engine and transmission are provided by German companies MTU and Renk respectively.[31] The water-cooled engine generates 1,400 hp and is integrated with an Indian turbocharger and epicyclic train gearbox with four forward and 2 reverse gears.[32] A local transmission is under trials and it is envisioned to ultimately replace the Renk-supplied unit.[31] The tracks which were being supplied by German company Diehl are now being manufactured by L&T.[31] The cooling pack has been designed for desert operations. The Arjun has a lower ground pressure than the lighter T-72, due to its design.[31]

The Arjun features a hydro-pneumatic suspension.[33] This coupled with the Arjun's stabilisation and fire control system allows the tank excellent first-hit probability against moving targets while on the move.[33] Its ride comfort is highly praised.[33] Though on the negative side, it is a more maintenance-intensive and expensive system, even if more capable than the simpler and cheaper torsion bar system utilized on many older tanks worldwide.[34] During trials, the Arjun showcased its fording capability, by driving under 6 feet of water for 20 minutes.[35]

A new 1500 hp engine is being developed that will eventually replace the present engine. An allocation of 40 crore Rupees(US$8.7M) has been allocated for the project which is expected to be completed within five years.[36]

Trials and exerciseEdit

In 1988-1989 two prototypes underwent automotive trials, which revealed major deficiencies in mobility, engine, and transmission.[37]

Several prototypes underwent extensive mobility and armament trials, in 1996 and 1997.[37] The Army found the performance of the prototypes below the acceptable standards and listed deficiencies in the following areas:[37]

  1. accuracy of gun at battle ranges
  2. mission reliability
  3. lethality of ammunition
  4. containerisation of ammunition bin
  5. emergency traverse
  6. fire control system unable to function in temperatures above 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit).

During summer trials in 2005, it was reported that the Arjun suffered major problems with its main gun sight, suspension system, and fire control system. Moreover, engine failures occurred commonly in temperatures averaging 55-60 degrees Celsius.[38]

There are conflicting accounts of Arjun's trial results in 2006. In 2007, Major General H.M. Singh, a director in charge of trial and evaluation, said that the last year's user field trial report had certified that the accuracy and consistency of the weapon system was proved beyond doubt."[39][40] However, the 2006 army trial results showed that "the decade-old problems of overheating persist" and that "tank’s main subsystems, the fire control system (FCS) and integrated gunner’s main sight, which includes a thermal imager and laser range-finder, are rendered erratic and useless by the Arjun’s abnormally high peak internal temperature, which moves well beyond 55 degrees Celsius. This is in testimony to the Parliamentary committee."[41]

In 2007 the Arjun tank was fielded during the Ashwamedha exercise in the deserts of Rajasthan.[42] The army was extremely unhappy with the tank, citing 14 defects that included "deficient fire control system", "inaccuracy of its guns", "low speeds in tactical areas" and "inability to operate over 50 degrees Celsius".[43] "The Army is now faced with a troubling prospect: inducting a lumbering, misfiring, vintage design tank like the Arjun, and that, too, in large numbers".[41] This, after DRDO over-shot Arjun’s project deadline by 16 years—from 1984 to 1995, finally closing the project only in 2000—and the cost over-run is almost 20 times the original estimate. This is the highest percentage over-run for any DRDO project.[41]

With the September 2007 winter trials, the Indian army deemed Arjun's performance unsatisfactory, including at least four engine failures.[44] DRDO, on the other hand, insisted the tank was a viable choice for adoption and suggested the unsatisfactory performance of the engine during the winter trials was due to sabotage.[5]

Arjun MBT bump track test 2

Arjun MBT bump track test

The Auxiliary User Cum reliability trials (AUCRT) of the Arjun MBT were conducted from September 2007 to summer of 2008. In a report to the Parliamentary standing committee the Indian army deemed Arjun's performance unsatisfactory, including four engine failures within only 1000 kilometers.[45] The defense minister presented this report before the parliament, later published by Press Information Bureau Government of India (PIB).[46]

The Army wrote in the report that during the "accelerated user-cum-reliability trials" in 2008, the Arjun "was found to have failure of power packs, low accuracy and consistency, failure of hydropneumatic suspension units, shearing of top rollers and chipping of gun barrels".[15] Sabotage was suspected, but the Army rejected that any sabotage happened during the trials.[5][47] A later report published by the Government of India during the induction ceremony of the Arjun tank, confirms the success of the trial. "An independent evaluation of the tank by a reputed tank manufacturer found that the MBT Arjun is an excellent tank with very good mobility and fire power characteristics."[48] DRDO installed an instrument to function as a black box in the Arjun, following attempts to "sabotage" its engine.

