NEW DELHI: India’s future main battle tank, the T-90MS ‘Tagil’, which will be license manufactured in Avadi in Chennai, will not be equipped with new-generation active protection systems that destroy incoming missiles and shells before they can hit the tank. Active protection systems have saved the lives of dozens of tank crew deployed in Israeli combat operations in Gaza and have now been deployed by the Russian Army in operations in Syria. For decades, tanks have depended on their armour to protect their crew from enemy shells and anti-tank guided missiles. However, the singular vulnerability of modern tanks to the latest anti-tank guided missiles in the ongoing Iraq and Syria conflicts have raised serious question marks on the ability of armour alone to prevent casualties among tank crews. Active protection systems are meant to counter this threat. Radars fitted on tanks detect the launch of hostile missiles and tank shells, predict their incoming trajectory and launch guided ammunition that can destroy or deflect hostile projectiles upto 50 metres away from the tank. The ensuing blast destroys the enemy missile, rocket propelled grenade or shell before it can pierce the armour of the tank. That the Russian ‘Arena’ active protection system and the Israeli ‘Trophy’ system were both being considered for the Indian Army’s new T-90MS tanks based on the formidable reputation they have earned during combat. However, the ‘Arena’ system was withdrawn from the competition at the technical evaluation stage prior to field trials being held because it did not meet the technical criterion spelt out by the Indian Army. The withdrawal of the ‘Arena’ resulted in a single-vendor situation with only the Israeli ‘Trophy’ remaining in the race. This is a scenario the government looks to avoid in major defence purchases since it no longer has the ability to choose the least expensive system among the shortlisted options available. Accordingly, in late October this year, the Defence Acquisition Committee rejected the import of all active protection systems. These were likely to have cost approximately Rs. 2 crore per tank. Now, the government has ordered a feasibility study to see if the systems can be developed in the country under the government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme which may involve a joint venture with a foreign firm.