NEW DELHI - The newly ordered Russian T-90MS tanks for the Indian Army will come without advanced protections systems, prompting India to weigh the acquisition of these defenses from domestic sources.
"We are exploring the possibility of a domestic company producing these systems (active protection) in a tie-up with an overseas equipment manufacturer," a senior ministry of defense official said.
The Indian Army wants the advanced protection systems on the 464 T-90MS tanks ordered for $2 billion in November 2016, said an Indian Army official.
"The new active generation protection system is one of the most advanced in the world; India could do well to acquire the same in whatever mode rather than going in for a mix-and-match approach as in the past," says Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst.
The active protection system in question is a tank-mounted radar that detects the launch of an antitank missile and then engages an interceptor to destroy the incoming round or deflect its trajectory.
So far the tanks have been dependent mainly on the armor of their outer shells. At the moment, no tank in Indian Army service has an active protection system.
The MoD official said efforts were made last year to procure advanced protection systems from the overseas market, but the Russian system was rejected on technical grounds, and the second competitor from Israel would have led to a single-vendor situation. The Indian government avoids purchasing weapons and equipment on a single-vendor basis.
India already operates around 800 T-90S tanks, first delivered by Russia in 2001.
Despite the newly ordered tanks lacking active protection systems, the Indian Army is satisfied with the purchase of the upgraded T-90MS tanks from Russia.
The new batch is equipped with thermal imaging night sights to allow the tank commander to fire at enemy locations even during night battles, the Indian Army official said. The tank features an improved chassis and new modular turret which for the first time in Russian battle tank design history factored in better crew comfort and survivability.
The tanks will be license-produced at state-owned Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), based at Avadi in south India. But Indian Army officials say in private that the state-owned factory is not able to meet the production target and is in fact meeting less than 30 percent of the target of production. Besides, the level of indigenization of the T-90 tanks being license-produced at Avadi factory is very low because the Russians are not transferring technology fully to India.