After many delays in its development and more than 90 upgrades later, an advanced variant of Arjun is set to go into production in 2014. Image Credit: AP

Jaipur: The Indian army's main battle tank (MBT) Arjun was deployed along the border with Pakistan in Jaisalmer on Saturday.

A function organised by the army's 75 Regiment at Jaisalmer to mark the occasion on Saturday also saw the Arjun officially replace the Russian-made T55.

Lieutenant-General A.K. Singh, general officer in command of the army's southern command, who inspected a parade marking the deployment, said the new tanks would especially strengthen the army's desert operations capabilities.

The 75 Regiment is the second army unit to get the Arjun tank. A number of former army officers, some of them war veterans who served the 75 Regiment in the 1965 and 1971 wars, found it hard to believe that the old warhorse, the T55, which served the army for 40 years, was being phased out. Delays and failures in Arjun's development from the 1990s to the 2000s prompted the army to place big orders for the T-90s from Russia to meet the shortfall.

The Arjun features a 120mm main gun with indigenously developed munitions that have the capability to penetrate superior armour, one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and a 12.7mm machine gun.

The tank is powered by a single multi-fuel diesel engine that generates 1,400 hp. Arjun outperformed the Russian-designed Bhishma T90 main battle tanks during desert trials conducted by the army in the Thar desert near Bikaner in Rajasthan. Senior army officials said they were impressed with the way the Arjun maintained an edge over the Bhishma in "every crucial parameter" during the tests.

The indigenous main battle tank project had encountered much controversy over whether it served the army's needs with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) too drawing flak for the design of the tank.

Joint assessment

The DRDO had suggested a joint assessment of the vehicle with the army to keep the project alive. After a number of upgrades and modifications, the Arjun eventually won over the army. After over 90 upgrades, an advanced variant of the Arjun Main Battle Tank is to undergo serial production in 2014.

The Arjun Mark-II will get an indigenous engine a year after the start of its serial production to replace its German power plant.