The light tank being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) will be ready for testing by mid-2023, L&T's J D Patil has said in an interview.
"The development is on at full speed," Patil, who serves as an advisor to L&T Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director S N Subrahmanyan, said.
The light tank is being developed under the 'Make-I' or 'Government Funded' category of the Defence Procurement Procedure.
Projects under the 'Make-I' category receive "government funding of 90%, released in a phased manner and based on the progress of the scheme, as per terms agreed between MoD [Ministry of Defence] and the vendor."
The Army had issued a Request for Information (RFI) for light tanks in April 2021. It plans to induct 350 light tanks in the 25-ton weight category.
The earlier plan to convert the K9 Vajra-tracked self-propelled artillery platform into a light tank has been junked in favor of a new design. The plan was dropped as the weight of the platform based on the K9's 28-ton chassis would have crossed the 25-ton limit set by the Army.
"This [the current design being developed by DRDO and L&T is completely ab initio, and not taking Vajra design," Patil said, adding, "We are confident that the light tank will roll out on test tracks by the middle of next year."
While L&T is involved in the development work, it is not assured a role in the production phase, Patil had told Janes last month.
"[The] Indian process cannot place development and production contracts in one," he said, adding, "Developed equipment has to undergo field evaluation trials and emerge successful for the induction clearance, and then [the] production ordering process begins."
Light Tanks For High Altitude Areas
Under Project Zorawar, the Army wants to induct indigenous light tanks for quick deployment and unhindered mobility in high-altitude areas.
The plan for the procurement of light tanks comes amid the lingering border row with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
While the Indian Army has deployed T-72 and T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) in eastern Ladakh, these tanks were primarily designed for operations in plains and desert terrains. They have their own limitations when employed in high-altitude areas. Their mobility and use in high-altitude areas are restricted due to their weight.
Moreover, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed armoured units in Tibet equipped with 33-tonne ZTQ-15 (or Type 15) light tanks. Compared to India's 42-tonne T-72 MBTs, China's ZTQ-15 is easier to operate and maintain in high-altitude areas.
In its RFI of April 2021, the Indian Army has mandated a power-to-weight ratio of at least 25 HP/tonne for the light tank. While the T-72s offer an inadequate power-to-weight ratio of just 18.5 HP per tonne, China's ZTQ-15 has a power-to-weight ratio of around 30 HP per tonne.
"The ILT is envisaged to be as lethal and survivable as the current tanks and will have major mobility advantage to be employed majorly in High Altitude Areas and Marginal Terrain," Army says in the RFI.
India has deployed light tanks in high-altitude areas, including eastern Ladakh, in the past. AMX-13 tanks of the 20 Lancers were airlifted to Chushul onboard the Indian Air Force's An-12s during the 1962 war. In the 1965 war with Pakistan, AMX-13s were deployed at Chamb.
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