If so many of you are willing to argue so passionately for the Arjun (more than a hundred intensely argued posts on my article below) I’ll keep putting out the facts. And here is the first bunch of clarifications… about some of the misconceived arguments being made in some of the posts.
Falsehood No. 1: “70 Arjuns have been rolled out in 8 years!”
Wrong. These 70 tanks have taken less than two years to manufacture. The Arjun’s series production didn’t start in 2000… it only began last year. And the Arjun production line is already very close to producing its installed capacity of 50 tanks a year.
Falsehood No. 2: “Quality speaks for itself.”
Wrong. Quality speaks for itself only when the system is actually in service. But when the equipment is being evaluated, quality is entirely subjective. It is easily buried… in trial reports, which are subject to various pressures and pulls. If the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces makes it clear that the Arjun tank isn’t what they want, if the brigade, division and corps commanders of the units conducting the trials let it be known that they don't think the Arjun should look good, only the occasional stubbornly upright CO will insist that it's a quality tank. Most will make sure that the trial report buries the tank.
And the problem today is that most of those senior officers haven't seen the Arjun today; they still remember the Arjun of 10, 5, even 3 years ago. So perception and institutional memory is loaded against the Arjun.
Secondly, trials can be structured in a manner that tilts the scale dramatically against the equipment being tried out. In the case of contentious equipment like the Arjun tank, the best way to make trials somewhat objective is to hold "comparative trials"… in which two or three pieces of equipment are put through identical routines. Even that can be fiddled, but it is far more difficult to do so.
Falsehood No. 3: “T-90 production delays are due to the Ordnance Factory Board.”
Wrong. The T-90 is still not at the point of production. And that's because the Russian manufacturers haven’t transferred technology. My earlier article (see below) explains the exact position.
Falsehood No. 4: “The army is not taking over the Arjuns because they are defective.”
Wrong. The army is not taking over those tanks, period. They haven’t yet undergone a transfer inspection, so nobody on the planet knows whether they are defective or not.
That having been said… those tanks might well be of a standard below that of the "Pre-Production Series (PPS) Arjuns. That is because of the well-known difficulties in transitioning from "prototype to production”. That involves changing the mode of production from single piece production to mass production; this gives rise to quality control issues all over the world.
As an example, when the T-72 started being manufactured at HVF Avadi, the quality of those indigenous T-72s (called the Ajeya) was so bad that one of our frontline regiments --- 88 Armoured Regiment, an excellent outfit being commanded by an outstanding officer --- was officially declared “Unfit for War”. It was unprecedented! No armoured regiment had ever been declared “unfit for war” before that. And the reason was simple: productionising the T-72 threw up problems of quality control during mass production.
The Arjun could well face similar problems. But they weren’t used to cut down on the T-72 programme, and --- if they happen with the initial batch of Arjuns --- they shouldn’t be used to curtail the Arjun programme either. It’s an issue that happens, and then gets resolved with a little bit of effort.
Falsehood No. 5: Buying the Arjun is equivalent to “sending soldiers to their deaths in sub-standard equipment”.
Firstly, we haven't yet established that the Arjun is sub-standard. If the army's reluctance to hold comparative trials is any indication, it might well emerge that the T-72s and the T-90s are the substandard equipment in this ball game.
Secondly, the armoured corps is not going to war in a hurry, so we have the time to experiment and nurture an indigenous tank. The last time tankmen went to war was in 1971. If you ask any senior officer when the next time will be, they won’t have an answer. So India DOES have the time to accept the Arjun, iron out any production wrinkles (and we are only ASSUMING that there will be some) and, very importantly, to absorb the know-how for operating the Arjun.
Okay, I’m wrong in the above para. The last time tankmen were sent to their deaths was when barrels started bursting in the T-72 (and it wasn’t only “made in India” barrels), which turned out to be happening because when we started making the barrels, we weren’t tempering them to the right temperature. But that problem got resolved, it wasn’t used to scuttle the T-72 programme.
Not one Arjun barrel has given the slightest problem yet. But other tank parts might, and they must be fixed at leisure… and we have the time to do that.
Falsehood No. 6: “Offer the Arjun for exports. If it’s good, other countries will buy it.”
Wrong. Traditionally, when a new weapons system comes out, prospective buyers observe how it functions in service with its home military. If the Indian Army turns its back on the Arjun, nobody else will even look at it.
Keep the feathers flying!