Thursday, December 7, 2023

India relaunches a competition designed for a Leclerc Mk2 to replace its T-72s

Can India and France collaborate to develop a new Leclerc Mk2 battle tank derived from the EMBT demonstrator? This is far from unthinkable today. In 2015, New Delhi launched a competition to replace the approximately 2,400 T-72 battle tanks in service since the early 1980s. The specifications then transmitted aimed to equip themselves with a modern battle tank of a mass of 45 to 55 tonnes, armed with a 120mm gun or more, and equipped with modern sighting and communication systems.

Due to the mass restriction, certain Western tanks such as the Leopard 2 and the Abrams were excluded, and 4 models were then considered: the Ukrainian T-84 Oplot, the South Korean K2 Black Panther , the T-14 Russian Armata and French Leclerc.

As is often the case in India, this competition got lost in political and administrative considerations, and was finally abandoned, with the Indian authorities then deciding to turn to a sure value, the Russian T-90S Bishma already in service with its armies .

Since then, while relations between Moscow and New Delhi remain active, the capabilities of Russian industry have been heavily compromised for several years, while Indian T-72s are now bearing the brunt of the years.

At the same time, Pakistan has acquired 300 Chinese VT4 tanks which are to be delivered by the end of the year, and China has also announced the development of a new battle tank . It is therefore hardly surprising to see New Delhi relaunching a new competition , a sort of updated reissue of that of 2015.

T90 bhishma tank
After the 2015 program was abandoned, India negotiated the licensed construction of 464 T-90A Bishma

It is true that since 2015, the battle tank market has evolved considerably, and has regained its colors following the central role that battle tanks play in the Ukrainian conflict.

And in fact, New Delhi has just announced a new program called Future Ready Combat Vehicle or FRCV, with the ambition to design and build 1,770 armored vehicles, including 590 in the first phase, ranging from battle tanks to wheeled tank destroyers, including the engineer armored vehicle, the pontoon armored vehicle, the anti-aircraft defense armored vehicle or infantry combat armored vehicle.

The first phase of the program, i.e. 590 armored vehicles, will focus on the design and manufacturing of new generation tanks produced in 500 units.

If the target mass remains the same, for obvious reasons linked to the theaters in which the armored vehicles may have to operate, particularly on the Himalayan plateaus, the new tank will have to be much more advanced than that expected in 2015, notably, beyond its armament main of 120mm minimum, an anti-aircraft tower with a range of 2500 m, a Hard-kill type active protection system, as well as vetronics and a modern and scalable aiming and combat system, adapted to different types of commitment.

The armored vehicle must also be able to carry active over-armor if necessary, operate in an NBC environment, and have a visual, thermal and radar signature reduced by 50% (probably compared to the T-72).

T14 Armata during testing
The T-14 Armata still suffers from reliability problems according to numerous unofficial Russian reports.

If the market is open to foreign companies, 70% of the armored vehicle must be produced in India, while the country must have all the necessary means to maintain and develop its fleet over its entire lifespan estimated between 30 and 40 years old.

Manufacturers have until the end of the year to send their proposal to the Indian authorities, while the entry into service of the first armored vehicles must take place by 2030. Due to the considerable and probably unique market that this request represents, we can expect fierce competition between manufacturers.

To date, 5 tank models could meet these specifications. The Ukrainian T-84, the Russian T-14, the South Korean K2, the German KF-51 as well as a possible evolution of the French Leclerc based on the EMBT demonstrator.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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