Subsequently in September 2008, the Indian Army signed a deal with Russia to import 347 T-90 tanks and license build a further 1000.[49][50][51] Transfer of key T-90 technologies has also been agreed upon as a part of the deal.[52][53][54]

In 2008, the Indian Army announced plans to acquire an entirely new main battle tank unrelated to the Arjun, to be inducted after 2020.[55] The Indian Army has held an "international seminar on future MBTs", during which the parameters and requirements of this future MBT were identified.[55] As a result, Russia has offered to team with India on developing this future tank.[56][57] According to Jane's, the Indian Army had confirmed that the Arjun's production will be capped at 124 units.

According to the testimony to the Indian Parliament in the winter of 2008 by the Defense Minister, the Arjun's defects have been rectified "periodically", and the army has "categorically" indicated Arjun's performance as satisfactory. 124 Arjun tanks will be inducted into the army, one regiment by the end of 2008 and the next regiment by the summer of 2009. The tanks will enter service with 140 Armoured Brigade at Jaisalmer. The Arjun was to undergo comparative trials against the Indian Army's Russian-built T-90 tanks in June 2009.[58]

Retired Lt. Col. Anil Bhat, a strategic analyst, pointed out that “the Arjun tank is cumbersome for strategic movement, i.e. to be taken from one sector to another. It is too wide and too heavy to be moved in the railway carriages that we have in India. The comparative trials are just an eyewash as Arjun can be compared to T-90" owing to the different weight class of both tanks.[58] This comment by Lt. Col. Anil Bhat was made without realizing that Arjun specific rail wagons have already been inducted.[59]

A comparative trial was conducted by the Indian Army in March 2010, in which the Arjun was pitted against the Indian T-90. The trial pitted one squadron of Arjuns against an equal number of T-90s. Each squadron was given three tactical tasks; each involved driving across 50 kilometres of desert terrain and then shooting at a set of targets. Each tank had to fire at least 10 rounds, stationary and on the move, with each hit being carefully logged. In total, each tank drove 150 km and fired between 30-50 rounds. The trials also checked the tanks’ ability to drive through a water channel 5–6 feet deep.[60]

Regarding the trial, a Ministry of Defence press release reported:

After many years of trial and tribulation it has now proved its worth by its superb performance under various circumstances, such as driving cross-country over rugged sand dunes, detecting, observing and quickly engaging targets, accurately hitting targets – both stationary and moving, with pin pointed accuracy. Its superior fire-power is based on accurate and quick target acquisition capability during day and night in all types of weather and shortest possible reaction time during combat engagements.[60][61]


  • A 155 mm self-propelled howitzer variant of the Arjun (labelled 'Bhima') has been prototyped by fitting the South African Denel T6 turret, which comes with the G5 howitzer to the Arjun chassis. This project has been delayed as Denel has become embroiled in a corruption scandal in India, and hence the Indian Ministry of Defence has suspended the Bhim.
  • A bridge layer tank (BLT) based on the Arjun chassis has also been displayed by the DRDO.[62] Developed in cooperation with Indian industry, this bridge layer is deemed superior to the T-72 based units, as it can handle a larger load and uses a "scissors type" bridgelaying method, which does not raise the bridge high up into the air, and hence make it visible from afar. India’s main battle tank, Arjun, has taken the “avatar” of a bridge laying tank (BLT). The R&DE(E) did this by replacing the tank’s gun and turret with the bridge launcher. The bridge is cantilevered over chasms or across rivers to cover a distance of 26 m with a width of 4 m. The BLT-Arjun carries two halves of a bridge. At a wet or dry gap, the launcher slides the two parts and docks them to each other in such a way that the far end of the second half touches the other bank. The BLT then crosses the bridge, turns around, retrieves the bridge after undocking its two halves, folds it and is ready to move with the armoured column.[63]
  • Armoured engineering vehicles based on the Arjun are also assumed to be in development, as the Arjun induction will require units of a similar power to weight ratio or powerful enough to tow it, or recover it on the battlefield.
  • Tank EX: A new tank obtained by coupling a T-90 chassis and an Arjun turret. Only prototypes have been built so far.
  • An MBT Arjun Simulator comprising a driving simulator and turret simulator are being developed for troop level training.[29]


