Army dithers over futuristic tank, DRDO pursues engine

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by utubekhiladi, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

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    India’s Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the backbone of the army’s strike power into the mid-21 st century, languishes while the army continues an extended debate over its specifications.

    A year ago, on December 6 2010, Defence Minister A K Antony told the Lok Sabha that the army had formulated the FMBT’s specifications and the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) was carrying out feasibility studies. Antony, it now emerges, misled parliament. MoD sources say the army remains undecided about the basic features of the FMBT, including whether it should have three crew members or four. Consequently, the army has not finalised the FMBT’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), essential for sanctioning the project and allocating funding.

    The PSQR also allows engineers to begin designing the FMBT. It specifies the tank’s capabilities and components, including its weight; dimensions; mobility; weaponry; armour protection; communications; and any special capabilities that are required, e.g. the ability to drive underwater; or operate on a nuclear battlefield.

    FUTURE MAIN BATTLE TANK (FMBT)
    * Army has not finalised FMBT specifications
    * Tank required by 2020, when T-72s start retiring
    * DRDO has begun work on 1,500 HP engine
    * Ricardo, AVL are potential design consultants
    * Indian industry partner will manufacture engine
    * Planning ahead for tandem “hybrid” engine

    But the DRDO has begun work, anxious to shield the FMBT from the delays that plagued the Arjun programme. The FMBT must roll out by 2020, when the army’s oldest T-72 tanks, which entered service in 1979, complete their 32-year service lives. Business Standard was granted exclusive permission to visit the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), the DRDO facility outside Chennai where the Arjun Mark II is nearing completion and the FMBT will be developed.

    P Sivakumar, CVRDE’s livewire director, revealed that work had begun on crucial FMBT systems, even without a PSQR. Based on the army’s weight limit of 50 tonnes for the FMBT, the DRDO has launched a “mission mode” project to develop an 1,800 Horse Power (Hp) indigenous engine. Sivakumar says 1500 Hp is sufficient for a 50-tonne tank, but the endemic danger of weight over-runs in a new tank makes a 300 Hp margin prudent.

    The project will co-opt domestic engineering companies like Kirloskar Oil Engines, BEML, and the Mahindras; research institutions like IITs; and bodies like the Automotive Research Association of India, Pune. An Indian “prime contractor” would assemble the FMBT engines from engine components supplied by a network of sub-contractors.

    “India has never designed engines; engine technology has always been imported. But we will develop the FMBT engine as a national project. Our approach is not engine-specific; we are looking at developing the complete range of technologies needed for building engines. Not only design… but also manufacturing, testing, evaluation,” says Sivakumar.

    This ambitious plan is cushioned with pragmatism. The DRDO has brought in international consultants to design the engine and build Indian manufacturing capability in engine-related fields. Sivakumar says that German companies MTU and Renk, which supply engines and transmissions for the Arjun tank, refused to provide consultancy, realising that building Indian capability would end their market here. DRDO is now evaluating consultancy proposals from Ricardo of Britain and AVL of Austria.

    “Simultaneously, we have floated an Expression of Interest (EoI) to identify an Indian manufacturing partner. The consultant we select will work in a consortium with the DRDO; the army; and the Indian manufacturing partner, who will be associated with the programme from the design stage itself. We have allowed the consultants to visit manufacturing companies and report on their capability to build a modern engine,” explains Sivakumar.

    The CVRDE director says the consultants will finalise the engine design within 12 months, and take 18 months more to build the first prototype. “Within 30 months, or three years maximum, the first engine would be ready for testing,” he says.

    “Both Ricardo and AVL have proposed that they design and build the first prototypes. But the Indian industry will work alongside the consultant. The first design is never perfect; so the consultant will make the changes needed in design, tolerances, or materials to refine the engine. Then, in the second phase, the Indian partner will produce the engine,” says Sivakumar.

