On 23 September 2020, DRDO successfully tested fired a new ‘Made in India’ laser-guided anti-tank missile from the Arjun tank which increased the power of the Arjun tank. But do you know that destroying the Arjun tank is not only difficult but near impossible for the enemy tanks and the Arjun family has not only one tank but has three tanks that look completely different from each other. In this Guarding India Exclusive, we will tell you about this new anti-tank missile and about all the important capabilities of the Arjun tank in great detail.
Arjun tank is a ‘Made in India’ third-generation Main Battle tank (MBT) which has been developed by DRDO. The development of this tank continued for 35 years due to which some people do not consider it as a good tank. However, I would like to tell you that the Arjun tank is considered one of the best tanks in the world. Arjun tank was specially made for the Pakistan border and Israeli Defence experts had called it “Desert Ferrari”.
You can watch the Guarding India YouTube video on the Arjun tanks which cover all capabilities of Arjun tank at the below mention link or you may continue reading This Guarding India Exclusive.
Arjun tank is named after the best archer of Mahabharat, The Arjun, and this tank fires as accurately as the legendary Arjun. There are three variants of the Arjun tank. First is the baseline Arjun tank which is also called Arjun Mk I. Second variant is Arjun Mk IA which is an improved version of Arjun Mk I and finally the third and the latest variant is the Arjun Mk II tank.
You can recognize Arjun Mk I by its box-type design. While developing the Arjun tank DRDO prioritized protection and that is why the protection of baseline Arjun Mk I which is the first tank of the Arjun family is better than most tanks of the world.
The front and turret of Arjun tank is made of “Kanchan” modular composite armour. In Kanchan armour, composite panels are fitted between Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA) which make it much stronger than steel. In fact, the protection of Arjun tank is far superior to T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma and no anti-tank round can penetrate the armour of Arjun tank. You can estimate the strength of armour of Arjun tank by the fact that during trials T-72 tank of Indian Army fired upon Arjun tank at point-blank range and could not cause any damage to Arjun tank which surprised Indian Army.
Arjun Mk I tank has been fitted with a 120 mm rifled gun which can fire all types of anti-tank rounds like HE, HEAT, or HESH. The range of all rounds of the Arjun tank is more than 2000 meters. To date, the most powerful weapon of the Arjun tank was APFSDS rounds. These rounds can easily destroy any tank with their kinetic energy.
On 23 September 2020, the Arjun tank successfully test-fired a laser-guided anti-tank missile from its barrel and after this test, any tank of the Arjun family can launch an anti-tank missile from its main gun. This missile has been named as Semi-Active Mission Homing or SAMHO. The range of this missile is 4-kilometer and it has been fitted with a tandem-charge high explosive anti-tank warhead which can easily destroy explosive reactive of any modern tank. Besides this SAMHO missile can destroy low flying helicopters and enemy bunkers. SAMHO is a very advanced missile and being a laser-guided missile, it will also be extremely accurate. That is why after being fitted with SAMHO missile, the power of Indian Arjun tanks has increased manifold as now Arjun tank can destroy any Pakistani tank from a distance of 4 kilometers. DRDO is trying to improve the range of this missile to 5 kilometers.
Besides 120 mm gun and missile, The Arjun Mk I tank has also been fitted with a 12.7 mm Anti-Aircraft machine gun for targeting enemy helicopters and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun for targeting enemy soldiers.
To operate these advanced weapons, the Arjun tank has been fitted with a computer-based fire control system which has been jointly developed by Israel and India. The accuracy of this fire control system is very high, and it has hit the probability of more than 90 percent. Arjun tank has Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) developed combined day sight and made in France thermal imager due to which Arjun tank can find its targets in both day and night and can easily destroy them.
The electronic Systems of the Arjun tank are much advanced, and it has been fitted with powerful computers due to which Arjun can perform multiple tasks that even T-90 Bhisma cannot accomplish. Arjun tank has GPS-based navigation systems. Arjun tank has been fitted with advanced Israeli frequency hopping radios for intertank communication.
