New Delhi: The tank, which would go on to dominate 20th Century warfare, first stormed on to the shattered battlefields of the Somme 100 years ago. Rushed into battle by desperate generals with barely any testing, its debut was a messy experiment with questionable results. A select group of young men were the first to feel its terrible influence and have their lives changed by it.
The history of tanks in the Indian Army on day tank warfare hit a milestone in military history.
Russian-origin tanks are the mainstay of the Indian Army. It operates more than 2,500 T-72 tanks and has ordered a total of 1,657 more modern T-90 tanks.
The T-90s are a replacement for the T-55 tanks and the older variants of the T-72s. More than 1,000 T-90s have been inducted. The army has also inducted the indigenously developed Arjun tank. The Arjun is a third generation main battle tank developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), for the Indian Army.
India deployed a mix of tanks in the early years post-Independence, including British-origin Centurion tanks, French AMX-13s and US-origin Stuart tanks. The Russian T-54 and T-55 tanks were inducted in the 1960s. The late 60s also saw the Vickers tank being built in India under licence. It was named Vijayanta.
The army contracted 124 Arjun tanks from the Defence Research and Development Organisation more than 15 years ago. All have been inducted. The defence ministry has given its nod for buying upgraded 118 Arjun Mk-2 tanks at a cost of more than Rs 6,600 crore. One of the most significant upgrades in the new tank is its missile-firing capability.
The Battles of Asal Utar and Basantar during the 1965 and 1971 wars have a become a part of military folklore. At Asal Utar in Punjab, a lone cavalry unit destroyed several M-47 Patton tanks of a Pakistani armoured division. The Centurions also destroyed many Patton tanks in the Battle of Basantar in the western sector. Lt Arun Khetarpal of the Poona Horse, who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, is credited with decimating seven Pakistani Patton tanks.