Indigenous Light Tank ‘Zorawar’ Unveiled, to Undergo Extensive Trials

Indian Army

New Delhi: The indigenous light tank ‘Zorawar’ was unveiled on July 6, after completing the initial internal trials. The light tank was rolled out in less than 24 months from date of sanction. Jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) along with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as the lead integrator, the tank has completed the track trials at L&T’s heavy engineering plant at Hazira, Gujarat, defence sources said.

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According to defence officials, the prototype of the country’s indigenous light tank Zorawar is ready and will soon be subjected to extensive trials. The tank is currently powered by a Cummins engine and DRDO has taken up a project to develop a new engine domestically.

The tank will be tested in various conditions including summer, winter and high altitude as part of developmental trials, over the next six months. “The tank is planned to be handed over to the Army for user trials by August 2025,” added another source.

Developed for Army’s Project Zorawar, the indigenous light tanks will be inducted for quicker deployment and movement in high altitude areas. The Army is looking at procuring about 350 light tanks with a maximum weight of 25 tonnes (with a margin of 10 percent) and the same firepower as its regular tanks. The Army wants these tanks to be armed with artificial intelligence (AI), integration of tactical surveillance drones to provide a high degree of situational awareness and loitering munition, along with an active protection system.

These tanks, which are also amphibious, have been developed to counter Chinese deployment of a large number of similar armoured columns along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

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The Army in April 2021, had issued a Request For Information (RFI) for the procurement of 350 light tanks weighing less than 25 tonnes in a phased manner and will form nearly six regiments, along with performance-based logistics, niche technologies, engineering support package, and other maintenance and training requirements.

Following this, DRDO and Larsen & Toubro teamed up to develop a light tank indigenously along with many Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises who have been roped in for various sub-system development to encourage Indigenous development of Defence weapon platform through industry. This development phase is the fastest for such a product in India, the sources said.

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In March 2022, the Narendra Modi government had given its in-principle approval for the indigenous design and development of light tanks for mountain warfare. The Army through the light tanks, aims to sharpen its edge in mountain warfare by exploiting the limited space available in mountainous terrains by way of enhanced mobility and additional firepower.

According to Army’s technical specification, the tank’s physical dimensions should not come in the way of them being transported by air, road or water. The Army requires the tank to be all-weather capable and be able to target tanks, armoured vehicles, UAVs, and precision guided munitions, among others. The Zorawar is also supposed to have anti-aircraft and ground role centric weapons besides advanced multipurpose smart munitions and gun tube launched anti-tank guided missiles. The Army has also asked for the light tank to have long range for identifying enemy targets, thermal night fighting capability and stealth features, such as the ability to suppress visual, audio/acoustic, thermal and electromagnetic signatures.

In the past, the Army has successfully employed light tanks in various battle engagements. These deployments include the Stuart tanks of the 254 Indian Tank Brigade in the Battle of Kohima in World War II, at Naushera, Jhangar, Rajauri, and, most successfully, at Zoji La in the Indo-Pak War 1947-48. The AMX-13 tanks were deployed at Chushul and Bomdila in 1962 and in Chamb in 1965. The amphibious PT-76 light tanks were deployed successfully in 1971, with them leading the race to Dacca (now Dhaka) in Bangladesh. By the time AMX-13 and PT-76 tanks were phased out in the 1980s, the focus of the Army had shifted primarily to the western borders, resulting in the conversion of PT-76 units to the T-72 profile.