One advantage of the Arjun Mk I tank which makes it a formidable hunter. Arjun tank has a Battlefield Management System that was jointly developed by DRDO and Israel which connects all Arjun tanks. Due to this system, multiple Arjun tanks can work together and easily ambush enemy tanks.
Arjun Mk I tank has a 1,400-horsepower water-cooled engine which provides it a speed of 70 kilometers per hour. You will be surprised to know that due to its advanced design, despite weighing 60 tons, the ground pressure of the Arjun tank is lesser than the 43-ton T-72 tank.
Now coming to Arjun Mk IA tank which is the second tank of the Arjun family. You can recognize it from Explosive reactive armour (ERA) panels fitted in front which cover only the frontal half and also cover half portion of the side profile.
Arjun Mk IA tank has been fitted with DRDO developed explosive reactive armour (ERA) plates. The weight of these ERA panels is approximately 1.5-tonne which protects the Arjun tank from the front and side. Besides this, the Arjun Mk IA tank has additional protection above the tracks which is not there even in T-90 tank. Arjun tank has US-made 1.5-ton track-width mine plough which gives Arjun Mk IA capability to cross any enemy minefield.
Arjun Mk IA tank has a vectronics suite manufactured by Elbit Systems due to which Arjun can see its targets much faster. The vectronics suite of the Arjun tank has two parts. The first part is ELOP-supplied Advanced Laser Warning and Countermeasures System which is also called ALWACS and the second part is Commander’s Open-Architecture Panoramic Sight or COAPS.
In the first part of vectronic suit or ALWACS has 4 E-LWS laser warning system which can immediately detect any laser or infrared beams that are being used by enemy missiles to target the Arjun tank and create an audio-visual warning to the Commander of the Arjun tank by displaying the direction of enemy position or tank that is trying to target Arjun tank. E-LWS system is a very robust system that is immune to enemy firing. Besides E-LWS, to stop enemy lasers ALWACS has an IR jammer and two eight-launcher aerosol smoke screening systems which creates a thick smokescreen in front of the Arjun tank which cannot be penetrated by enemy lasers. Thus, if any enemy laser cannot reach the Arjun tank then enemy anti-tank missiles which are often laser-guided cannot target the Arjun tank.
The second part of the Arjun tank’s vectronics suite is Commander’s Open-Architecture Panoramic Sight or COAPS. It is a dual-axis stabilized remote operated, periscope system which is used by the Commander of Arjun Mk IA tank. COAPS has been fitted with a French SAGEM- Matis-STD thermal imager which enables the Commander of the Arjun tank to see targets in day or night or even in adverse weather conditions. For gunner, the Arjun tank has a French-made Catherine-FC thermal imager. COAPS has an integrated Laser Target Tracker (LTT) which guides the laser-guided anti-tank and anti-helicopter missile fired from the barrel of the Arjun tank.
Arjun Mk IA has a mobile camouflage system that has been jointly developed by DRDO and Barracuda Company of Sweden which reduces radar, infra-red and other signatures of Arjun tank due to which enemy tanks will not be able to spot Arjun tank.
In the future, for the Arjun Mk IA tank, the Indian Army has selected Saab LEDS-150 active self-protection systems which is also called a land electronic defence system. This active protection system can destroy any anti-tank rounds of enemy tanks before they hit their own tank.
Due to these improvements, the weight of Arjun Mk IA has increased to 67 tons while Arjun Mk I weighs just 62 tons. Due to this increased weight hydropneumatic suspension systems of Arjun Mk IA were re-design for a 70-ton capacity. Due to increased weight, the speed of Arjun Mk IA has decreased to 58.5 kilometer per hour while the speed of the previous version means Arjun Mk I was 72 kilometer per hour. However, you will be surprised to know that despite having an additional weight of 5 tons, the acceleration of Arjun Mk IA meaning the capability to reach zero to max speed is better than Arjun Mk I and that is why the Indian Army is very happy with Arjun Mk IA tank.
