- The plan to buy light tanks comes as the dispute with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh near the border continues.
- India has sent light tanks to high-altitude areas in the past, such as eastern Ladakh. During the 1962 war, the Indian Air Force's An-12s flew AMX-13 tanks of the 20 Lancers to Chushul.
In an interview, J D Patil of L&T said that the light tank being made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) will be ready to test by the middle of 2023.
“Development is going at full speed,” said Patil, who is an advisor to S. N. Subrahmanyan, the CEO and Managing Director of L&T.
The light tank is being made under the Defense Procurement Procedure’s “Make-I” or “Government Funded” category.
In the “Make-I” category, projects get “90% government funding, released in stages and based on the scheme’s progress, according to terms agreed between the Ministry of Defence and the vendor.”
In April 2021, the Army sent out a Request for Information (RFI) about light tanks. It plans to add 350 light tanks that weigh less than 25 tonnes.
A new design has replaced the old plan to turn the tracked self-propelled artillery platform K9 Vajra into a light tank. The plan was scrapped because a platform based on the K9’s 28-ton chassis would have been too heavy for the Army’s 25-ton limit.
“This [the design that DRDO and L&T are working on now] is completely new and not based on the Vajra design,” Patil said. “We are confident that the light tank will be ready for testing by the middle of next year.”
Patil told Janes last month that L&T is working on the development, but that it is not guaranteed a role in the production phase.
“[The] Indian process can’t combine development and production contracts into one,” he said. “Developed equipment has to go through field evaluation trials and be approved for induction before production orders can be made.”
Light Tanks For High Altitude AreasUnder Project Zorawar, the Army wants to get light tanks made in India so that they can be sent out quickly and move around easily in high-altitude areas.
The plan to buy light tanks comes as the dispute with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh near the border continues.
Even though the Indian Army has T-72 and T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) in eastern Ladakh, these tanks were mostly made for plains and deserts. When used in high-altitude places, they have their own limits. Their weight makes it hard for them to move around and use in high-altitude areas.
Also, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sent ZTQ-15 (or Type 15) light tanks with armoured units to Tibet. The ZTQ-15 is easier to operate and maintain in high-altitude areas than India’s 42-ton T-72 MBTs.
In its RFI from April 2021, the Indian Army said that the light tank must have at least 25 HP per tonne of weight. The T-72s have a power-to-weight ratio of only 18.5 HP per tonne, which is not enough. The ZTQ-15 from China, on the other hand, has a power-to-weight ratio of around 30 HP per tonne.
The Army says in the RFI, “The ILT is expected to be as deadly and able to survive as the current tanks. It will also have a major mobility advantage that will allow it to be used mostly in High Altitude Areas and Marginal Terrain.”
India has sent light tanks to high-altitude areas in the past, such as eastern Ladakh. During the 1962 war, the Indian Air Force’s An-12s flew AMX-13 tanks of the 20 Lancers to Chushul. During the war with Pakistan in 1965, AMX-13s were sent to Chamb.