Due to the ongoing India China border standoff in Ladakh, both nations have deployed their tanks on the border. During this standoff, the Chinese Army has deployed Type 15 Light tank on the border and presently Indian Army has no comparable system to the threat of the Chinese light tank. That is why the Indian Army has deployed T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma tanks on the border. In this Guarding Exclusive, we will tell you about the capabilities of the Chinese Type 15 Light Tank and Russian Sprut-SDM1 Light Tank in which the Indian Army is much interested.
You can watch Guarding India YouTube video on Sprut Light Tank at this link or continue reading this article.
Tanks are considered as the most dangerous weapon of any army and a good tank can be key to victory in any war. A normal tank like T-72 and T-90 tank which weighs around 45-48 tons cannot move on weak mountainous roads and therefore their movement is much restricted. Due to this reason, light tanks whose weight is lesser than normal tanks are more successful in mountainous regions.
Even during the 1962 Sino-India War, India had French AMX 13 light tanks that were airlifted to LAC by AN-12 planes of the Indian Air Force. Indian Army replaced AMX 13 tanks with Russian PT 76 which was an amphibious light tank. In 1971 India Pakistan war, Russian PT 76 light tanks proved to be very effective. After the retirement of PT-76 light tank, presently Indian Army does not have any light tank in service.
In past, at several times, DRDO tried to develop a Light tank, however, to date DRDO has been unable to develop an effective light tank. In the 1990s, DRDO tried developing a light tank based upon BMP-2 Sharath which is manufactured in India. In this DRDO Light Tank concept, a French GIAT TS-90 turret with 105 mm gun was fitted on the BMP II body. However, this project was closed by 1998.
Even after this, the Indian Army continued to search for light tanks and in 2009, the Indian Army issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Light tanks which stated a requirement of 200 wheeled and 100 tracked light tanks. In this tender, Indian Army specified that the weight of the light tank should be less than 22 tons and it should be able to operate in mountain regions higher than 3000 meters or 12000 feet just like Ladakh. However, even this tender could not materialize in a purchase.
In 2020, during Ladakh’s standoff when the Chinese Army deployed Type 15 Light tank on LAC, the Indian Army felt the need of light tanks. Type 15 Light Tank which is also called ZTQ-15 is a third-generation tank of the Chinese Army. Type 15 tank has been specially developed for high mountainous regions like Tibet because of the heavy tanks of the Chinese Army like Type 96 tank that weighs 43 tons and Type 99 tank which weighs approx. 58 tons were unable to operate in the high mountains of Tibet.
The weight of Type 15 Light Tank is around 36 tons and it has a 1000 horsepower engine that enables it to move into any mountainous region. Type 15 Light Tank has a 105 mm rifled gun which fires a new type of APFSDS round made of tungsten alloy. According to the Chinese Army, this round can destroy most tanks at a range of 2 kilometers. Due to the lightweight of Type 15 tanks, the Y-20 transport aircraft of the Chinese Air Force can travel with two Type -15 Light tanks to 7,800 kilometers. Due to this reason, in no time, Type 15 Light tanks can be inducted into the Tibet area.
Presently, in answer to Chinese Type 15 Light tanks, India has deployed T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma tanks on LAC. I would like to tell you that the T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma tanks of the Indian Army are far more powerful than Chinese Type 15 light tanks because Indian tanks have 125 mm smoothbore gun which is superior to 105 mm gun used in Chinese Type 15 Light Tank. Not only this, experts believe that the protection of Indian T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma tanks with 45-48 Tons weight is far better than the protection of Chinese Type 15 light tank with 36 tons weight, and in any mountainous plains like Depsang plains Indian tanks will easily destroy light tanks of Chinese Army.
However, there are some areas in Ladakh where T-72 Ajeya and T-90 Bhishma tanks of the Indian Army cannot reach and for those places Indian Army is discussing the procurement of Sprut Light Tank from Russia on a fast-track basis.
The full name of Sprut Light Tank is 2S25M Sprut-SDM1 and it is a new light tank of Russia. For making Sprut Light tank, Russia merged the chassis BMD-4M airborne combat vehicle with a fire control system and sights of T-90 MS main battle tank. The weight of Sprut light tank is just 18 tons and it has been fitted with 500 horsepower UTD-29 multi-fuel diesel engines. Due to its low weight and powerful engine Sprut light tank can reach any area of Ladakh.
Just like T-72 and T-90 tanks, Sprut Light Tank has been fitted with a fully stabilized 125 mm smoothbore which can fire any ammunition used by Indian tanks. The firing range of this gun is 2 to 2.5 kilometers and it is more powerful than 105 mm gun used by Type 15 light tank. Besides this, Sprut Light Tank can fire laser-guided Invar-M anti-tank missiles from its barrel. Invar-M missile with its 5-kilometer range is considered amongst the most dangerous anti-tank missiles of the world because it can shoot down low flying enemy helicopters as well as can easily destroy any Chinese heavy tank like Type 96 and Type 99 Main battle tanks. It is due to Invar-M missile Sprut Light Tank will be able to face any tank of the Chinese army. Besides 125 mm smoothbore gun, this light tank has two 7.62 mm machine guns, and one machine gun out of these two is mounted on remote-controlled weapon stations which can be used to target enemy soldiers.
After these impressive capabilities of this tank there is one glaring shortcoming in this tank. Just to keep the weight of this light tank on the lower side of the scale, it has been developed with weak armour protection as Sprut tank can only stop 12.7 mm machine gun bullets from the front and only 7.62mm light machine gun bullets from sides which is considerably lesser than other tanks. However, just like the T-90 tank, for improving armour protection, Sprut Light Tank can also be fitted with Explosive reactive armour (ERA) panels.
Finally, two advantages that make this light tank a unique tank in the world. Firstly, this light tank is the only tank in the world that can be airdropped, and surprisingly, during the airdrop troops can be sitting inside the tank which means that as soon as sprut light tank lands on the ground it can immediately start destroying enemy tanks. Secondly, this light tank is a fully amphibious tank that can float on the water surface. Sprut light tank has two waterjets due to which it can swim at speed of 7 kilometer per hour.
Sprut tank has three crew members which include commander, gunner, and driver. A single IL-76 transport aircraft of the Indian Air force can para drop two Sprut light tanks with their crew.
If the Indian Army finalizes Sprut light tank deal then we expect that it will be fitted with additional armour protection, French Catherine thermal imager, secure Israeli radios, and Saab LEDS -150 active self-protection system which will make the Sprut tank even more powerful. Besides this, we also want that DRDO and OFB should jointly work on Light Tank project at a faster pace so that we can reduce dependence upon imported tanks.
Team Guarding India is confident that the Indian Army Sprut light tank will prove to be a very effective weapon in Ladakh and it will be a formidable match to Chinese Type 15 light tanks. Not only this, in the future, if the Indian Army conducts any large-scale operations inside Tibet then Sprut light tank will surely be airdropped to support India’s Special Frontier Force and Para Commandos.