Arjun Mk IA tank has 72 improvements in comparison to the Arjun Mk I tank, out of which 14 are major capability upgrades. After lots of tests, in 2019, the Indian Army accepted the Arjun Mk IA tank and placed an order for 118 Arjun Mk IA tanks. Heavy Vehicle Factory which is in Avadi, Tamilnadu produces around 30 Arjun Mk IA tanks per year and the current order of Arjun Mk IA is expected to be completed by 2024-25.
Now we will discuss the third variant of Arjun tank which will be called Arjun Mk II. This tank is even more advanced than Arjun Mk IA tank. Biggest visual difference between Arjun Mk IA and Arjun Mk II tanks is the side profile. While Arjun Mk IA turret has ERA panel only till half distance, the turret of Arjun Mk2 has been completely redesigned to cover full turret length.
Before talking further about the Arjun Mk II tank, I would like to tell you that the features of the Arjun Mk II tank are far advanced than Arjun Mk I and Arjun Mk IA. DRDO is still researching on Arjun Mk II tank and whichever new technology the Indian Army selects is being integrated into this tank. The first prototype of Arjun Mk II was displayed in the Defence Expo 2014.
Actually, after making the Arjun Mk IA tank, the Indian Army and DRDO realized that the Arjun Mk IA tank with a weight of 68 tons is very heavy and that is why the Indian Army asked DRDO to redesign Arjun Tank so that the weight of the new Arjun tank is reduced. Thereafter, DRDO developed a new version of Kanchan Modular Armour of Arjun tank called Kanchan Mk II which is lightweight and is stronger. Because of Kanchan II armour, the weight of the Arjun Mk II tank is approx 55-60 tons only. However, despite having a lower weight the protection of Arjun Mk II is higher than any other Arjun variant.
For enhancing protection Arjun Mk II has been fitted with lightweight ERA panels. Arjun Mk II has been fitted with advanced variants of all systems used in Arjun Mk IA. The firepower of the Arjun Mk II gun has been improved and it can easily fire all types of anti-tank and anti-helicopter missiles like the SAMHO missile. In addition to the missile firing capability, Arjun Mk II can fire ‘Made in India’ APAM round for eliminating enemy soldiers and anti-tank squads that use missiles and RPG.
Arjun Mk II tank has a US-made 1500 horsepower QSK-38/ESM-500 engine due to which it will be very agile on the battlefield and its speed will be 72-kilometer per hour which is higher than the T-90 Bhisma tank. Arjun Mk II also has a new suspension system which increases the crew comfort enabling them to be even more effective in the battlefield.
Arjun Mk II has an advanced variant of the Israeli integrated battle management system (BMS) used in Arjun Mk IA which connects all Arjun tanks. Due to this system multiple Arjun Mk II tanks can work together and ambush enemy tanks.
Impressed by the capabilities of the Arjun Mk II tank, in January 2020, Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane told that the Arjun Mk II tank meets all operational requirements of the Indian Army and soon it will be inducted in the army. Due to such impressive capabilities and advanced systems, the cost of a single Arjun Mk II tank is around 34 crores rupees. However, even at this cost, Arjun Mk II is much cheaper than other comparable tanks of the world with equal capabilities like the US M1 Abram tank and British Challenger Tank.
At last on behalf of Team Guarding India, I would like to tell you that presently Arjun tank is amongst the best tanks in the world and Pakistan does not have an answer to the Arjun tank. Till now, the Indian Army has already ordered 124 Arjun Mk I tank and 118 Arjun Mk IA tanks. Besides this Indian Army is planning to order approx. 500 Arjun Mk II tanks. Team Guarding India is fully confident of the fact that in war all three variants of Arjun tank can easily destroy any Pakistani tank and despite their lesser numbers will be able to stop any Pakistani attack.