By the middle of next year, Project Zorawar, a light tank developed by L&T and the DRDO, will be deployed.

According to an interview with J D Patil of Larsen & Toubro, the light tank being built by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and L&T will be ready for testing by the middle of 2023.

Patil, who advises L&T Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director S N Subrahmanyan, stated that “the development is proceeding at full pace.”

The “Make-I” or “Government Funded” category of the Defense Procurement Procedure is where the light tank is being developed.

The “government funding of 90%, released in a staggered manner and based on the progress of the plan, as per terms agreed upon between MoD [Ministry of Defense] and the vendor” is given to projects that fall within the “Make-I” category.

In April 2021, the Army released a Request for Information (RFI) for light tanks. 350 light tanks in the 25-ton weight range will be added, according to the plan.

A new design has replaced the earlier one that called for turning the tracked self-propelled artillery vehicle K9 Vajra into a light tank. The platform based on the 28-ton K9 chassis was not used because its weight would have exceeded the Army’s 25-ton restriction.

We are optimistic that the light tank will roll out on test tracks by the middle of next year because this [the current design being built by DRDO and L&T is entirely ab initio, and does not take Vajra design]

While L&T is involved in the development work, Patil had previously warned Janes that L&T is not guaranteed a place in the production phase.

He said, “Developed equipment has to go through field evaluation trials and come out successfully for the induction clearance, and then [the] production ordering process begins. [The] Indian process cannot place development and production contracts in one.

High-Altitude Area Light Tanks

The Army aims to introduce indigenous light tanks under Project Zorawar for fast deployment and unrestricted movement in high-altitude zones.

The decision to buy light tanks coincides with a continuing dispute with China over border rights in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control.

The T-72 and T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) that the Indian Army has stationed in eastern Ladakh were made particularly for use in operations in plains and arid environments. When used in high-altitude locations, they come with their own setbacks. Due to their weight, they are unable to move around freely or be used in high-altitude environments.

Additionally, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sent armoured forces to Tibet that are outfitted with 33-ton ZTQ-15 (also known as Type 15) light tanks. China’s ZTQ-15 is simpler to operate and maintain in high-altitude settings than India’s 42-tonne T-72 MBTs.

The Indian Army required a power-to-weight ratio of at least 25 HP/tonne for the light tank in their RFI from April 2021. The ZTQ-15 from China has a power-to-weight ratio of about 30 HP per tonne, whereas the T-72s have an insufficient 18.5 HP per tonne.

The RFI from the Army states that the ILT “is anticipated to be as lethal and resilient as the present tanks and will have considerable mobility advantage to be utilised primarily in High Altitude Areas and Marginal Terrain.”

In the past, India has stationed light tanks in high-altitude regions, including eastern Ladakh. During the 1962 conflict, the 20 Lancers’ AMX-13 tanks were transported to Chushul onboard An-12 aircraft of the Indian Air Force. AMX-13s were used at Chamb during the 1965 conflict with Pakistan.


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