India’s response to the PLA’s Type 15 light tank (above) will be optimized for the extremely cold temperatures and high altitudes of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh
By Vikas Gupta
Defence News of India, 15 Apr 23
As the Indian military scrambles to properly equip itself on the Sino-Indian border, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and private sector company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T ) have teamed up to develop an indigenous light tank that is optimized for the extreme cold and high altitude of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
After co-designing an indigenous 25-ton light tank, DRDO placed a development order on L&T to build the first prototype, according to army sources.
Meanwhile, the Defense Acquisition Board (DAC) – the Ministry of Defense (MoD) supreme body for capital procurement – has granted an Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), or Agreement in Principle, for seven light tank regiments, each equipped with 45 tanks.
The AoN asks L&T – the MoD’s development partner – to build a regiment of light tanks, while the MoD acquires the other six regiments under the “Make” procedure.
The light tank will have a hull, co-developed by DRDO and L&T, which will house an 800 horsepower (HP) engine optimized for high altitudes. The engine will be supplied by the German company MTU, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce.
On this hull will be mounted a 105-millimeter gun turret, purchased ready-made from the Belgian company John Cockerill.
It is intended to marry DRDO’s tank design expertise, created during the development of the Arjun tank, with the heavy engineering capability of L&T, which is already building the K-9 Vajra self-propelled artillery gun system. for the army.
The indigenous light tank was initially planned to be built on the chassis of the K-9 Vajra. This, however, was ruled out because the army placed a weight limit of 25 tons on the light tank, while the Vajra’s heavy chassis would bring its weight to at least 34-35 tons.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) armored challenge in Ladakh centers on China’s new light tank, the nimble and versatile ZTQ 105 – also known as the Type 15 – developed by China’s North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) and unveiled during the Zhuhai Air Show in 2016.
The ZTQ 105 is equipped with a 105mm rifled gun that can destroy enemy tanks at ranges of two to three kilometers (km). It also fires anti-tank guided missiles to knock out tanks at ranges of five kilometers.
The Indian Army is currently using Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks on the Sino-Indian border. But these big 42-45 ton main battle tanks are designed for the plains. It is difficult for them to move on the steep and narrow mountain roads.
There are also limitations on lowering or raising their heavy 120mm guns, sometimes preventing them from engaging targets on hilltops or in valleys. This is why the Indian army only took a small number of T-72 and T-90 tanks to Ladakh to counter Chinese intrusions in 2020, and used them only sparingly.
In contrast, the Indian Army has a formidable combat tradition of using light tanks in the mountains. In 1944 he used Stuart and Sherman tanks in the Battle of Kohima. In 1948, these same tanks pushed back Pakistani forces in the Zoji-la pass. Against China in 1962, the army used AMX-13 light tanks in the Battle of Gurung Hill near Pangong Tso and also deployed them at Bomdila and Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. During the Bangladesh campaign in 1971, French AMX-13 and Soviet PT-76 tanks played a prominent role in the Battle of Garibpur.
Although the K-9 Vajra artillery gun is designed for use on the plains, Sino-Indian border tensions in 2020 saw a full regiment of these long-range self-propelled guns deployed in eastern Ladakh, to increase the long range of the army. firepower.
Their successful deployment prompted the military to consider diverting significant numbers of K-9 Vajras for use in mountainous terrain. This requires L&T to build 100 additional K-9 Vajras; as well as the induction of the Ordnance Factory Board’s indigenous 155mm 45-caliber Dhanush howitzers and imported M777 ultralight guns.
To meet this increased firepower, L&T built 100 K-9 Vajras at Hazira, near Surat, with technology transferred from South Korean defense major Hanwha Defence. He handed over the 100e Howitzer SP on February 18, 2021, before the contractual date.
Now the Department of Defense is continuing the “Vajra rehearsal program”, which requires L&T to build another 100 K-9 Vajra howitzers. L&T’s proposal is currently before the Department of Defense’s “technical evaluation committee”. The commercial offer should be open this month.