By Manu Pubby, ET Bureau | 30 Apr, 2015, 04.50AM IST
NEW DELHI: The Army is facing major technical issues with its ‘indigenous’ Arjun tanks, as a significant proportion of its fleet has become inoperable in recent months and are non-serviceable due to continued maintenance problems.
The Army, which reluctantly inducted 124 tanks from 2009, after the UPA government insisted that a token number have to be ordered to keep the tank development programme viable, has of late been having quality problems with the fleet.
The defence minister has been apprised of the issue. Sources said that the Army’s opinion is that while a large number of tanks are not operational due to technical defects, the fleet as such is not combat worthy due to reliability issues. “A number of tanks are not operational currently as transfer of technology (ToT) of several imported systems fitted onboard has not been done,” an Army official said.
The Army is surprised that quality issues have started arising even though the entire fleet came into service as recently as 2013 when deliveries ended. Given that the tanks are highly dependent on foreign equipment — 60% of the tank is imported — the failure to get maintenance technology means that the systems have to be sent abroad for even minor repairs.
It is believed that a meeting on the low serviceability rate of the Arjun fleet was conducted at South Block recently and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is aware of the problems. The Army has identified 96 problems, including 18 major ones. The minister has been keen to increase the efficiency of existing platforms available with the military given that there is a paucity of funds to procure new systems.
In IAF, he has personally intervened to ensure that the availability rate of the Su 30 fleet improves by at least 10%. A similar approach is being taken for the Army too. DRDO is, meanwhile, working on the development of a successor in the form of the Arjun Mk II.