New Delhi: Faced with the challenge from China, the Indian Army today began the search for light battle tanks for high altitude deployment in locations such as Ladakh, where it has been battling an aggressive People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since May last year.
The army has now indicated in a Request for Information (RFI) issued to global vendors today that it intends to procure 350 light battle tanks, which can also be transported by air, to augment its firepower in high-altitude areas. The last date to respond to this request is May 22.
The army’s requirement proposed for the light battle tanks in the RFI include a new generation fighting machine that is less than 25-tonne in weight.
The light battle tanks will be taken up in a project under the ‘Make in India‘ ethos and spirit of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020, with requisite transfer of technology, the RFI documents said.
During the face off with PLA in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Army had managed to deploy its heavier Russian-origin T-90S and T-72 main-battle tanks, each weighing between 40 to 50 tonne, against the Chinese tanks.
Some of these heavier tanks were also taken up to the Rezang La–Rechin La heights in the Kailash Range to the south of Pangong Tso (lake) in end-Aug. last year in a counter move that surprised the Chinese.
This Feb., both sides disengaged from the Pangong Tso area, but friction continues over Chinese deployments in Gogra, Hot Springs and Demchok, apart from the stalled Indian Army patrolling in strategically-important Depsang Plains.
The RFI said the proposed light tanks’ “physical dimensions should not impede its transportability by rail, road, air and water”.
With a two- to three-member crew and thermal night-fighting capabilities, the light tanks should have weapons for anti-aircraft and ground roles, including smart munitions with gun tube-launched anti-tank guided missiles.
“In the foreseeable operational scenario, the need for an agile and mobile light platform, with adequate firepower, protection, surveillance and communication capabilities is increasingly finding its operational relevance,” said the RFI documents.
The light tanks must have the versatility to execute operations in varying terrain conditions, across diverse threats and equipment profiles of adversaries, as well as should have “rapid overseas deployment capability”.
The RFI also sought information on the vendors’ capability to offer other features such as anti-drone capability, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle jammers and some Artificial Intelligence technologies.