The Arjun MK II MBTs have been developed since 2012, based on the Arjun MK I tank, which is proud of in India as one of the most powerful tanks in the world.

India has long focused on developing its domestic defense sector to replace foreign-made weapons. It was initially expected that the Indian tank would replace the Soviet T-72 tank in frontline duty.

The Arjun has had a highly troubled history, beginning development almost 50 years ago in the early 1970s and seeing delays of around 30 years making it one of the longest tank development programs in world history. The Indian Army has itself been highly reluctant to purchase the Arjun. Only 124 tanks entered service in mid-2018, which continued to suffer from serious technical issues leaving 75 percent of the units totally non operational.

India’s decision to invest heavily in the Russian T-90 program from the early 2000s, for which it was by far the largest client, were a direct result of the Army’s dissatisfaction with the Arjun which has changed little in the past 20 years.

 Arjun Tank
Arjun Tank

India most recently ordered several hundred T-90MS  tanks from Russia in 2018, the most capable fully operational Russian tank design, which benefits from many technologies from the next generation T-14 tank and provide both lower costs and maintenance needs and overwhelming performance advantages over the Arjun. These benefits are compounded by the T-90 being combat tested, having far higher availability rates and reliability, and even being license assembled in India.

Referred to by the National Interest as a ‘total piece of junk,’ the Arjun began low level production in 2009 over 35 years after beginning development and suffering from declining operational mobility due to a weight increase of over 50 percent. This came as more heavy subsystems were piled onto the vehicle without sufficient consideration for efficiency and weight reduction.

Such issues were exacerbated by the fact that many of the technologies developed in the early and middle periods of the program became effectively obsolete by the mid-2010s, which was a consequence of the inefficient way the program was handled.

Despite its many weaknesses, one strong point of the Arjun design includes its deployment of a 120mm cannon, which while smaller than the standard calibre for Russian and frontline Pakistani-operated tanks is still much more capable than the 105mm cannon it was initially designed to deploy, which was obsolete by the 21st century.

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