The Mark 1-A, developed by DRDO, features 14 major improvements sought by the Army, including better firepower and new transmission systems. It's the most lethal, sophisticated and all-weather battle tank that India has indigenously designed and conceptualised till date.

After numerous delays and extensive trials, the Indian Army is set to finally place an order for 118 indigenously manufactured Arjun Mark 1-A ‘Hunter Killers’, which will have all-weather capability and better fire power and stability than the Arjun main battle tank (MBT) as per latest media reports.

An upgraded version of the Arjun tank, having better firing and mobility, was accepted by the Army following an extensive month-long validation trials in Rajasthan in February 2019.

The trials were completed in December 2018 and a report has followed. The Army is looking at 118 units of the new version. In 2010-11, the first version of the Arjun had joined the Army and 124 units had been ordered.

The production of the new version, dubbed as Arjun ‘Mark 1-A’, is likely to commence within this year at the existing facility at Avadi in Tamil Nadu. It has a total of 14 upgrades over the existing version. These include an auto-target tracker, automatic gear system and improvement in suspension.

Only the missile firing ability remains to be validated, which will be done once the missiles, being developed by the DRDO, are ready. The DRDO missile program has been a major success and firing of missile from a tank is being fine-tuned.

As part of the arrangement with the Army, the DRDO has promised to set up a system to maintain the Arjun within India. It will be an annual maintenance contract with one of the PSUs such as Bharat Earth Movers Limited.

The tanks, as part of the trials, have already done some 4,000 km of run. The upgraded Arjun has a 120mm rifled gun capable of firing a full range of high explosives, laser homing anti-tank (LAHAT) missile that had a tandem warhead, which is capable of defeating all types of modern armour.


The Arjun MBT is equipped with an indigenously developed 120mm main rifled gun with fin stabilised armour-piercing discarding sabot (FSAPDS) and high-explosive squash head (HESH) ammunition. An anti-personnel 7.62mm coaxial machine gun is fitted alongside the main gun and a 12.7mm machine gun is fitted at the top of the turret to aim aircraft and ground targets. An anti-helicopter round is also being developed to combat air threat to armour.

The tank has special containers to carry 39 projectiles of 120mm ammunition. These containers keep the ammunition away from the crew, providing an additional level of survivability. The rear-side faces of the turret are fitted with up to 12 smoke grenade dischargers. The weapon systems can be operated in silent watch mode using an auxiliary power unit.


The battle tank will have a crew of four -- commander, gunner, loader and driver. Keeping them out of harm's way is paramount. For this, Arjun Mk-1A comes with a slew of new features.

The newly developed Kanchan modular composite armour gives all-round protection to the tank from anti-tank ammunition. Kanchan has been manufactured by Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) armour design and development division.

The armour is made of composite panels sandwiched between rolled homogeneous armour (RHA), which can defeat APFDS or HEAT rounds. The turret houses lightweight compact Kanchan armour. An option is also available to add explosive reactive armour. Mobile camouflaging system (MCS) technology is also being developed by the DRDO in collaboration with Barracuda Camouflaging Limited.

Fire Control And Observation

The Arjun is equipped with a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with a laser range finder. The system was jointly developed by BEL and IRDE. The day/ night stabilised sighting system is also incorporated in the system. The targets are hit with high first-round-hit probability and reduced reaction time. The system is capable of acquiring targets under all weather conditions, and the stabilisation system allows the main armament to accurately fire at targets on the move.

The gunner’s main sight includes a day sight, thermal sight, a laser range finder and a stabilised head. A night vision facility is provided by a thermal imager. The earlier Image Intensifier (obsolete technology) for the tank driver has been replaced with a un-cooled Thermal imager with binocular sights for the driver thus providing him with a capability to travel at reasonable speeds even in pitch-dark conditions. The gunner and the commander can locate targets in total darkness and amid smoke, fog, snow, haze and dust. Targets can be found accurately with the laser range finder integrated on the main sight. An Advanced Land Navigation System is added to provide enhanced navigation capability of the tank in desert terrains during war. It provides accurate information of where the tanks is using either Inertial Navigation or GPS or both and where the tank needs to go in the absence of any signage in the war theatre.

The panoramic sight allows commanders to have all-round surveillance on the battlefield without being disturbed by turret motion. The two axes rate gyro-mounted on the platform of the head mirror stabilise the view of the field, offering dual magnification.

Mobility-Related Improvements

One of the challenges in making of Arjun MBT Mk-1A was the overall weight. Every improvement comes with baggage, which the user may not like as the mobility may be compromised. To counter added weight, an Advanced Running Gear System has been developed where the hydro-pneumatic suspension system was completely redesigned to enhance agility of the Arjun MBT Mk-1A. Tweaking the final drive also ensured the required agility of the tank.


The development shows that the MoD is ready to keep on improving the Arjun, be addition of more power or wanting the weight to be reduced. The Army was okay with the ‘Mark 1-A’ version, but wants the next version to be lighter than its present weight of 68 tons. Most modern European tanks are of the same weight, and tank-transporters (specialised trucks) for Arjun are available to ferry it.

The ‘Mark 2’ will have to be lighter by some 3 tons. This may require some modification in the hull of the tank for the final contours to emerge.