MBT-80: Birth of A Beast

Posted on Posted in Army News, Defence Analysis, Indian Defence News

History of Arjun Main Battle Tank …..

Arjun Saga : Part 1

Introduction: 

  MBT-80 was the first Indian totally indigenous Tank development project . This was the very first attempt to do something which the nation never had tried before. The project, consists of many twists ultimately gave birth of another project, which resulted India’s very own Main Battle Tank Arjun.

 History:
  During 1965 Indo-Pakistan war Pakistani armoured forces were both numerically and technologically superior to Indian counterpart. But still except some battles, in rest Pakistan had to face failure. Six years later , in 1971, when both nations again faced each other , Pakistan had lost both the numerical and technological superiority over India. At the end Pakistan lost more than 300 tanks whereas Indian loss of tanks were roughly 90. However, the experience of 1971 changed the fate of Indian Armoured Warfare completely. 

   Situation Before The Project Can Be Started:
    Since independence in 1947 to 1971, Indian armoured forces were consists of mainly light and medium tanks with some no of main battle tanks. Whereas in the world, both the Western Nations led by US and Eastern European Nations led by USSR witnessed mass concentration of Main Battle Tank , even some of the US friendly nations like Israel, Iran and Pakistan concentrated on fielding MBT, it was not until 1971 when India ultimately could evaluated the importance of Main Battle Tank in a war. 
  After the war, Indian military demanded an indigenous Main Battle Tank based on the experience gathered from 1971 Indo-Pak war. 
During the war India had three different types of Main Battle Tanks …. 

Centurion Mk 3 & 7 , from Britain 

Vijayant , a licensed variant of Vickers Mk 1 , this too with the help of Britain

T-54/55 , these were from USSR.   

 These tanks fought against mainly two types of Pakistani Main Battle Tanks….

M 48 supplied by US 

 and

Type-59 supplied by People’s Republic of China.

Note: According to many experts, T-54/55 and M-48 were medium tanks and not MBT. The first Main Battle Tanks for USSR and United States are T-64 and M-60 respectively.
After The 1971 War:
  After the war, when huge no of Pakistani tanks were captured , India got their hand on exotic US hardwares. India at that time , had the privilege to study British, Soviet, Chinese and American technology in case of main battle tanks, along with light and medium tanks of these nations including French . So obviously India got the opportunity to study the advantages and weakness of those machines. 
Overview of The Tanks:
Note: Under service of respected nations only, the original version may have different characteristics , and the Horse Power measurement in some cases is in BHP
Centurion:

Weight: 52 T

Main Gun- 20 Pounder: Model A & Model B (84 mm) 

Armour- Max 152mm

Engine-  550+ hp 
M-48 (A5):

Weight: 45 T

Main Gun- M41 (90 mm)

Armour-  Max 11mm

Engine- 750 hp
Type-59:

Weight: 36 T

Main Gun- Type 59 (100 mm)

Armour- Max 203 mm

Engine- 520 hp
T-55:

Weight: 36 T

Main Gun- 100 mm

Armour- Max 203 mm

Engine- 581 hp
Vijayant:

Weight: 43 T

Main Gun- L7 (105 mm)

Armour- Max 80 mm

Engine: 535 hp
Demands of Indian Army:
  The main requirement of Indian army was such a tank which can adopt well the hot dry climate in Western  Desert , armour good enough to take direct shot from enemy tanks and good firepower which would be able to take out enemy tanks in one shot from distance. They were highly impressed with the L7 (L7A2)  main gun used in Vijayant tank. The accuracy of successfully targeting enemy tanks at distance was so impressive Indian Army decided to go with an Indianised version of L7 105 mm Rifled Gun. Whereas the armour of the T-55 was best among the three main battle tanks they operated. The objective was clear , make a platform which can survive the harsh weather and enemy fire, and in return can rain havoc . 
 The main characteristics of the tanks would be….

1) Cast Homogeneous Steel Armour (most probably)

2) 105 mm Indigenous Rifled Gun,which later changed for in favour of 115 mm

3) An indigenous tank engine 

   Initially 105 mm Rifled Gun was opted for and British L7 was chosen for the base concept of it. L7 was chosen because it was proved to be the best tank main gun at the time. It was developed to defeat thethen time superior armour of Soviet T-55 tanks. India used T-55 and knew well how tremendously capable was the T-55. So when they got success against Pakistani M-47,M-48 or Type-59 (Chinese T-55) using L-7 gun , they found no other option better than this to rely upon. 

 India used L7 main gun on two tanks …

1) Vijayant

2) T-55 (later upgraded)

Later a larger 115 mm gun was proposed with enhanced fire power. 

This design was the base of MBT-80

(Note: Any mistake will be corrected and any new information will be added as soon as we can find it, it will be kept updated)

Pic credits to their respective owners.

Part-2 Coming Soon

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