More than six months after the Centre cleared the procurement of 464 Russian-origin T-90 main-battle tanks (MBTs), the ministry of defence has placed an order for the entire fleet worth 20,000 crore with the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Chennai.
Going by the present production capability of the factory, which is about 120 tanks a year, it could take over four years for it to deliver all 464.
When the procurement was cleared in April this year, the value of the deal was to be a little more than 13,000 crore. But multiple sources in the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) confirmed on Thursday that the order had been valued at 20,000 crore.
The order for 464 units of Bhishma, the newest MBT that the Army is using, is meant to bolster the shock-and-awe capabilities of the armed forces along the western sector of the India-Pakistan border. Once the delivery is complete, the Army will have over 1,500 of these tanks. Pakistan is in talks with Russia to acquire more than 300 such tanks.
The Avadi factory has been manufacturing heavy battlefield equipment since 1961 and has delivered, among other things, the T-72 MBTs being used by the Army.
The T-90 MBT entered Russian army service in 1992. India signed a contract for about 300 tanks in 2001, of which 124 were entirely built in Russia while the rest were assembled here.
T-90s are equipped with night-vision devices and a thermal imaging system. Known for mobility and first-hit capabilities, Bhishma is protected by an explosive reactive armour.
The 46.5-tonne tank is powered by a 1,000HP engine and has a 125mm smoothbore gun capable of firing all types of ammunition, including laser-guided missiles to a range of up to 5km.