In a major move towards modernisation of the armed forces and to bolster its combat prowess along the border with Pakistan, the Indian Army will induct an additional 464 Russian-origin upgraded T-90 ‘Bhishma’ battle tanks at a cost of Rs 13,448 crore in the period 2022-2026, according to a Times of India report.
The report quoted Defence ministry sources saying that the “indent” to produce the T-90 tanks would soon be placed on the Avadi Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) under the Ordinance Factory Board. Notably, the cabinet committee on security has cleared the licence acquisition from Russia over a month ago.
The contract will also include a Make-in-India element for integration at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi near Chennai.
The new acquisition will increase the new T-90 regiments by 10 more units and would be equipped with thermal imaging night sights to allow the tank commander to strike enemy locations during night battles.
The new inductions will also strengthen the Army's fire-power along the land border stretch with Pakistan -- from Jammu in the north till the western flank in Gujarat.
India has already inducted 18 regiments of T-90 tanks which are deployed in Rajasthan and Punjab on the Pakistan front.
However, the Indian Army's 4000- strong tank fleet has been battling with night blindness in the past and these new tanks would help in doing away with that, sources said.
The move comes at a time when Pakistan has drawn up an ambitious plan to procure close to 600 battle tanks including T-90 tanks from Russia.
PTI quoted sources saying that Pakistan was eyeing to buy from Russia a batch of T-90 battle tanks- the mainstays of the armoured regiments of the Indian Army, and that the move reflects Islamabad’s intent to forge a deeper defence engagement with Moscow which has been India’s largest and most trusted defence supplier post-Independence.
As of now, the Indian Army has around 1,070 T-90 tanks as well as 124 ‘Arjun’ and 2,400 older T-72 tanks in its 67 armoured regiments.
The Indian Army had drawn up a mega plan to modernise its infantry and armoured corps. However, almost all the procurement projects including the ₹ 60,000 crore Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme are stuck due to a variety of reasons.
At present, India’s armoured regiments, comprising mainly T-90, T-72 and Arjuna tanks, have much more superiority over Pakistan, but sources said Islamabad was seriously planning to bridge the gap at the earliest.
As against around 67 armoured regiments of Indian Army, the number of similar regiments in Pakistan Army is around 51, the sources said.
At present, over 70 per cent of the tanks in Pakistan’s armoury have the capability to operate during night which, they said, was a matter of concern.