Arjun tank MK-II's armament trial run expected in August

 A new look Arjun tank fitted with a protective armour, fired its first missile three months ago raising hopes that an indigenous and advanced main battle tank is on the horizon.

Arjun Mark-II fired Israeli Lahat missile on April 23 and a second round of tests is slated around August 7-8, reliable sources said.

An advanced version of India’s first main battle tank, Arjun MK-II incorporates 89 improvements over Arjun MK-I, of which two regiments are already in service.

Out of the 89 upgrades, 19 were major ones, which include arming the tank with Israeli laser homing attack-anti-tank  missile, a laser target tracking system to lock-on to the target and an explosive reactive armour to destroy enemy rockets and missiles fired at the tank.

While the first trials for upgraded tanks took place at Mahajan range near Jaisalmer in June 2012, phase two of the trials to evaluate the armaments began in April.

After the second round of testing around August 7-8, the remaining trials would be carried out in the third week of August in Pokhran, said an army official. If the trials are successful, the army will place a production order and it would take 30 months to produce the first batch of Arjun MK-II, which the defence ministry considers a vital component of indigenisation of military hardware. The first Arjun MK-II is likely to enter operational service by 2016.

The weight of Arjun MK-II will, however, continue to be its Achilles heel. Weighing close to 67 tonnes, the Indian Army has already ruled out its use in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and parts of Rajasthan. It will also not be a part of any of the three strike corps of Indian Army, which rely more on Russian origin T-90 tanks.

The tank is currently used in desert and plains mainly for war-gaming and has limited operational purpose. Indian Army ordered 124 Arjun MK-I and is unlikely to go beyond 118 Arjun MK-II once the trials are completed.

Other upgrades are panoramic sight with night vision to engage targets effectively at night, enhanced penetration of the main weapon, additional ammunition types and an advanced air-defence gun to engage helicopters.

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