India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has started developmental trials of the new Arjun Mark II main battle tank (MBT) at Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan, India.
DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying: ''The trials started on Friday and will continue for the next two months. The ongoing trials will mainly focus on 19 parameters.''
If successful, the trials will provide DRDO with approval for production of 124 Arjun mark II at its heavy vehicles factory in Avadi, to add to the 124 Arjun Mark I MBTs currently in service with the Indian Army.
Indian Defence Ministry spokesman colonel SD Goswami said: ''The Indian Army accepted 124 Arjuns into service but has made a follow-on order conditional upon 93 improvements to the Arjun, including 19 major modifications.''
According to Goswami, the tank features an improved long-range missile-firing capability, panoramic sight with night-vision, explosive reactive armour, advanced air-defence gun to engage helicopters, land navigation system and a warning system to fire smoke grenades to confuse enemy laser guidance.
Other upgrades include an enhanced auxiliary power unit, improved gun barrels, the commander's panoramic sight with eye safe LRF, a digital control harness, new final drive, track and sprocket.
According to DRDO, the newly integrated thermal imaging (TI) night-vision replaces the day-only sight in the Arjun I, enabling the new tank to go on operations at night.
Dubbed the lightweight futuristic main battle tank (FMBT), the Arjun mkII is scheduled to be ready for delivery by 2013 to 2014 and is expected to be the potential contender for the replacement of the army's ageing fleet of 2,400 Russian T-72 tanks.
Image: The Indian Army's Arjun MBT put on display. Photo: courtesy of Ajai Shukla.