The Indian Ministry of Defence has signed a Rs 1,075 crore (including all taxes and duties) contract with Bharat Electronics Limited for the retro-modification of Commander Sight of T90 for the Indian Army. The retro-modification will be carried out in 957 main battle tanks. The successful indigenous development of Thermal Imager-based Commander Sight, jointly by IRDE, DRDO and BEL, with improved performance than its predecessor provides a further boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government of India. This will provide a fillip to indigenous defense manufacturing and open avenues for the export of such advanced technology.
The T-90 is a third-generation Russian main battle tank. The T-72BU was officially accepted into service in 1992 by the Russian Ministry of Defence and simultaneously renamed the T-90 for marketing and propaganda purposes aimed at distancing the new type from existing T-72 variants. The T-90 uses a 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore main gun, the 1A45T fire-control system, an upgraded engine, and the gunner’s thermal sight. Standard protective measures include a blend of steel and composite armour, smoke grenade dischargers, Kontakt-5 explosive-reactive armour and the Shtora infrared ATGM jamming system. It was designed and built by Uralvagonzavod, in Nizhny Tagil, Russia.
In 2001, India purchased 310 T-90S tanks from Russia, of which 124 were delivered complete and 186 were to be assembled from kits delivered in various stages of completion with an emphasis on shifting production to domestic means. The T-90 was selected because it is a direct development of the T-72 that India already manufactures with 60% parts commonality with T-90, simplifying training and maintenance. India opted to acquire the T-90 in response to numerous delays in the production of its own domestically developed Arjun main battle tank, and to counter Pakistani deployment of the Ukrainian-made T-80 tanks in 1995–97.
A follow-on contract, worth $800 million, was signed on October 26, 2006, for another 330 T-90S “Bhishma” MBTs that were to be manufactured in India by Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, Tamil Nadu. The T-90S Bhishma (named after the guardian warrior in the Mahabharata) is a vehicle tailored for Indian service, improving upon the T-90S, and developed with assistance from Russia and France. The tanks are equipped with the French Thales-built Catherine-FC thermal sights and use Russian Kontakt-5 K-5 explosive reactive armored plates and Kontakt-5 ERA in addition to the primary armor which consists of laminated plates and ceramic layers with high tensile properties.