Indian and Chinese tanks are almost positioned face to face in Eastern Ladakh. India has stationed the Russian-designed T-72 and heavyweight T-90 tanks while China has highlighted the deployment of lightweight, highly manoeuvrable Type 15 tanks.
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The recent clashes between India and China in Galwan Valley has put the defence forces of both the nations on high alert. Military deployment in and around Ladakh has drastically increased and both nations have deployed their latest defence war machinery including drones, fighter jets, artilleries and main battle tanks.
As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, India has deployed the T-90 ‘Bhisma tanks’ in Ladakh along with fighter jets and helicopters from the Indian Air Force. The T-90 Bhisma tanks are considered one of the deadliest tanks in the world with the capability to deal with biological and chemical weapons.
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The Indian Ministry of Defence has placed a $2.8bn contract with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to licence-build 464 additional T-90S tanks at its heavy vehicle factory (HVF), Avadi, for the Indian Army. They are scheduled for delivery later this year.
Recently, the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh approved the procurement and signed a contract with M/s Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) for procurement of 1,512 Mine Plough (MP) for Tank T-90 S/SK at an approximate cost of Rs 557 crore.
Mine ploughs are mounted on tanks and help clear minefields allowing the tanks to manoeuvre freely and minimises risks to men and machines. The decision comes amid the hostilities with China. The T-90 tanks have been deployed in Ladakh as part of Indian Army’s enhanced deployment at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
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Type 15 vs T-90 Tanks
As EurAsian Times reported earlier, the Modi government has given its green light to the Indian army for emergency procurement of lightweight tanks similar to Chinese Type 15 tanks that the Chinese PLA recently deployed in Eastern Ladakh.
The decision to procure lightweight tanks came after China swiftly deployed its Type 15 tanks along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a move that reportedly confounded India.
The procurement of these lightweight tanks is critical for India because unlike China, India doesn’t have an elaborate road network along the border and heavy tanks like T-90 are difficult to transport and manage at high altitude regions.
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According to Global Times, Type 15 lightweight tanks of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been engaged in military drills in a low-temperature mountainous plateau region.
It further said that an infantry battalion at the PLA Tibet Military Region organized the infantry-tank cooperation drills at an “undisclosed location” at an elevation of more than 4,700 meters, putting the troops’ teamwork and rapid-response capabilities to a comprehensive test.
The Type 15 lightweight tank is highly agile even on plateaus, a type of terrain which heavy tanks can struggle in due to the lack of oxygen to support the engine; any lesser armoured vehicle that can operate on plateaus are no threat to the Type 15. This means that the Type 15 is basically matchless on plateaus and poses a tremendous challenge for the Indian soldiers.
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The Type 15 is a 33-ton tank weighs around half as much as a typical MBT. Its armour is thinner and it carries a 105-millimeter gun rather than the 120- or 125-millimeter cannons that many heavier tanks carry. This light build makes it more suitable for high-altitude operations like Ladakh.
The Type 15 tank is the envy of the world. Western nations have struggled to deploy lightweight tanks. The U.S. Army in the 1990s attempted and failed to develop a light tank for its airborne forces.
“The satellite imagery visuals of Chinese T-15 / ZTPQ light tanks camouflaged in the depth areas of eastern Ladakh, during the recent standoff, is a wakeup call for upgrading deterrence in areas where medium-category tanks are difficult to employ,” wrote Lt Gen AB Shivane (retd), former Director-General, mechanised forces in a detailed study on the reintroduction of light tanks for the government-backed Centre of Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS).
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He has further suggested that light tanks would add to the credible deterrence posture and war-fighting capability on the northern front where medium-category tanks cannot reach. He has also suggested that these new tanks be made in India.