Indian Subcontinent homes two of the world’s largest armies in the world and also one of the largest armored forces in the world. The armor of both countries clashed in various battles fought in 1965 and 1971 which has lead both nations to realize the importance of keeping a standing armored forces composed of Main Battle Tanks (MBT) which can thrust decisively into enemy territory in case of a war.
Indian MBT force at present is complied mostly of Russian-made T-72M1 “Ajeyas” and T-90 “Bhisma” which have been produced at Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi. Indian MBT forces also comprises of a small number of indigenously made Arjun Mk.1 Main Battle Tanks while Arjun Mk.2 is still awaiting orders from Army after it has run into various technical problems with Army.
Pakistan MBT force on other hand is heavily dependent on Pakistan and Ukrainian machines which include Al-Khalid , T-80UD , Al-Zarrar and a host of 2nd Generation Chinese-made Main Battle Tanks which form the bulk of Pakistan MBT force.
Before we start comparing the two MBT forces we would like to say that this is a pure head-to-head comparison since in a tank battle many things like ATGM Teams , Support Troopers , Armored Vehicles and tactics are considered which will make the whole article nothing short of a a military thesis. So as a fact they will not be considered here for sake of maintaining the readability and interest of the reader.
Indian Tank Force : Strengths and Weaknesses
The strength of the Indian Tank forces lies with its humongous size of tank fleet which spans to 63 Armoured regiments and with its Russian fleet of tanks which comprises of Bhismas and Ajeyas.
India uses almost 1200+ T-90 “Bhisma” tanks currently which are assembled at HVF , Avadi from knockdown kits from Russia. These tanks features a number of Indian flicks which makes it in a way ‘superior’ to the Russian version. This includes THALES Catherine-FC gen-3 thermal imager , Kanchan Armor , Matis-STD thermal imager , DVE-BS meteorological sensor , 1V528-1 ballistics computer and KONTAKT-5 ERA which gives it a decisive edge in the combat. It features a 2A46M 125mm Cannon which is capable to fire HEAT , HESH , HE , Frag rounds which includes INVAR ATGM.
The strength of Indian tank force also lies with Arjun tank which feature protection far exceeding any tank in Indian subcontinent. You will be surprised to know that its armor withstood 3BM-42 Mango APFSDS round fired from a T-72 cannon. In case of a battle it can tank multiple hits from enemies and directly attack them while Indian T-90 and T-72 can flank the enemies around. Arjun reportedly had some availability problems due to lack of spares which were fixed later. It features a 120mm accurate rifled cannon which can defeat Pakistani armor with ease thanks to the FSAPDS round it fires. However the logistic is a major issue with IA in this case since majority of the systems with it cannot cope with a system like Arjun.
IA MBT fleet also comprises of a humongous T-72 fleet which numbers to more than 2300 at present. These older T-72 are now being upgraded to “Combat Improved Ajeya” standards which includes adding an improved 1000HP engine , Polish SKO-1T DRAWA-T fire control system/thermal imager , improved NBC protection and more. However in modern sense T-72 are too outdated to be used in combat and pose serious problems when it comes to maintainability and operational status.
However some serious problems plague the Indian tank force. This includes grounding of Arjun tank fleet (rectified now) , tank breakdowns (as happened with Indian T-90 in Tank Biathlon) , night fighting problems and problems with the sights it uses. Thankfully all have been rectified now to the best but these problems have shown how Indian tank force have been deficient . It also needs to rapidly replace its ageing platforms like T-72 with modern day-MBTs if it wants to keep its decisive edge on its adversaries.
Pakistan Tank Force : Strength and Weakness
The one tank which Pakistan tank fleet can pride upon is : T-80UD. It is unarguably the most protected and most advanced battle tank in Pakistani MBT fleet. In 1996 , PA bought some 320 T-80UD from Ukraine. It features a 1A45 fire control system same as T-90 and also features 1V528 ballistic computer , meteorological sensors and more. Its armor protection is quite better than the T-72 but is a bit inferior to T-90 “Bhisma”. It uses passive steel armor and composite armor for protection and features safe maneuvering angles which adds to its protection means. PA bought these as a means to counter Indian acquisition of T-90 tanks. According to many sources these tanks are quite better to comparable Soviet Platforms and may give a tough fight to Indian tank fleet in case of a conflict.
Another Pakistani tank which comes to forefront is : Al-Khalid Tank. Thanks to military cooperation with People’s Republic of China it is just a Pakistani version of Chinese” MBT 2000″ based on NORINCO Type 90-II MBT. Its armor is not as superior as T-90 or T-80UD as it faetures all-welded steel armor with composites added over frontal arc. It features a 125mm cannon, Torison Bar Suspension (which is same as T-90 Bhisma but inferior to Arjun’s hydropneumatic suspension). It features a French Auto-tracking system, 6TD-2 engine from Ukraine, GIDS ERA, Soft-Kill Active Protection System and more. Al-Khalid transmission is a thing which gives it a decisive edge since it possess better Power by Weight Ratio as compared to Indian Tanks.
Pakistan also operates a host of 2-Generation Main Battle Tanks like Al-Zarrar (Pakistan modified/upgraded Type 59 Tank) and several hundred Type 85-IIAP which keeps up the number of Pakistani MBT fleet.
PA Tank Fleet has a host of problems which involve coping up with obsolete machines , tank breakdowns where 30 transmission units of Pakistani Al-Khalid tanks broke down due to faulty Ukrainian machine oil and its frequent tries to edge India in terms of tank fleet meeting with no re-sounding success. Pakistan also has been trying to get Turkish Altay Main Battle Tank, Chinese MBT3000 and Ukrainian T-84 “Oplot” to cope up with Indian numbers and technology edge they possess.
At end it is not just tanks which contribute to conclusion of any tank battle. Being outnumbered and ill-equipped to face an Indian tank thrust Pakistan may resort to using tactical nukes like “Nasr” on which it has been increasingly relying. ATGM teams and small strike teams can also lead the favour in your hands the prime example being how Finland resisted and defeated a massive Soviet army during “Winter War” where importance of anti-tank defense was laid which involved land knowledge , real-time tactics and more.
<< Indian ATGM Team >>
This shows the importance of tactics in any battle. Tactics were also used many time by Indian Tankers during Battle of Asal-Uttar where Indian tanks crushed the Pakistani Pattons and lead to a decisive Indian victory.
There has been a long term used for Indian Tank thrust into Pakistan territory called “Col Start” which involves limited-war strategy to capture Pakistani territory in a short time without risking a nuclear war. Such an offensive would involved Pakistani conventional defeat and also risk a highly probable nuclear war.