Tuesday, January 03, 2012

India’s future main battle tank(FMBT) now grapples with a weight issue

Source Broadsword As the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) begins designing the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the army is sending out typically mixed messages on the vital question of how big and heavy India wants its tanks. While insisting that the DRDO’s 60-tonne Arjun tank weighs too much to move around the riverine terrain of Punjab and J&K, the army has demanded features in the next Arjun model (Arjun Mark II) that will raise its weight to 65 tonnes.
Planning for the FMBT —the Gen-Next tank that will follow the Arjun Mark II by 2020 — is even more contradictory. The army wants the FMBT to weigh just 50 tonnes while bettering all the Arjun’s features.
Officials at the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, who will develop the FMBT, say it is impossible to build the FMBT 15 tonnes lighter while also improving crew protection; fitting a more powerful gun that can slam projectiles through improved enemy tanks; and making the FMBT faster and more powerful.
Weight 50-tonnes
Engine 1800 Horse Power
Transmission CVRDE-developed
Armour Active Protection
System (APS)
Gun 120 mm smoothbore
Suspension Hydro-pneumatic

CVRDE director P Sivakumar told Business Standard during an exclusive briefing on the FMBT, that it would meet weight targets only if the army identified its inescapable needs rather than demanding every feature available. One example is crew protection. The FMBT will have a cutting-edge Active Protection System that detects incoming enemy projectiles (which travel faster than rifle bullets); and then fires a projectile to hit and degrade the incoming warhead. But the army also insists on the conventional armour plate that has traditionally protected tank crews.
“If you want a 50-tonne FMBT you must choose wisely. If your Active Protection System can reliably defeat enemy projectiles, why do you also want the heavy armour plating of passive systems? Whatever you use — composites, lightweight materials, etc. — the weight of the tank will rise. Similarly, how can you increase your tank gun’s ability to penetrate enemy tanks without a weight increase?” asks Sivakumar.
Difficult choices like these are delaying the finalisation of the FMBT’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), the document that will specify its capabilities and major systems. With nothing settled, the DRDO is readying for a heavier-than-planned FMBT. Business Standard reported yesterday that CVRDE is developing an 1800 Horse Power engine, rather than the 1500 HP needed for a 50-tonne FMBT.
While foreign consultancy will drive the engine design, CVRDE will play the central role in building a transmission system, which transfers engine power to the FMBT’s tracks. Sivakumar, himself an accomplished transmission designer, says that the CVRDE’s home-grown design will be vetted by a consultant, who will be chosen from three candidates: Ricardo; AVL; or US-based South West Research Institute.
“CVRDE has a tradition in transmission design. We built a 1500 HP transmission for the Arjun, which was not used because the engine design was changed. We have also built the “aircraft mounted accessory gearbox” that is standard fitment in the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. It is 35 kg of magnesium alloy, spinning at 16,800 rpm. This gearbox has successfully completed some 3000 flights,” says Sivakumar.
The FMBT will be armed with India’s first smoothbore 120-millimetre tank gun. While the rest of the world has long used smoothbore guns — which fire anti-tank missiles and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds — the DRDO alone has stuck with rifled guns. There is confidence that the changeover will be smooth: the DRDO developed a smoothbore gun for the T-90 tank after Russia illegally blocked gun technologies. The DRDO is also working with Israel Military Industries (IMI), which developed the smoothbore gun for the Merkava tank.
Cushioning the FMBT’s ride will be one of the Arjun’s unique successes, its hydro-pneumatic suspension unit (HSU), which smoothens the jerks from driving fast over uneven cross-country terrain. The Arjun’s smooth ride allows its gun to accurately hit a suitcase two kilometres away while driving at 30 kmph. The initial FMBTs will have improved Arjun HSUs, while CVRDE proposes to develop an “active suspension” by 2030. This has sensors scrutinising the terrain just ahead of the tank and making anticipatory adjustments before the tank’s tracks roll over that area.
“The future is active suspension. The FMBT will initially roll out with hydro-pneumatic suspensions but we are commencing R&D for active suspension. It takes some time to develop a reliable active suspension. No tank has managed it so far,” says Sivakumar.

India’s Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the backbone of the army’s strike power into the mid-21st century, languishes while the army continues an extended debate over its specifications.

A year ago, on 6th Dec 2010, Defence Minister AK Antony told the Lok Sabha that the army had formulated the FMBT’s specifications and the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) was carrying out feasibility studies. Antony, it now emerges, misled parliament. MoD sources say the army remains undecided about the basic features of the FMBT, including whether it should have three crew members or four. Consequently the army has not finalised the FMBT’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), essential for sanctioning the project and allocating funding.

