Prime Minister Narendra Modi will symbolically hand over the first 118 Arjun Mark 1A main battle tanks (MBT) to army chief General MM Naravane at a function in Chennai on Sunday. This will clear the path for the army to formally place orders for the production of the final batch of Arjun MBTs worth Rs 6,600 crore.
The political push for the Arjun tanks follows the February 3 award of a contract for 83 LCA Tejas aircraft to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The contract is worth Rs 48,000 crore- the largest placed on any Indian defence firm and was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security on January 13. The government has identified indigenous contracts as being a key to jump start indigenous industry and achieve self-sufficiency in defence, the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative launched last April.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said at Aero India last week that the government would reduce imports by $2 billion (Rs 14,000 crore) by the end of 2022.
The Arjun has been designed by the DRDO’s Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) and DRDO Chairman Satheesh Reddy will hand the first Arjun Mark 1A to Prime Minister Modi. The tanks will be produced by the OFB’s Heavy Vehicles Factory Avadi and the first batch of five MBTs will be handed over to the army within 30 months of signing of the contract.
The Army currently operates two regiments of 124 Arjun Mark 1s which are positioned in Rajasthan. In November, Prime Minister Modi symbolically rode an Arjun tank in Longewala, where he celebrated Diwali with the troops.
The CVRDE swiftly completed development of the Arjun Mark-2 in two years, by 2012. The Rs 6,600 crore order for 118 tanks was cleared by the DAC in 2014 but the order was not placed.
The project was in a limbo since 2015 as the army focused on ordering more T-90 medium tanks from Russia. In 2019, the army ordered an additional 464 T-90s worth close to Rs 14,000 crore.