    Even as CVRDE develops this technological capacity, it is looking further ahead at a hybrid engine for the FMBT after 2030. Sivakumar says that a tank remains static for at least 40 per cent of the time in battle, during which time its engine idles. “This means that 40 per cent of the time, you wastefully run a 1,500 Hp engine, guzzling diesel and giving away the tank’s position, while you need very little power for running electricals like the radios and gun control equipment or for moving the tank slowly. So, we are evolving a hybrid technology concept in which the tank will have two engines: a 500 Hp engine for low power mode and another 1,000 Hp engine that kicks in when high power is required, e.g. for manoeuvring in battle,” explains the CVRDE director.

    Army dithers over futuristic tank, DRDO pursues engine
     
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  3. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

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    drdo should start making tank and also pursue other projects on its own just like wat it did with prahar. solo project which are demonstrated to army and then army see what improvements are needed.

    i think one change that should be bought in is that govt should make it compulsory for forces to induct some of the pieces of what ever drdo develops *with some riders off course*

    India is now not in a situation where first forces chart out GSQR and then drdo assess the situation and all and then after 10 years tank roll out. china is rolling out tanks almost one every year and this is the thing India should do...

    we all know India is now not focusing on pakistan and neither it should
     
  4. noob101

    noob101 Regular Member

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    Someone needs to light a fire under the armys ass! Until now we had to buy what ever was out there weather or not it suited our needs or not, now the DRDO is asking the IA tell us what you want and we will try to make it for you... It should be like a dream come true but its turning into a nightmare for everyone... What the hell is the raksha mantri doing?
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    DRDO has not been a success story and yet there is no doubt in anyone's mind that sooner our defence industry gets it act together, it is for the better.

    And at the same time, replacement and the void in the required numbers raises concern.

    Once the DRDO is given the green signal, then one cannot make up the void and instead wait for the indigenous model to arrive.
     
  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The DRDO can keep experimenting and improve their expertise.

    However, the scientists are not equipped to visualise the threat perception and so they have to bank on the IA's GSQR.

    Then the problem arises.

    The DRDO takes such a long time to produce the prototype that it, by the time it is there for the trials, has become dated.

    It takes about 10 years to develop a tank.
     
  7. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Ray Sir,

    My thoughts.

    In research, we try and fail more often than we succeed. Unless we fail, we do not have the complete understanding of the problem we are trying to address. It is very difficult to meet deadlines, especially for a new project. However, if we build upon our successes, and more importantly, our failures, we usually end up producing advanced versions of the same old product.

    Research cares less about what was achieved as much as it cares about how it was achieved. The underlying mathematics has to be correct and then the results will follow. Deadlines, however, compel people to commit into things without a complete understanding of the problems. One example would be sending Yuri Gagarin to space. They had plenty of gaps in their knowledge, but they had to meet the political deadline. Is that a good approach? That is debatable.

    In this particular case, I would back the DRDO. They are doing the right thing by carrying on suo motu. The Army might be indecisive now, but who knows, this research might lead to something that will be ground breaking, even if not as a tank engine, but as something else.

    The Army should be able to estimate the threat 10 years from now. They should ask DRDO to deliver a product in ten years that will meet the requirements of a threat estimated at 15 years from now. DRDO will probably not meet the deadline, but by the time they do, the Army will have something that meets the estimated threat. The threat, however, can be different from the estimate. It can never be accurate. Yet, it is something that has to be accepted as reasonable. Even in that event, it will be easy for DRDO to plug the gap between their design's capabilities and the real threat, the perception of which will be much clearer 15 years hence, than now.
     
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  8. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    I am not devil`s lawyer, But current specs are no where near Futuristic, Nor impressive..
    1800hp for what on a 50 ton MBT? when a 70+ ton MBT can run far with a 1500hp engine..

    Also they intend to use smooth-bore gun, Which very good, But why to start every thing from scratch ? when a MBT Arjun Deign can be improved, Just like Germans & Russian are doing ..

