Army accelerates procurement of light tank ‘Zorawar’ for LAC

The agile ‘Zorawar’ will improve the Indian Army’s operational capabilities, especially in the northern borders

August 26, 2022 05:36 pm | Updated August 27, 2022 01:10 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Representational image of Indian Army tanks in Ladakh along the India-China border

Representational image of Indian Army tanks in Ladakh along the India-China border | Photo Credit: AP

With the experience of deploying armour at an altitude of 15,000 ft. to outmanoeuvre the movement of Chinese forces during the stand-off in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Army is prioritising the procurement of the indigenous Indian light tank, aptly named ‘Zorawar’, for deployment in the mountains, in addition to inducting niche technologies like swarm drones, loitering munitions, anti-drone capabilities and next generation Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, official sources said.

These are part of the overarching modernisation being undertaken of the armoured corps and mechanised infantry.

“It will have equal firepower as the present tank, including missile firing. The power to weight ratio will make it very agile,” sources in the security establishment said. “The project is moving very, very well. The Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) from the Defence Acquisition Council is expected next month,” a source stated.

The recent experiences along the northern borders have shown that armour equipment profile is one of the most prominent factors in defining the operational capability of land forces, a source said, while noting that China has inducted a large number of state-of-the-art medium and light tanks. “This increased threat on the northern borders is likely to remain a threat in the foreseeable future,” the source said.

The fire power of the existing fleet of T-72, T-90 and indigenous Arjun tanks are being upgraded. We are going for ammunition with greater depth of penetration, one source said adding that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has recently demonstrated these in their trials and the user trials with the Army are expected soon.The fire power of the existing fleet of T-72, T-90 and indigenous Arjun tanks are being upgraded. We are going for ammunition with greater depth of penetration, one source said adding that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has recently demonstrated these in their trials and the user trials with the Army are expected soon.

At the height of the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh, following the confrontation on the Kailash range on the south bank of Pangong Tso in August 2020 India and China had deployed tanks on the mountain peaks which were subsequently pulled back as part of the disengagement from both banks of the lake.

Can operate in varying terrain

Zorawar is designed to operate in varying terrain from high altitude areas and marginal terrains to island territories. It will be highly transportable for rapid deployment to meet any operational situation, and feature niche technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), drone integration, active protection systems, and a high degree of situational awareness, officials said. 

Officials noted that while the large tank fleet consisting of T-72 and T-90 tanks were useful in gaining tactical surprise over the adversary, the heavy tanks were primarily designed for operations in the plains and in desert terrains, and face certain limitations at high altitudes or when deployed in the marginal terrain of the Rann of Kutch, the source cited earlier said.

It is therefore an operational necessity to procure a lighter tank to overcome these limitations, and design and develop it indigenously, the source said. “The adversity which the world supply chain has experienced in defence-related component supplies due to the Russia-Ukraine war, has impacted both the manufacturing and sustenance of the foreign fleet of tanks that India is presently holding,” the source said.

The project, which has already received in-principle approval, is planned to be procured under the ‘Make-I’ acquisition category of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP)-2020, in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, in the last two years China has deployed the third-generation modern light tank ZTQ 15 (Type 15), latest ZTL-11 wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers and the CSK series of assault vehicles along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh.

Swarm drones

Indian Army has procured Swarm Drones from two Indian startups, sources said. In addition, a Make-II case has been initiated, Autonomous Surveillance and Armed Drone Swarm (A-SADS), which includes a number of improvements and also a version for high altitude areas, one source stated. In 2021, the Army signed several contracts for a range of tactical drones from Indian companies under emergency procurement and deliveries have commenced.

“Swarm drones being inducted into the mechanised forces, duly embracing the niche & disruptive technologies, will provide an edge to Indian Army in meeting future security challenges,” the Army tweeted on Friday.

A swarm drone system consists of a number of small drones which are AI enabled and capable of communicating with the control station as well as among themselves and provide asymmetric capabilities for taking out frontline assets of the adversary.

Sources further noted that the application of swarm drones in recent conflicts worldwide especially Armenia, Azerbaijan, Syria and strike on oilfields in Saudi Arabia and ongoing war in Ukraine have highlighted their potency in modern warfare. Even in our context, the recent incidents along the borders have seen a noticeable increase in drone related incidents along our borders, the source added.

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