As you all know that due to India China Standoff in Ladakh, the Indian Army has deployed T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma tanks on LAC. Team Guarding India has already covered the capabilities of the T-90 tank in our Exclusive article and on YouTube video. After this, we received multiple requests from our readers for covering the capacities of the T-72 Ajeya tanks. Therefore today we will be covering all important aspects of the T-72 Ajeya tank which is considered the backbone of Indian armoured formations. You can either watch the video representation or can continue reading this article on the T-72 Ajeya tank.
You can watch the Guarding India YouTube video on T-72 Ajeya Tank at this link or continue reading this article.
In the 1970s, the Indian Army wanted to replace its Centurion and Vijayanta main battle tanks (MBT) and after lots of trials, the T-72 tank of the Soviet Union was selected. Finally, in 1978, India ordered 500 T-72, T-72M, and T-72M1 tanks directly from USSR. Subsequently, in the 1980s Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, Chennai started production of T-72 tanks in India. India was the first country outside Europe to produce a T-72 tank and presently there are more than 2000 T-72 tanks in Indian Army service.
There are three versions of T-72 tanks in Indian Army service. Firstly, those T-72 tanks which were directly imported from the Soviet Union. The second type of T-72 tanks in Indian Army service was the ‘Made in India’ T-72 Ajeya Tank and finally improved the T-72 Ajeya M1 tank.
The first T-72 tank variant is the original Soviet T-72 tank which is called T-72M or “Object 172M-E4”. The weight of the T-72 M tank is approx 37 tons and it had no ERA panels. This tank can be considered a legacy version of the T-72 tank. The second version is an indigenous T-72 Ajeya tank whose weight is approx 41.5 tonne and it’s different than the Soviet T-72 tank.
The third T-72 tank is T-72 Ajeya Mark 1 which is the most famous variant of the Indian T-72 Ajeya tank. The appearance of T-72 Ajeya Mark 1 is different than other T-72 Ajeya tanks of the Indian Army as these are fitted with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) panels. These ERA panels were specially developed by DRDO for enhancing the protection of the T-72 tank and they are called Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) Mark-I. DRDO ERA Mk-1 panels can reduce the impact of shaped charge warheads by 70 percent. These panels are safe for normal handling and are immune to enemy small arms fire. These panels remain effective even after the deep fording. After being fitting with DRDO ERA Mark-I panels, the T-72 tank can easily defeat modern anti-tank missile-like MILAN. Currently around 1,400 T-72 Ajeya tanks have been fitted with DRDO ERA Mk-I panels.
After covering differences between variants of the Indian T-72 tank, now we can discuss the firepower of the T-72 tank. Indian T-72 Ajeya tanks have 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore tank gun which can fire all types of anti-tank rounds which includes highly effective Armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) round. Besides this, the T-72 Ajeya tank has a 12.7 mm NSV machine gun which is used in an anti-aircraft role. Finally, for targeting enemy infantry soldiers, the T-72 tank has a coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine gun which is fitted alongside the barrel.
Despite being manufactured in the 1980s, Indian T-72 Ajeya tanks are considered to be an effective tank to date, and therefore during India China border standoff, the Indian Army has deployed T-72 Ajeya tanks in Ladakh. Being a Russian design, the serviceability of these tanks in cold climates is unmatched and even in extreme weather of Ladakh T-72 tanks are working flawlessly and are ready to repeal and Chinese aggression.
Now about the future of the T-72 tank, as per the original plan of the Indian Army, T-72 tanks were to be replaced by indigenous Arjun tanks that are still being refined. Therefore, the Indian Army is planning to upgrade T-72 Tanks. Under this upgrade program, T-72 Ajeya tanks will be modernized like the latest T-72B3 tank of Russia and its looks will be similar to that of T-90 tanks.
Indian Army has named the T-72 Ajeya upgrade as Project Rhino and it aims to increase the service life of the T-72 Ajeya tank by 20 years. This upgrade has multiple components which include both Indian and foreign equipment. Firstly for enhancing the protection of T-72 Ajeya tank, it will be fitted with next-generation ERA Mk-II armour panels that have been developed by DRDO. The protection of ERA Mark-II will be higher than that offered by ERA Mark-I panels of T-72 Ajeya Mark I. In the future, besides T-72 Ajeya, ERA Mark-II will be fitted onto Arjun and T-90 tanks.
In addition to ERA Mark-II, DRDO has developed a new thermal imaging sight for T-72 Ajeya which is called Thermal Imaging Stand-Alone Sights or TISAS. The range of TISAS is 3 kilometers and around 300 T-72 Ajeya tanks have been already been fitted with TISAS sight. In the future, more advanced versions of TISAS will be fitted as part of the tank upgrade program.
Besides this, in the T-72 Ajeya upgrade program, these tanks will be fitted with new Israeli radios, a Russian Fire Control System and a new 125 mm smoothbore gun with improved missile firing capability. Upgraded T-72 Ajeya tank will be able to fire the latest barrel launched laser-guided anti-tank missile developed by DRDO. The range of this missile is just 5 kilometers and this missile was successfully tested on 22 September and 1 October 2020.
Finally, the most important as well as the most disputed topic of the T-72 tank upgrade. Currently, the T-72 Ajeya tank has a 780 horsepower V46-6 engine. After the upgrade, the weight of the T-72 Ajeya will increase, and therefore it will be fitted with a new engine with 1000 horsepower. The Indian Army currently has two options for this engine. Firstly, the ‘Made in India’ V92S2 high power diesel engine with 1000 horsepower which is already fitted into T-90 Bhisma tanks of the Indian Army. The second engine option is a Polish 1,000 hp engine manufactured by PZL-Wola company. As per Team Guarding India, irrespective of whichever engine is selected for the T-72 upgrade it will be manufactured in India under license.
Finally, on behalf of Team Guarding India, I would like to say that as per current plans more than 1000 T-72 Ajeya tanks of the Indian Army will be upgraded. We are sure that these upgraded T-72 Ajeya tanks will prove to be more effective tanks for the Indian Army.