    Resent pic form Ajay shukla`s bog of MK-2 is no where better..
     
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  9. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    What happen to earlier DGMF who said we are looking at FMBT and he said arjun is old tech, didnt he send GSQR ??? I think his project flopped the movement Russians cancelled T95 tank.
     
  10. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Very good objective point. I wonder what the intentions are. Are they trying to outrun anti-tank missiles?

    My point exactly. We need to build upon our existing products.
    Could you please share the link? Thanks!
     
  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Maitra,

    Check how long it took to develop the Arjun.

    DRDO hardly researches.

    It is more of assembling foreign components and hoping for the best.

    And they can't even do reverse engineering!

    I have some experience with their equipment trials.

    The other problem is that one is not aware of the communication infrastructure that will take place by the time the product comes into production, Hence, there is a mismatch of the equipment with the infrastructure. For instance the road, rail and communication network status when the product is introduced into service.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2012
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  12. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    • Assembling foreign components should not be seen in bad light. It is not very useful to re-invent the wheel, unless there are sanctions.
    • Regarding reverse engineering, we need to make up our minds first. Either we encourage that and stop pointing fingers at the Chinese or we continue to blame the Chinese and not even talk about reverse engineering ourselves. We cannot have it both ways.
    • Finally, Arjun was developed from scratch. This time, we have a less generation gap and we definitely can do much better; and I have no doubts about it. The only doubts I have is about meeting the deadline.
     
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  13. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Patching foreign equipment is fine, but they must synchronise. It is like having a Cadillac power train in a Nano.

    Reverse engineering is OK. But even that cannot be done by these chaps. They have tried it on simpler products such as Boreclap, a fluid that cleans rifles etc.

    Arjun was not developed from scratch. At least not to my knowledge and it depends on what one means by 'scratch'.

    At one time, they were contemplating to make the tank like the Swedish S Tank!
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2012
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  14. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    sir one of the reason is economic of scale only if large order is given they can make the parts domestically, unless that happen it is better to get some parts from foreign countries. This how international trade works.
     
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  15. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Why do you think Arjun was not developed from scratch? Just because we got an European Engine and foreign help in getting our hydropneumatics right? I am sure there are many more foreign components. That is not what I was implying. What I meant was India has not been developing tank after tank in increments of improvements. This one was a quatum jump, albeit with foreign components and assistance.
     
  16. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Thanks Mr. Sayare. This is the same case with HAL-ALH. It is not that they cannot make many of the components in India but it is cheaper to import them.
     
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  17. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Another problem is that when the sit with the Army, the Army gives them the latest around the world since they too are keen to have the best.

    Instead of stating that it is not feasible given all the parameters available in India, they promise the Moon.

    The result is that it is all a hotchpotch and totally unsuitable.

    Then the Govt starts their game of goading the Army to accept because one must encourage India's own indigenous production.

    The only problem is that the Govt has no control over the adversary to ensure that they remain inferior to the govt's indigenous production!
     
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  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    One can give a large order if and if only it meets the bill.

    Would one give a large order based merely on promises?
     
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    What in your opinion is developing from scratch?
     
  20. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    That is a chicken and egg problem. I don't think DRDO and the Army have enough confidence in one another. Army will not give orders unless DRDO reaches the goal on time. Fair enough. DRDO will not be willing to invest enough unless there is no guarantee that the Army will buy them in enough numbers to justify the investment in man, material and resources.

    I think the current approach is good. Go along with your own development. This way DRDO, hopefully, will find a customer for the new engine, either in India or abroad.

    To keep this tank story running, the DRDO must churn out Arjun tanks in incremental batches with minor improvements and the Army should keep absorbing them. That will create enough talent pool and ensure a running production line and there will be provision for constant upgrades.

    While I agree that one cannot control the military strength of the enemy, one can definitely support the import of foreign components or collaborating with foreign companies so that the product can meet the requirement as much as possible.
     
  21. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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