Moscow will help India produce additional batches of the time-proven T-90, a Russian government agency said amid reports that New Delhi is eyeing the procurement of almost 500 main battle tanks.
Russia “is ready to extend the license [to assemble the T-90] and increase production of T-90 tanks,” a spokesperson for a government body in charge of arms trading told Interfax. The Indian government, the official said, “has decided to purchase extra tanks for the national armed forces.”
On Monday, it emerged that India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the $1.93-billion deal to procure 464 T-90MS main battle tanks (MBTs), according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. Within the next few months, the Indian and Russian defense ministries will sign a relevant contract, Jane’s sources said.
The T-90MS is the latest upgrade to the classic T-90 tank family. Its manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod, says the MS version has better protection, increased mobility and improved electronic systems. The most notable distinction is the tank’s extended turret which provides storage for additional rounds and better protects the crew.
India is the largest foreign operator of the T-90, with an estimated 1,650 tanks in service with the military since the early 2000s. Most of those were assembled at India’s Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) under Russian license.
New Delhi has been relying on Soviet and Russian-made weapons for decades, be it small arms or combat aircraft and naval vessels. Lately, India and Russia signed an array of arms deals covering a wide range of weapons systems.
The Indian Army is in need of additional tanks to be deployed to Punjab and Rajasthan, both states which border Pakistan, military journalist Shiv Aroor said. The military “has long stated a need for faster supplies” as the Heavy Vehicles Factory is unable to assemble the T-90 from imported kits at a required pace, he told RT, adding, that it is “very much the army’s mainstay battle tank.”
While US manufacturers have done “extremely well” in the last decade and a half in the Indian defense market, Russia strives for high-value contracts “where the US isn’t a player,” he added.