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DRDO Developed Light Tank for the Indian Army

After looking at varied options for procurement of 350 light tanks the Indian Army appears to have settled for the under development design of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Three light tanks on the global manufacturing stream – the Russian Sprut-SDM1, South Korean Hanwa K21-105 and the Israel Elbit systems ASCOD 2 Sabrah were available for consideration, but the suitability and geopolitical considerations of sanctions on the Russian Defence Industry in the wake of the War in Ukraine by the United States and European partners may have led to the conclusion that indigenously developed model may be best suited for induction despite the urgent operational deployment on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The design to production cycle is expected to take anything from five to seven years thus the first batch of tanks may be if all goes well on the front line by end of the decade in 2030. Till such a time the Army will have to continue with the T 90 S which have been deployed on the LAC to match T 15 tanks deployed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

DRDO Project Zorawar

Multiple media reports indicate a curious mix being adopted for production of the 350 plus tanks required by the Army, 59 manufactured by the DRDO while the rest by a private entity in the `Make-1’ category of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) at an estimated cost of Rs 17,500 crore.

The design and prototype development will be carried out by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) along with Larsen & Toubro.

This will be followed up by offers based on the Make-1 category to the private sector as per requirements expressed by the Army.

Details of the GSQR floated through the Request for Information are available here.

Options for Development and Production

Varied option for development and production are as given below:-

Make 1 Category

Under the Make I category design and development of major platforms is undertaken. As per DAP 2020, Make-I (Government Funded) projects involving design and development of equipment, systems, major platforms or upgrades will be undertaken where the, “MoD will provide financial support up to 70% of prototype development cost or maximum “.

DRDO Developed

The other option is to progress the development through the DRDO/DPSU/OFB [corporatized in the near future], These cases would be categorised as ‘Buy (Indian-IDDM)’ for subsequent procurement from the industry partner of DRDO or DPSU/OFB.

The lead time required for procurement through these means will be around five to seven years.

On the other hand, the requirement is for the Army to acquire the light tanks urgently due to the operational requirements.

Option by the Army & Challenges

Curiously the Army appears to have opted for manufacture under the Make 1 Category thus resulting in a hybrid model which may be difficult to pass the muster of the Defence Acquisition Council and if green flagged then the Cabinet Committee of Security.

Even though the Light Tank was in the Make 1 projects listed by the Indian Army, the DRDO was being developed under the IDDM model. This may have lead to early fielding of the Light Tank but the Army seems to have insisted on the Make 1 model.

This may result in delays at various stages apart from two manufactured products, one by the DRDO and the second by the manufacturer.

Hopefully the one that can develop the best product in the fastest way will be adopted by the Army in the coming days.


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