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India to deploy 460 T-90S Bhishma tanks along Pakistan border.

| 2019

The Indian Army will induct an additional 464 Russian-origin T-90S 'Bhishma' main battle tanks between 2022 and 2026 to bolster its "shock and awe" capabilities on the western front, even as Pakistan is also discussing a deal with Russia for acquiring about 360 units of the same tank, Indian Defence News reports.

India to deploy 460 T 90 Bhishma tanks along Pakistan border
T-90 Bhishma displayed at DefExpo India 2018 near Chennai (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Indian Defence ministry sources on Monday, May 6, said the "indent" to produce the 464 T-90S tanks would soon be placed on the Avadi Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) under the Ordnance Factory Board after the cabinet committee on security cleared the licence acquisition from Russia over a month ago, Indian Defence News reports.

The Army already has around 1,070 T-90S tanks as well as 124 'Arjun' and 2,400 older T-72M/M1 "Ajeya" tanks in its 67 armoured regiments. After the first 657 T-90 tanks were imported from Russia from 2001 onwards, another 1,000 are being progressively licenced and produced by HVF with Russian kits. "There has been some delay in the indent for the remaining 464 tanks, which will also have night-fighting capabilities. Once it is done, the first 64 tanks should be delivered in 30-41 months," said a source.

The move comes at a time when the 1.3-million-strong Army is also re-formatting its entire war-fighting machinery and the "Cold Start" or "Pro-Active Strategy", which envisages fast mobilisation to strike hard across the border with multiple offensive thrusts, as was reported earlier by TOI. This task will primarily be carried out by restructured and agile integrated battle groups (IBGs) centred around the T-90S tanks, along with a mix of infantry, artillery, air defence, signals and engineers, backed by attack helicopters, as earlier reported on Army Recognition. The Army's new Land Warfare Doctrine itself notes that the "response along the western front will be sharp and swift, with the aim to destroy the adversary's centre of gravity and secure spatial gains".

Army chief General Bipin Rawat in January had announced the new IBGs would be war-gamed in February and then tested in an exercise in May. But the ongoing tensions with Pakistan, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the consequent Balakot air strikes, which led to "precautionary deployments", have delayed execution of the plan. "Pakistan has plans to upgrade its existing mechanised forces, which includes over 50 armoured regiments of Ukrainian T-80UD and Chinese-origin tanks. It wants to acquire new Russian T-90 tanks and indigenously produce others with China's help," said a source.

India has already procured additional laser-guided Invar missiles and 125mm APFSDS (armour piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot) ammunition for its T-90 tanks. But the Army's "future ready combat vehicle (FRCV)" project, with an initial quantity of 1,770 FRCVs to be produced under the "strategic partnership" policy to replace the older T-72M/M1 tanks, however, is yet to take off. "The Army had planned their induction from 2027-2028 onwards… it's keeping its fingers crossed," said the source.


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