The PSQR also allows engineers to begin designing the FMBT. It specifies the tank’s capabilities and components, including its weight; dimensions; mobility; weaponry; armour protection; communications; and any special capabilities that are required, e.g. the ability to drive underwater; or operate on a nuclear battlefield.

But the DRDO has begun work, anxious to shield the FMBT from the delays that plagued the Arjun programme. The FMBT must roll out by 2020, when the army’s oldest T-72 tanks, which entered service in 1979, complete their 32-year service lives. Business Standard was granted exclusive permission to visit the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), the DRDO facility outside Chennai where the Arjun Mark II is nearing completion; and the FMBT will be developed.

Dr P Sivakumar, CVRDE’s livewire director, revealed that work has begun on crucial FMBT systems, even without a PSQR. Based on the army’s weight limit of 50 tonnes for the FMBT, the DRDO has launched a “mission mode” project to develop an 1800 Horse Power indigenous engine. Sivakumar says that 1500 HP is sufficient for a 50-tonne tank, but the endemic danger of weight over-runs in a new tank makes a 300 HP margin prudent.

The project will co-opt domestic engineering companies like Kirloskar Oil Engines, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML), and the Mahindras; research institutions like IITs; and bodies like the Automotive Research Association of India (ARIA), Pune. An Indian “prime contractor” would assemble the FMBT engines from engine components supplied by a network of sub-contractors.

“India has never designed engines; engine technology has always been imported. But we will develop the FMBT engine as a national project. Our approach is not engine-specific; we are looking at developing the complete range of technologies needed for building engines. Not only design… but also manufacturing, testing, evaluation,” says Sivakumar.

This ambitious plan is cushioned with pragmatism. The DRDO has brought in international consultants to design the engine and build Indian manufacturing capability in engine-related fields. Sivakumar says that German companies MTU and Renk, which supply engines and transmissions for the Arjun tank, refused to provide consultancy, realising that building Indian capability would end their market here. DRDO is now evaluating consultancy proposals from Ricardo of Britain and AVL of Austria.

“Simultaneously, we have floated an Expression of Interest (EoI) to identify an Indian manufacturing partner. The consultant we select will work in a consortium with the DRDO; the army; and the Indian manufacturing partner, who will be associated with the programme from the design stage itself. We have allowed the consultants to visit manufacturing companies and report on their capability to build a modern engine,” explains Sivakumar.

The CVRDE director says that the consultants will finalise the engine design within 12 months, and take 18 months more to build the first prototype. “Within 30 months, or three years maximum, the first engine would be ready for testing,” he says.

“Both Ricardo and AVL have proposed that they design and build the first prototypes. But the Indian industry will work alongside the consultant. The first design is never perfect; so the consultant will make the changes needed in design, tolerances, or materials to refine the engine. Then, in the second phase, the Indian partner will produce the engine,” says Sivakumar.

Even as CVRDE develops this technological capacity, it is looking further ahead at a hybrid engine for the FMBT after 2030. Sivakumar says that a tank remains static for at least 40% of the time in battle, during which time its engine idles. “This means that 40% of the time, you wastefully run a 1500 HP engine, guzzling diesel and giving away the tank’s position, while you need very little power for running electricals like the radios and gun control equipment or for moving the tank slowly. So we are evolving a hybrid technology concept in which the tank will have two engines: a 500 HP engine for low power mode and another 1000 HP engine that kicks in when high power is required, e.g. for manoeuvring in battle,” explains the CVRDE director.

The Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT)

• Army has not finalised FMBT specifications
• Tank required by 2020, when T-72s start retiring
• DRDO has begun work on 1500 HP engine
• Ricardo, AVL are potential design consultants
• Indian industry partner will manufacture engine
• Planning ahead for tandem “hybrid” engine

Admin Comments- Its all  hara-kiri from Indian Army ,they already knew that for DRDO its uphill task  to achieve super duper tank configuration that also in 50Ton range.
We shouldn't be surprise that at the end of the day they gonna settle for some Natasha T-XX tank .

All I can say is, yet another Good article from Ajay ji who knows better than any one because he was an Ex tanker and he knows the best about Indian army mentality .

1 comment:

  1. DRDO should give preference to indian domestic industires to design and manufacture components .they should invite more local players to field rather give smoking promises...and further national humiliation.. its amasing to see india has so many heavy vehicle manufacturers still all essential components are imported for arjun.

    see chinese weapon industries.
    Call them copier or copycats but they wont allow a single money to go out of their nation

    Each project india initiates is not just for defence , whole nation 's pride hangs in it


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