ASIAINTL CONFLICTSOPINION

Men in Black: Quality overshadowing quantity

By Saima Ali

Pakistan keeping a large army by compulsion of its geographical location and ambitious neighbors has to strive for a balance in the military equilibrium by quality. The doctrine of Pakistan’s Armed Forces seeks quality over quantity. The Armored Corps being the spearhead and the decisive force in any conflict forms an integral and important component in today’s armies. Armored units are the primary force multipliers utilized by ground forces for offensive actions conducted using the fundamental elements of speed and firepower. The fundamentals of armored warfare came in on their own during the German blitz across Europe and North Africa during World War II, and were later used by the Red Army with the same devastating effect in their march towards Berlin. Pakistan Army’s Armored Corps came into being with the creation of Pakistan, and inherited six regiments from the old British Indian Army. The Armored Corps is rich in tradition, with storied units still included in its order of battle. It is a proud fighting arm of the Pakistani army.

Indian Army Chief announced a new war doctrine of Indian army to eliminate Pakistan and China in matter of hours even if it has to fight on simultaneous fronts, but two weeks later outrageously admitted Indian Army’s Armored debacle and expressed concern about the force’s ‘night blindness’ in the area of Armored Corps and mechanized infantry. Indian Army’s tanks have a night vision capability of 20 percent, Pakistan’s have 80 percent while China has 100 percent. The lack of night vision capability of the Indian Army has affected its fighting capability during the night. The deficiency has been persistent since the Kargil conflict.
The investigations into the matter reveal that despite a numerical strength of tanks over Pakistan, Indian army otherwise armored and infantry capabilities are even below average if compared with Pakistan Army. According to these findings, Indian armored corps comprises around 3,912 tanks with a backup of 1, 133 as reserve while Pakistan Army’s Tank strength is 2,220 with a backup of 270 as reserves.

However this numerical supremacy of Indian army is outraged with the fact that Indian armored corps relies mainly on its Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun which emerged as a big failure while Pakistan Army’s armored corps’ main strength has become Al-Khalid MBT which is a great success story, endorsed across the world. But the latest admission of Indian Army Chief about failure of its armored corps to fight a battle in the night time is an additional and a rather huge disadvantage to the Indian Army and crystal clearly negates the claims of Indian Army Chief regarding smooth victory in case Indian army has to fight a war with Pakistan or China or even both at the same time.

India’s MBT Arjun is more flab than brawn. More a heavyweight than a performer. A potpourri really, with a French engine, and German seals fitted into an Indian hull and turret. And transporting this heavyweight is going to be another problem, which could limit its operational performance. These findings further indicate that Arjun has indeed suffered throughout its development, from confusion and inexplicable delays and by imbalances between the Army, the DRDO and the bureaucracy. Pakistan by contrast, has drawn a lesson from the Indian experience and avoided the trap of over lasting her R&D’s indigenous know-how in the development of its MBT Al-Khalid.

Arjun mounts a 120mm rifled gun deadly in lethal power but wanting in accuracy. Its performance in various trails was reported to be anything but up to the mark. It is believed that during in March 1990, General V. N. Sharma, the then Army Chief of Staff and an armored expert, was “quite wild” when only three of the five rounds hit the 5X5 meter target and no hit was scored against a moving target.

According to Major General M. L. Popli (retd.) of the Indian Army, Arjun production was basically planned as an ambitious project with complete indigenous components and assemblies but it was later revealed that the Arjun sub-systems were all imported except for the hull and the turret. The imported assemblies include all major sub-systems such as engine, transmission, track-suspension, gin and fire control. Our experts are of the view that their integration “leaves much to be desired”. The auxiliary power unit from France did not perfectly fit in the tank, with the German seals not meeting the General Staff qualitative requirements of withstanding temperatures up to 150 degree Centigrade. The barely measured up to 120 degrees. Arjun is therefore quite a “fuss” with the French engine, with German seals fitted into the Indian hull and turret mounting a not very accurate 120mm gun.

Armored experts say that another problem thrown up by the heavyweight is its transportation. Arjun could present a lot of problem for transportation by railways particularly through certain portions of the system. This imposes very serious limitations on the Arjun operational performance. In most of the field armies, the tank transporters and assault bridges are not usually designed to take such heavy weights. These aspects mostly highlight the engineering and operational problems. Global military analysts say that Pakistan adopted a step-by-step approach towards the manufacture of its MBT-2000 Khalid, and this is the single most important reason for having stolen a march over India. They are of the opinion that the Indian project was too ambitious, whereas Pakistan’s approach was more systematic comprising the following phases and that was why Pakistan Army got a well prepared MBT while the Indian Armored Corps was equipped with huffing, overweight and inaccurate Tank system.

It indicates that clear technical and professional edges of Pakistan Army’s Armored Corps over Indian Army’s Armored Corp are valid reasons to make General Kapoor a really apprehensive Chief of Indian Army. These findings indicate that Pakistan’s MBT-2000 Khalid mounts a 125mm gun with thermal image converter. Maximum efforts were devoted to getting the machine soaped up as possible mainly to cut down weight. Just compare the 60 tons Arjun with the maximum 44 tons Al-Khalid. The Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank (MBT) forms the backbone of Pakistan Army’s Armored Corps. The Al-Khalid is a capable tank, and would be an adequate match for any adversary it faces in a conventional conflict.

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