India Debuts “Mountain” Tank

Zorawar light tank
Zorawar light tank

On July 6, 2024, defense contractor Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and the Indian Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) unveiled “Zorawar,” a jointly-developed indigenous light tank.

This public debut reflects the culmination of an accelerated two-year effort to define and build a main battle type tank optimized for combat operations in the northern mountain frontier of the country.

The Zorawar is named after the 19th-century Dogra General Zorawar Singh who conducted military operations in Ladakh and Western Tibet defeating Chinese forces in 1841. This is fitting as this region has been a seen conflict with the Peoples Republic of China and is for where this tank’s capabilities are primarily oriented.

In the environment here traditional MBTs like India’s T-72 have demonstrated mobility and operational limitations. The Zorawar, designed at twenty-five tons is optimized for high altitudes and operating in confined spaces typical of the geography.

Zorawar uses the Cockerill 105mm rifled high pressure main cannon with an exceptional 42-degree maximum elevation. This not only permits direct fire engagement of targets higher up surrounding slopes, but also allows the tank the ability to conduct indirect fire missions similar to artillery.

It has a crew of three made possible by use of an autoloader for the main cannon. Thirty-rounds for the main gun are carried. A 7.62 mm coax machinegun and 7.72 mm BEL Remote Weapon Station (RWS) are also provided. The tank shown also has two anti-tank guided missile pods on the right side of the turret. Fire controls include a roof mounted Safran Paseo panoramic sight and thermal gunner’s optics and laser rangefinder.

Modular passive protection to STANAG level 4 is provided across the frontal sixty-degree arc with level 2 all-around. Laser-warning and provisions for active-protection system (APS) are reportedly also included. Smoke grenade launchers can also provide screening.

The Zorawar will be powered by a 750 hp Cummings diesel power pack which will provide a power to weight ratio of around 30hp/ton. This ratio facilitates accommodating anticipated slopes in the area of operations. The use of Composite Rubber Tracks (CRT) further enhances the mobility of the vehicle. In addition, the Zorawar is both able to swim and is able to be air transported.

Zorawar light tank
Zorawar light tank

The Indian Army has placed an initial order for fifty-nine tanks with the first deliveries scheduled to occur in 2027. The Army reflected in its initial April 2021 Request for Information it anticipated a total requirement of three-hundred and fifty-four vehicles.

The Ministry of Défense’s December 2022 Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) laid out a requirement for seven light tank regiments of forty-five tanks each. While the first are designated to be the Zorawar from L&T, the other regiments could potentially be open to the acquisition of other offers.

Currently, prototype vehicles will be undergoing desert and high-altitude testing to verify their performance.

by Stephen W. Miller