Mission of Courage | Daily News

Mission of Courage

Armoured Corps of the Indian Army
Arjun – The main Battle Tank
Arjun – The main Battle Tank


The Indian Army has a long and proud military history. In this narrative we discover the aggressive grind of wheels and heavy guns, as we venture into the domain of the Army’s Armoured Corps which was established in 1947. Over the years, the Black Berets (the distinct black cap worn by the men of this regiment) have grown in Tank operations and consist of 67 armoured regiments. This includes the President’s Bodyguards.

The origins of these Tank regiments laced with British traditions can be traced as far back as 1776. Tanks and other Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) made a paradigm shift in the battlefields as Infantrymen could now depend on a sure source of firepower from their armoured regiments. With their rugged disposition the Armoured Tanks could punch through almost any terrain including the crossing of rivers.

Field training exercise

An Armoured Corps Regiment of the Indian Army is commanded by a Colonel rank officer (Commandant of Unit). An Armoured Regiment consists of three Sabre Squadrons and one Head Quarters’ Squadron. Each of these Squadrons is commanded by an officer holding the rank of Major. One regiment has 45 to 50 tanks in total. Each Sabre Squadron is made up of 15 Tanks and one Recovery Vehicle. The Commandants tank is assigned to the Head Quarter Squadron, which shows us that being a tank commander is a job that requires that officer to be on the field with his men and Tanks. They encounter all challenges as a team.

Ahemdnagar, Maharashtra, is the famous home of the Armoured Corps School and Centre (ACSC). In 1924 the Royal Tank Corps School was established here. By 1948 some of the sections operating here including the Fighting Vehicle School, Machine Gun School, Recruit Training Centre and Armoured Corps Depot were duly amalgamated to form the Armoured Corps School.

May 1 is proudly celebrated by the Indian Army Armoured Corps as ‘Armour Day’. This legacy can be traced to 1938 when the Scinde Horse Cavalry Regiment dismounted their horses for the last time, and aspired to get into the armoured vehicles for the first time. It is recorded that the first set of armoured vehicles included the Vickers Light Tank and Chevrolet Armoured Cars. The Scinde Regiment was known as the Prince of Wales Own Scinde Horse, before Independence (British Indian Army). As such this is the first Cavalry Regiment to get mechanized at Rawalpindi in 1938. Thus the Indian Armoured Corps has the elan of the horse mounted warrior, with the languid air of confidence. During World War Two these soldiers were attached to the 31st Indian Armoured Division. The M3-Stuart Tanks were used during this time.

At present the Indian Army uses three kinds of tanks. The Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT)–MK1 variant, the T-90 tanks and the Ajeya T-72 tank. After the Bangladesh Liberation War (1972) the Indian Army realized its requirement for a new 50-ton tank with a 120mm gun and Fire Control System (FCS) and a 1400hp engine. The Arjun is a third-generation Tank developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). This formidable iron beast is named after Prince Arjun who is depicted in the Indian epic the Mahabharata. The Tanks entered service with the Indian Army in 2004. The 43rd Armoured Regiment was the first outfit to get the new Tanks. This Tank is fitted with a indigenous 120mm rifled main gun, one coaxial PKT 7.62 belt-fed Machine Gun and a NSVT 12.7mm Machine Gun. The NSV gun mounted in front can be used to engage armoured vehicles, low flying aircraft and attack helicopters.

The Arjun Tank during a field run

The main 120mm gun can fire LAHAT (laser homing guided missiles), HEAT (high explosive anti-tank), HESH (high explosive squash head) and Thermobaric rounds (thermobaric rounds use oxygen from the surrounding air to create a high temperature explosion, and the blast wave created is significantly longer). The gun control system of the main gun enables it to be stabilized using electro-hydraulics to retain accurate aim, irrespective of the terrain in which the Tank maybe pushing through.

The gunner’s main sight has laser range finder, day sight and thermal sight for target recognition during day and night. This sight is integrated with an automatic target tracking system. The Arjun Tank is protected with indigenous Kanchan composite armour: it consists of composite panels and ceramic tiles sandwiched between rolled armour. Active protection is provided by ALWCS – advanced laser warning countermeasure systems. The tank’s engine and crew compartments have automatic fire sensor and suppression systems which can detect a fire within 200 milliseconds. It can drive at maximum speed of 70Kmph with a cross country speed of 40 Kmph. The tank has a four-man crew: commander, gunner, loader and driver. From 2010 to 2013 the Tank was put to trials in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.

The T-72-Ajeya Tank

The Indian Army also uses the T-90 Tanks, made originally in Russia. This is a third-generation Tank. The Tank is bestowed with a 125mm smooth bore main gun. It weighs 46 tons and is operated by a crew of three (the automatic loader has no need for a manual loader). Its secondary armament consists of a 12.7mm Kord Heavy Machine Gun and the PKMT 7.62mm gun. It can reach a speed of 60Kmph. The first Tanks were delivered to India in 2001. The Indian variant is named the T-90 Bhishma, after a guardian warrior character from the Mahabharata. The main gun can also fire the 9M119M Reflek anti-tank missile. The Reflek missile can penetrate 37 inches of steel armour. The Tank is powered by V-92S diesel engine. The Bhishma Tank has three layers of protection. The first is a composite armour layer, the second is Kontakt explosive reactive armour and finally the Shtroa (curtain is Russian) counter measure. The Shtora system immediately warns the Tank’s crew when that Tank has been ‘painted’ by an enemy weapons guided laser. Additionally smoke grenades are launched to give the tank a smokescreen amidst enemy laser range finders.

The T-90 Tank

The third member of the Tank family is the T-72 Ajeya Main Battle Tanks, made in Russia since 1971. It also has a crew of three. Its maximum speed is 60Kmph and weighs 41 tons. Its main armament is the 125mm smooth bore gun. For the Indian Armoured Crops, future battle engagements will see the support of other Army branches to form a unified combat envelope. They will be augmented by air operations, fire support of missiles and long-range artillery supported by logistics networks that deliver all the way to the frontline.

I am reminded of the dictum by Major General Carl Von Clausewitz, “Everything in war is simple, but the simplest things are difficult.” Moving tanks to different regions is not a simple task. The tanks will have to fight with other elements of combat power, for which the Indian Army trains extensively on all fronts, across all regiments. A classic example of this is the induction of these heavy Tanks to the snow laden Ladakh border. This is a high-altitude terrain. However with the help of the Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft such as the Globemaster, the Armoured Corps has moved its Tanks and mechanized forces to this difficult location. This cold climate can make the Tanks’ fuel to freeze, so as a daily drill the soldiers turn on the Tank for ten minutes, every two hours. This is their steadfast devotion to duty.

The T-90 Bhishma Tank on parade

In the battlefield Tank commanders use effective methods and one of them is the Pincer movement, where the Tanks attack the flanks of the advancing enemy. Both sides can be attacked if the terrain permits. Another tactic is firing from the extended line: a formation of Tank movement, used during a final assault to bring fire on the maximum area of the enemy. The Tanks advance firing together. Once the Tanks move out of base the crew has to cook their military rations. Usually the next top up for hot food is after 72 hours. Tank columns are supported by an Armoured Recovery Vehicle. It carries a team of mechanics, fitters and sappers. They will carry out urgent repairs on the field. This enables Tanks to operate away from a base station. The ethos of the Indian Armoured Corps is a perfect reflection of professional competence.

A missile is fired from a Tank
Tanks at the Ladakh border





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