The Indian Army has received approval from its Ministry of Defence (MoD) to move ahead with its planned upgrade of more than 600 Russian-built T-90 main battle tanks (MBTs).
An MoD official told Defense News that the tender for the T-90 tank modernisation will be sent only to the local defence companies.
More than $250m are scheduled to be spent on installation of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-built air-conditioning systems, and replacement of the tanks' existing thermal imaging sights, navigation systems and fire control systems.
India had signed contract with Russia for supply of 310 T-90s in 2001, 190 of which were license-produced by Avadi-based Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), and followed it up with a second contract in 2007 for the licensed production of additional 330 tanks.
One Army official said the absence of an air conditioning system in T-90 tanks caused damage to their thermal imaging systems during operation in hot climates.
Indian Army retired brigadier general and defense analyst Arun Sehgal said: "DRDO had earlier attempted to mount air conditioning systems on the tanks, but were stopped by Russia, citing intellectual property rights.
"The Russians were then asked to fit the air conditioning systems in the T-90 tanks, but the attempt was unsuccessful."
The Indian Army is planning to acquire a total of 1,657 T-90s by 2020, 1,000 of which will be domestically manufactured under full transfer of technology (ToT) from Russia.
The indigenous production is yet to commence, even though a contract has already been signed with Russia.
Russia insists that it has supplied all necessary technology, and the Avadi factory is responsible for production delays.
Image: The Indian Army T-90 tanks during the rehearsal for the Republic Day Parade. Photo: Press Information Bureau, Government of India.