As for the preparation for defence along the Chinese border, the Indian Army’s armoured Directorate has begun setting provisions and requirements for a small tank order, according to a source in the Ministry of Defence.
Military planners in the Ministry of Defence asked the army to draw a requirement for light tanks right after China tested its homegrown light tank; Xinqingtan. Xinqingtan is equipped with a 105mm main gun and a 1,000-horse-power engine. It was tested in July 2017 in the Tibet region bordering India.
Currently, the Indian Army uses the Russian made T- 72 and T- 90 along with the homegrown Arjun tank. Arjun Tank and all the others are heavy weight, not made especially for the mountainous regions. They are basically built for deserts.
Military planners need light weight tanks that can go up the mountains and be airlifted.
“The requirement of rapidly deployable, protected and mobile fire power, which can result in precision engagement in the mountains in view of terrain and technology advantage enjoyed by China, has always remained high in the desirability matrix,” an Indian Army official said.
The requirements came off in the wake of the India China standoff that happened recently along the borders, Doklam. The standoff, which has now been resolved saw soldiers from both the countries standing fist fighting in the area since June. An official with India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, “Soldiers have been withdrawn.”
The Indian Army wants the light tanks to weigh about 22 tons and to be capable of operating at heights 3,000 meters or more in the hilly terrain. The tanks are needed to be able to penetrate through highly armoured vehicles and even the main battle tanks from more than 2 kilometres of distance. They should even be able to fire highly explosive anti-tank shells and guided missiles.
Rahul Bhonsle, a defence analyst and retired Indian Army brigadier said, “There are some areas in the mountains where light tanks will be useful, and the Chinese are possibly trying the same (developing light tanks).”
He added, “Light tanks, which can operate at high altitude, are a better option than modified T-72 tanks.”
The Military of Defense source said, “The process for procuring the light tanks after the requirements are finalized will depend on how urgently they’re needed.”
The Army issued a request in 2009 for light tanks, but it was shelved later, without a formal tender.
The Defence Research and Development Organization has encouraged the Military of Defense to grant the light-tank development project. DRDO did develop a light tank back in the 1990s, but the project was closed in 1994 due to a lack of demand within the Army.
Bhonsle said, ”The DRDO project can be revived; however, this will have to be undertaken jointly by the Indian Army so that there are user confidence and assurance of support.”
The Indian Army right now has about 4,000 tanks, including the T-72, T-90 tanks and the Arjun tanks. Out of 4,000, 248 have been contracted, and 118 have been delivered.
Source: Indian Defence