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The Indian Army will conduct a comparative trial between the indigenous Arjun tank and the new Russian T-90 main battle tank in the desert expanses around Bikaner, Suratgarh and Pokhran in March 2010.

During the month-long trials, a squadron of 14 Arjun tanks will be evaluated against a T-90 squadron, testing their abilities to move through rugged, sand-dune terrain while firing accurately in motion according to India’s Business Standard.

In addition, their abilities to operate for long periods over long distances and the fatigue they impose on their crews will also be compared.

The result of the comparative trial could decide if the Indian Army will use indigenous tanks in future battles or continue to use the fleet of Russian T-72 tanks.

According to the army, the trial is not aimed at identifying the better tank, but at evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the Arjun tank in an effort to help the army decide what operational role the Arjun could play, and which sector of the border it could effectively operate in.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the developer of the Arjun tank, assumes the army will be forced to order the Indian tank in larger numbers in case if it performs well against the T-90.

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In addition, Arjuns could start replacing the current fleet of T-72, while the T-90 remains in service for another three decades.

A senior DRDO officer said the army knows that the T-72 would have performed very poorly in trials against the Arjun.

“Despite that, the army continues to sink money into its 2,400 outdated T-72s. Any comparative trial with the T-72 would make it clear that the Arjun should replace the T-72,” the officer said.

Arjun has entered the production line at the heavy vehicles factory near Chennai, which has already equipped India’s first Arjun unit, 43 Armoured Regiment, while a second unit, 75 Armoured Regiment, is being converted to the Arjun.

The ultimate outcome of the trials will help the army decide whether to acquire more Arjuns or to stop the programme at just 124 tanks.