Monday, 23 May 2011

Upgrading The T-72 Ajeya Is It Necessary Or A Waste Of Taxpayers Money

Army has started the second phase of upgrades for T-72M1 tanks which have been procured over the last thirty years. The total cost of this up-gradation will come to Rs 5,000 Crore for the 1,600 tanks of this variety. Unfortunately for the Indian Army it never thought that it will have to upgrade these beasts, because they were expected to be replaced by home-made Arjun but as we all know that project ran into delays and defects, only couple of years back finally the Army was impressed with the Tank and decided to order the first batch.

Thus began the first phase of modernization with the installation of night fighting capability on these machines. On 23rd November our defense minister AK Anthony told the parliament that the T-72 tank fleet is being optimally used and is the mainstay of the present tank fleet. The entire fleet of this tank is fully battle worthy with high mission and operational reliability. A part of the T-72 fleet is already equipped with high end technology night vision device which has been fully integrated and exploited.

For T-72 IA wanted a new ERA(Explosive Reactive Armor) that will keep out the new 125mm Fin Stabilized Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot and other kinetic energy projectiles and tandem-shape charged weapons.
(Fin Stabilized Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS) is a soft core Tank Ammunition fired from tanks. It is the most lethal kinetic energy ammunition, capable of destroying all known tank armor up to direct shooting range. It has the capability of defeating the heavy triple target.
The complete round consists of two cartridges, the secondary charge (or the front cartridge) and a main powder charge called the primary charge (or the rear cartridge). SMPP manufactures cartridge cases for both the front as well as the rear cartridge.
Key features:
Primary cartridge case: 4 components , Secondary cartridge case: 3 components, Extremely light weight yet strong enough to support the complete load of the ammunition. Fully combustible concept
Salient Features Mk I Mk II
Propellant Mass 19kg 19.3kg
Muzzle velocity 1500m/s 1600 m/s
L/D ratio             14             20
Range at which triple NATO target defeated 2.5 km 3.5 km)

Army also wants auxiliary power unit for the newly installed night vision devices, beside gun control, laser range finder,gunner sight etc.

It is to be remembered that this tank has no amenities for the crew thus in summers the Tank temperature reaches up to 60 degree Centigrade, which starts effecting the efficiency of the crew. To overcome this issue army is also looking for an air-conditioning unit to keep things under control.

The problem with T-72 is that it runs on a 780 horsepower unit and it needs to be upgraded to at least 1000 horsepower unit which is used in T-90. Our homemade Arjun tank runs on a 1,500 horse power.

Many technologies which were developed for Arjun will find their way in the T-72 upgrade. these include the armor,laser warning system, the fire detection and suppression system beside the combat net radio.

Finally if everything falls into place for the army then these tanks will be upgraded with

  1. Polish SKO-1T Drawa-T fire control systems
  2. Thermal Imagers supplied by Polish PCO/Cenzin(from PT-91 Twardy)
  3. DRDO's explosive reactive armor
  4. Navigation system from Israeli Tamam, german Litef or South African RDI
  5. Locally developed laser illumination warning system
  6. New radios manufactured by Tadiran or Marconi GES
  7. Improved NBC protection system developed by DRDO
  8. 1,000 HP(750 kW) engine made by Polish firm PZL-Wola
  9. New fire detection /suppression system and laser warning system on both side of the turret
The first 15 systems are to be installed by technicians from Poland's ZM Bumar-Labedy under contract from Warsaw-based Przemyslowe Centrum Optyki (PCO), which manufactures the Fire-Control System (FCS).
India's state-owned heavy vehicles factory will fit the rest at its Avadi facility, which is responsible for the T-72 MI upgrade project, the defence weekly said. Deliveries will begin later this year and complete by 2004. According to the report, there will be no transfer of technology to allow local production of the FCS.
The Polish SKO-IT Drawa-T thermal imaging Fire-Control Systems (TIFCs) to upgrade the tanks was selected following trials five years ago. As the system was developed specifically for the Soviet-designed T-72 series no modifications are required to the MBT, thus keeping costs down.

US defence major Raytheon and Indian private player Larsen and Toubro (L&T) on Tuesday announced that they were teaming up to submit a proposal to upgrade Indian's Army's vintage T-72 battle tanks. 

Under the proposal, Raytheon, which has already provided 20,000 thermal sights in 15 countries, is set to arrange infrared imaging sights and gadgets which would greatly improve target accuracy and increase overall system lethality on the battlefield for the Indian Army's T-72 tank regiments. 

Now comes the crux of the issue , if we add up the total cost of the upgrade per Tank it comes to Rs 14 (140 million)crore and anew Arjun tank is marginally more expensive at Rs 16.8 crore(168 million). We must remember that the tank body and other parts are effected by corrosion over a period of time, these cannot be fixed and are not included in the up gradation. Therefore the structural integrity of the tank is already reached its life end, putting new sensors and arms will not increase the life of the body, infact it may not be able to bear the extra burden. Plus you may go into battle having confidence in the new ERA plates but can the old body absorb the impact. You may put a powerful engine to make it faster and more lethal but can the chassis take the extra strain.

If Arjun tank has got operational clearance then instead of wasting money on old machines why don't we manufacture tanks which are newer and have the exact same specifications that you are trying to put in the T-72 .These are the same tanks which were pulverized by the Americans in the gulf war.After that heavy and disastrous episode Russians tried to come up with something better called the T-90, which again was a souped up T-72.

On the other hand if the Army is still not satisfied with the Arjun tank then why did it order 300 of them. Some people say that the foreign arms mafia in the army is sabotaging  Arjun tank. Then are we wasting taxpayers money on a machine which is inferior to a newer home made tank? You decide....

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