The light tanks being developed under Project Zorawar will weigh less than 25 tonnes with a high power-to-weight ratio as well as superior firepower and protection

New Delhi: The Indian Army’s ability to take on China and Pakistan high in the Himalayas is set to get a massive boost with the Indian government about to kick-start an indigenous project for the acquisition of 354 light tanks under ‘Project Zorawar’.

The mega project was stuck in a bottleneck due to differences between the Indian Army and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

A TOI report quoted officials as saying that the defence ministry has managed to resolve the issue between the Indian Army and the DRDO, clearing the way for ‘Project Zorawar’ to take wings.

Of the 354 light tanks, 59 are to be manufactured by the DRDO while the rest will be produced by a government-funded design and development project in the `Make-1’ category of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP).

The Defence Acquisitions Council will take up the grant of AoN (acceptance of necessity) under Project Zorawar, at an estimated cost of Rs 17,500 crore.

“The DRDO can also compete with private players for this,” an official was quoted as saying by TOI.

Tussle Between Indian Army, DRDO

Although the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) of the DRDO was already working to develop a light tank prototype in collaboration with private sector heavyweight Larsen & Toubro, the Indian Army wanted all 354 tanks to be manufactured by the private sector under the Make-1 category.

“DRDO says its first light tank prototype will roll out by mid-2023. So, the decision is that 59 tanks be reserved for DRDO, with the condition that it delivers a successful prototype ahead of the others in the fray,” the official said.

What Is A Light Tank?

Light tanks are supposed to have extra manoeuvrability than their regular counterparts and are generally deployed for mountain warfare.

The light tanks being developed under Project Zorawar will weigh less than 25 tonnes with a high power-to-weight ratio as well as superior firepower and protection.

Where Will Indian Army Deploy Light Tanks?

The Indian Army will deploy these light tanks in the Himalayas, mostly against China. The need for light tanks had been felt by the Indian Army for a while now. But their necessity came into crying focus during the military standoff with China in Ladakh.

When the Ladakh standoff started in 2020, the Indian Army had deployed the Russia-made T-90S and T-72 main battle tanks. However, these tanks, which weigh 40 to 50 tonnes each, did not perform at their optimum level at such high altitudes.

“The T-90S and T-72, which are designed for operations in plains and deserts, have limitations in high altitude areas ranging from 11,000 to almost 17,000-feet. Consequently, the need for indigenous versatile light tanks that are more manoeuvrable and operationally flexible in mountains,” an official said.

During the Ladakh standoff, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China had deployed a mixture of medium and light tanks, including the newly-minted third-generation Type-15.