India will soon end the night blindness of its 2,100 Soviet-origin T-72 and 1,200 Russian-origin T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), apart from 1,780 Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) bought from Russia.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Tuesday gave its approval to a `2,820-crore proposal to buy night vision devices from the state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to enhance the MBTs and ICVs’ capability to take on mechanised enemy troops in the dark.
The projects may be completed by 2017. The gaps in night vision capabilities of the Army tank fleet was one of the issues flagged by then Army Chief General V K Singh in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in early 2012 that got leaked to the media, triggering a Parliament uproar.
His predecessor, General Deepak Kapoor, too had raised the issue in January 2010, stating that about 80 per cent of the Soviet-origin 2,400 T-72 ‘Ajeya’ tanks, which form the backbone of the Army’s main tank regiments, were night-blind.Close to 80 per cent of Pakistan’s and 100 per cent of Chinese battle tank fleets have better night vision capabilities than India’s.
Among the proposals cleared by the DAC include the DRDO-developed Thermal Imaging (TI) systems with a 6-km range for commanders of all T-72 tank variants. The 2,000-odd TI systems will cost about `1,000 crore, officials said. Around 300 of the existing T-72 fleet are already fitted with the TI systems, on a pilot project basis.
An earlier effort to provide night vision with French Catherine Thermal Imagers on the 310 initial lot of Russian-origin T-90 tanks had failed. India, then, decided to upgrade its existing fleet of 800 tanks to provide TI sight of up to 200 metres to the Driver, up to 5,000 metres to the Gunner and about 400 metres to the Commander.