India has been having problems (with
Russian manufacturing technology) getting its T-90 tank factory working, so
another 350 T90 tanks will be bought from Russia, and equipped with French fire
night vision systems. The T-90s cost nearly three million dollars each. These
tanks will be delivered by 2011, and will equip two armored divisions.
Last year, India adopted the Russian T-90 as its
new main battle tank. The initial plan was for local production of about a
thousand T-90s over the next 14 years. India already has imported 310 T-90s.
Under this plan, by 2020, India will have 2,000 upgraded T-72s and a thousand
T90s. This will be the most powerful armored force in Eurasia, unless China
moves ahead with upgrades to its tank force. The border between China and India
is high in the Himalayan mountains, which is not good tank country.
The T-72 evolved into the T-90. Originally, this
was done as a fall-back design. The T-80 was supposed to be the successor to
the T-72. But like the T-62 and T-64 before it, the T-80 didn't quite work out
as planned. So the T-72, with a much improved turret and all manner of gadgets,
was trotted out as the T-90. At 47 tons, but it's still 23 feet long, 11 feet
wide and 7.5 feet high. Same package, better contents. And with well trained
crews, it could be deadly.
India doesn't have to worry about facing M-1s. The
main enemy is Pakistan, which has T-72s, a few T-80s and many older T-55s (the
Chinese version.) Training remains a problem for the Indian army, because of rising
fuel costs. Again, it's all relative, for the Pakistanis are even less able to
pay for the vast quantities of fuel needed to move a tank around for training.
Currently, fuel alone costs the Indian army about a dollar per kilometer
traveled by each for T-72s, and a little more for T-90s. So if you want to take
a hundred T-72s out for several days of training, each vehicle is going to
travel, say, 200 kilometers. That's $20,000 just for the fuel. Do that four
times a year, for the entire 3,000 tank force, and you're out $2.5 million.
That's for minimal training, and many countries cannot afford even that. You
can more than double the fuel cost to take care of replacement parts and
repairs for accidents. American armored vehicles cost from $15-$25 per kilometer
to operate, largely because of higher personnel costs. This is why, even when
poor nations get first rate tanks, they often do poorly in combat. Buying the
tank, for a few million dollars each, is only a small part of the total cost of
creating a competent crew to get the most out of that high tech tank.