By: Vivek Raghuvanshi
NEW DELHI ― As preparation for a possible conflict with China in high, mountainous areas, the Indian Army’s armored directorate has begun setting requirements for a small tank order, according to a source in the Ministry of Defence.
Military planners in the MoD asked the Army to draw up requirements for a light tank after China tested its homegrown light tank, Xinqingtan, which is equipped with a 105mm main gun and a 1,000-horse-power engine.
The Xinqingtan was tested in July 2017 in the Tibet region bordering India.
Currently, India only uses the Russian-made T-72 and T-90 as well as its homegrown Arjun tank, which is too heavy for the mountainous regions and is made for the desert along the border with Pakistan.
Military planners want lighter tanks that can be airlifted to elevated areas along the Chinese border, the source explained.
An Indian Army official said: “The requirement of rapidly deployable, protected and mobile fire power, which can result in precision engagement in the mountains in view of terrain and technology advantage enjoyed by China, has always remained high in the desirability matrix.”
The light tank requirements come in the wake of a standoff between India and China over a small strip of land along their borders called Doklam. The standoff, which saw soldiers from both countries standing eyeball to eyeball in the area since June, has now been resolved. Soldiers have been withdrawn, said an official with India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
The Indian Army wants its light tanks to weigh about 22 tons and be capable of operating at heights of more than 3,000 meters in hilly terrain, according to another Army official. The tanks would need to be able to penetrate highly protected armored vehicles and main battle tanks from a distance of more than 2 kilometers, as well as be able to fire highly explosive anti-tank shells and guided missiles.
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