Friday, October 05, 2007

What Now, Arjun?

The one thing I took away from my visit to the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE) and the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) is that there is a deep recognition of the past. Not an overt effort to correct perceptions – correct and wrong – but definitely one to persuade that the past is just that – the past.

While I was at Avadi, nine production series Arjun tanks were being modified to withstand medium fording without a drop of water ingress – the global acceptability standard is 2L of water ingress, I’m told. The nine tanks were being repainted and will soon be road-transported to Bikaner where they will join the other five tanks. These fifteen tanks will be put through “accelerated usage cum reliability trials” by the 43rd Armoured Regiment at the Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR) later this month or early next month.

For the CVRDE and HVF, these trials – which come after comparitive trials against T-90 and T-72 were axed at the last minute – are being seen as do or die for the programme beyond the 124 unit indent that the Army has placed. I can tell you – considering the luck that the Arjun has had thus far as far as performance during trials is concerned (a lethal mix of ill-timed technical glitches and a healthy dose of bad luck), sleepless nights best describes the atmosphere at Avadi. The MBT Arjun complex, a very impressive production facility with no expense spared, hinges on the continuity of orders that the Army will only begin thinking about after 124 tanks are inducted and in use.

As Ajai Shukla rightly said after his visit to facility recently, for all that the past has thrown up – truly enough – the present is a different picture. If all accounts are to be believed, the Arjun has well and truly turned the corner. But here’s the clincher – will the Army feel the same? Surely the Army can’t be called upon to induct something that doesn’t suit its requirements just because it’s an indigenous effort. But that’s precisely the point – scientists at Avadi are sure – absolutely positive as a matter of fact – that all problems with MBT Arjun have been, finally, ironed out. Whether it was temperature settings or leakages in the hydro-pneumatic suspension assemblies, or glitches in the laser range finder or the tracks: they’ve all, apparently, been sorted out. I say “apparently” only because no matter how well the Arjun performs within the confines of a controlled test facility, what finally matters is whether things will go smoothly during the very rigorous upcoming set of trials outside Bikaner. Will the Arjun be blessed like it never has before?I drove the Arjun (No.24) for a little under two hours at the little test range near the HVF. To be honest, I don’t know very much about tanks – and therefore learnt a great deal during the two days that I was there. The driving part was purely a joy ride, I have to admit, though it was a supreme experience. I couldn’t deny the passion that everyone associated with the programme now has on hold while the trials begin.

The one comfort in all of this – if the Arjun’s time has come, we will know very, very soon.

14 comments:

bhombol94 said...

Thanks for bringing out the real story about Arjun. Seeing is believing and testing it to get the real feel of it only can be convincing. Let luck not be the deciding factor to decide the future of Arjun. There is a plenty of committed people who had sweated on this. they deserve better than that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv...

After long time, watched your program in Headlines Today show...Neat and nice to see you on Arjun. Thanks for bringing out a ttrue report on Arjun with candid remarks. Hope your message would reverberate in the ears of Ordance Directorate procurement board.

How is the Arjun suspension looks like, with all ur cross country drive ? When you drove the Arjun down the high mound with its nose plungged in the ground, how you felt?..some snuggy questions..:-)

Joe

Anonymous said...

So now will you apologize for all the BS that you wrote about the Arjun earlier heh?

Lets see whether you have the guts to do that.
Only when you admit you were wrong and have the honesty to admit it, will people respect you and see that you have finally matured.

sniperz11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sniperz11 said...

Interesting report Shiv.... looks like you gave the beauty a few dents and bumps. Would have liked to see better camera work though... the whole report was filled with you driving around. And the music!!!

would love more technical info, esp about the handling qualities, especially the ride, given the previous suspension problems. Would have also loved to see more inside the tank... especially the commanders station, and overall crew stations. That would have given a great idea of how comfortable the crew is. And info about indigenization of components was sorely missed.

an interesting thing I noticed was the new semi-cylindrical external fuel tank- must have been done after the army requirements for 0 elevation in rear plane.

Was there any info about new composite armor system developed for Arjun???

Anonymous said...

Shiv,
Was there restriction on what you can show about Arjun? I was eagerly waiting to watch Arjun's turret in stabilized mode,however in the video it was shot with tree/bushes front of it,thereby blocking the view completely.

Any info on what is been expected of 2020 requirement? Does this mean IA is expecting a future tank to be ready in 2020?

Did you happen to fire the Arjun? Unfortunately there is no video what's so ever of Arjun firing or fire on the move.

Mihir said...

Shiv, is your TV report available online?

sniperz11 said...

Part 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3nudUfQXwY

Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKDhg7jLS6I

Apologies, Shiv for the copyright infringement.

Mihir said...

Thanks!

Abhiman said...

Mr. Aroor, your report on Arjun was a great pleasure to watch and very informative. It was a balanced and revealing. Besides, it was very appreciable to watch you driving the Arjun and maneuver it on difficult terrain. The awe and excitement of seeing the Arjun maneuver, did help in suppressing the envy toward you.

The most appreciable the report was that this was the first time, as you rightly said, that the Indian MIC was showcased to the public through a dedicated media coverage. IT WAS UNPRECEDENTED IN MEDIA AS WELL AS DEFENCE HISTORY. Headlines Today and you have done a stellar job. Other news channels--especially the unimaginative Hindi channels-- focus only on politics, bollywood and cricket besides showing unheard of acts similar to "Ripley's believe it or not".

I fully agree with your view that the Arjun is set to redeem itself and that the army has seen the last of its problems fall behind it. It's elusivity has been, as you said, a combination of tough luck, technology sanctions, poor management and an unrelenting army.
It may sound esoteric, but I was pleasantly surprised when the multi-function display in the Arjun tank displayed 'Satyameva Jayate' written in Sanskrit. After that, the main console interface appeared on the screen, and so the saying must appear during the system boot, or a similar action.

The most engrossing part of the coverage was seeing you maneuver the tank. Its majestic nature was on full display. The part when you got a bit stuck while going down from the top of a steep beam and then the quick and eventual recovery proved the mobility and power of the Arjun.

Mr. Aroor, you have set not only an example, but a trend in defence journalism in India. I would like to ask about your prefered experience out of the 2 :- co-piloting the MiG-35, or controlling the 'beast-like' Arjun. I may request you to choose only one of the 2.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I was just going through your blog, and happend to read a post that you had written in March of 2007 titled "Hasimara and the third degree". Needless to say that I was quite disturbed to have read such a scathing article about some of the most senior members of the IAF. It was only after sleeping over it for a night and rereading your post the next day that I realized that you seem to be quoting another retired Air Force officer. Knowing a bit about your background, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out who the Air Marshal you are referring to. Either ways, some of the comments made were quite dispicable, and could have easily been avoided. In any case, an attempt to verify the authenticity of these comments should have been made. I realize that you are a journalist, and possibly you were "just doing your job", but your article was nothing short of slander and made be rethink upon the benefits of "free speech", which I myself cherish as a citizen of this country.

ajay said...

Dear Shiv,
Been nice watching your program. I have recorded it.(if you don't mind)
One question. did some firing demonstrated to you.If so can you
tell us the sequence of commands(the
words they use) in firing Arjun.

Murmur said...

Dear Mr. Aroor,
The youtube videos were amazing. I have forwarded them to all. But do tell me, did you actually hear it go bang bang?
Angad

Shiv Aroor said...

hey everyone.. will answer all your questions and the points you've raised in a day or two. have been down for a week with a nasty lung infection. so do bear with me.