The Arjun MKII variant is to be followed by the Futuristic Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the development work of which has been started in 2010. The Indian Army plans to induct the FMBT from 2020 onwards.[64]


  • Flag of India.svg India

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 India, Frontier. "Indian MoD outlines roadmap for MBT Arjun, Mark II in pipeline | Frontier India Strategic and Defence - News, Analysis, Opinion". Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 DRDO working on more advanced version of Arjun MBT: Saraswat
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Arjun specifications
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Arjun
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 No more Arjuns for Indian Army Times of India
  6. "Army places fresh order for 124 more Arjun tanks". Times of India. 
  7. "Army to purchase more Arjun tanks". Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  8. "Future of India's Arjun tank looks secure". 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Smith, Chris (1994). India's Ad hoc Arsenal: Direction or Drift in Defence Policy?. Sipri. pp. 148–151. ISBN 978-0198291688.,M1. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  10. Arjun Mk I' - India's MBT-70 or White Elephant
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Arjun Battle Tank". Government of India. 2008-05-05. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  16. "Indian Army to receive 124 Arjun tanks by 2009,Security Issues, News Analysis, India News Online". 2007-05-14. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  17. "Arjun rumbles to life, Army raises maiden regiment" Hindustan Times, May 26, 2009
  18. Bedi, Rahul (2005-09-21). "System failures stall Arjun trials". Jane's Information Group. Retrieved 2008-10-02. (subscription required)
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "DRDO Plans To Incorporate Hi-Tech Technology Systems In Arjun Battle Tank". Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  20. "Defensive Aid Systems for Arjun MBT Ready: DRDO". India Defence. 2009-10-03. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  21. "Arjun Tank’s Defensive Systems To Undergo Trials". India Defence Online. 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  22. "Indian Arjun Mk II & III Main Battle Tank". Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  23. "Land Forces Site - Arjun". Bharat Rakshak. 2001-03-07. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  24. Main Battle Tank, Arjun, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Ministry of Defense, India
  25. Federation of American Scientists ( Arjun.
  26. [1][dead link]
  27. 27.0 27.1 Frontier India, The Kanchan armour
  28. INDIADEFENCE, Indian Army to Acquire 124 Arjun MBTs By 2009: Defence Ministry
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 [2]
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 India Defence Arjun MBT
  32. "Arjun". Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 DRDO Arjun page
  34. Hydro Pneumatic Suspensions
  35. Indian Army to take all 14 MBT Arjun tanks for trial by September End
  36. DRDO, 1500 HP engine development
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Arjun Development Program
  38. System failures stall Arjun trials
  39. Fourteen Arjun main battle tanks delivered to the Army
  40. Armed forces prefer Russian armour
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Arjun, Main Battle Tanked
  42. Arjun MBT to Participate in Indian Army Desert War Games
  43. Indian Army unsure about Arjun tank's role
  44. Indian Army sounds indigenous battle tank's death knell,
  45. "Arjun tank fails winter trials, Army Chief writes to Antony". The Indian Express. 2008-04-17. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  46. "Arjun Battle Tank". Government of India, Ministry of Defence. 2008-05-05. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  47. Thaindian News, Sabotage suspected in Arjun tank engine; black box installed
  48. Army gets its first armoured regiment of MBT Arjun
  49. Defence ties with Russia extended by another 10 yrs
  50. All dressed up and no Takers
  51. Indian army wants to add another 1000 T-90 tanks by 2020
  52. India, Russia to step up strategic ties
  53. Russia and India agree to transfer of key technology for T-90 tanks
  54. India buying 347 Russian T-90 tanks
  55. 55.0 55.1 "India sets in motion plans to build futuristic tanks". India Times. 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  56. Jane's Defence News, Russia offers to team with India on new MBT.
  57. Kommersant, Russia, India Negotiate Smart Tank Creation.
  58. 58.0 58.1 A last bid to save the Arjun
  59. BFAT wagons inducted into Army
  60. 60.0 60.1 Shukla, Ajai (2010-03-25). "Arjun tank outruns, outguns Russian T-90". Business Standarad. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  62. Image of the Arjun BLT
  63. [3][dead link]
  64. DRDO's Combat Vehicle Development Unit Is

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