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Zorawar: The game changer for India, in standoff with China

Zorawar:  The game changer for India, in standoff with China
A scale model of the Zorawar light tank, as displayed at Defence Expo in Gujarat last year
Zorawar:  The game changer for India, in standoff with China

Weighing 45% lesser, high-tech equipment to wreak havoc on LAC

JAMMU: Losing the total weight by 45%, new Zorawar Light Tanks powered with niche technologies like Artificial Intelligence, drone integration, active protection system and high degree of situational awareness, are going to become the face of the India’s response along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh to facilitate quicker deployment and movement in high-altitude battle zones.

The Indian Army is all set to induct as many as 700 such tanks, double its initial estimate, to counter the Chinese PLA, which has been trying to establish hotspots against it not only in Ladakh, but also in Arunachal Pradesh and other areas along the LAC.

Earlier this week, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) have come together to develop Zorawar light tanks, optimised for the extreme cold and high altitude of Ladakh.

The DRDO has placed a development order on L&T to build the first prototype of the tank, which in all likelihood will be ready by the end of this year, defence sources informed.

“These indigenous light tanks will weigh less than 25 tonne, will have an 800 horsepower engine developed by a German firm and will be optimised for high altitudes of Ladakh and Arunachal. A 105-millimetre gun turret, procured from a Belgian firm, will be mounted on its hull,” they informed.

The significant development has come days after the Defence Acquisition Council, Ministry of Defence’s apex body for capital purchases, gave its in-principle agreement, for seven light tank regiments, each equipped with 45 tanks. The L&T will build one regiment of light tanks, while the MoD acquires the other six regiments under the “Make-1” procedure.

While India has been searching for a light tank since 2009, the process only was hastened after the border stand-off with China began in 2020 in Ladakh and has continued ever since.

The Indian Army had to deploy bigger tanks like the T-72 and the T-90 after the deadly border clash with China, both weighing around 45-46 tons.

“Their heavy weight makes these tanks very difficult to be put to optimum use in mountainous areas. The manoeuvrability and transportation is restricted. Then there are problems with their usage in the extreme cold weather of Ladakh as well as limitations on depression and elevations on their heavy 120-mm guns, preventing them from engaging targets on hilltops or in valleys,” said a senior Army official.

At first, India considered purchasing the Russian light tank Sprut SDM1 but the deal fell off. In April 2021, the Defence Ministry had put out a Request for Information (RFI) for 350 light tanks in the 25-ton weight category, but after a number of developments including the interruption in the world supply chain for defense-related components caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, it decided to develop its own light tank rather than importing them.

“For the terrain such as Ladakh and Arunachal, we require the lightweight tanks to counter Chinese PLA which has inducted around 500 Type 15 tank light tanks along the LAC. While a full-blooded war with China is still not in immediate sight, the Chinese need to be told that India means business,” said another senior army officer.

Defence sources inform that while the initial plan was to procure 350 such tanks, the recent activities by China along the LAC has pushed the estimates to be doubled, with Indian Army looking to procure 700 such tanks along the LAC, now.

Experts suggest that when inducted, Zorawar will prove to be a game changer in India’s standoff with China.

“With better power-to-weight ratio than the Chinese Type 15, and better firepower and flexibility, these light tanks can break havoc on the LAC,” said the officer.


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Zorawar:  The game changer for India, in standoff with China