Trials of the Zorawar light tank, jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Larsen and Toubro (L&T), will start towards the end of this year in test tracks, as the developers have decided to retain America’s Cummins engines instead of German’s ‘Motoren-und Turbinen Union’ (MTU) to power the 25-tonne tank for matching high altitude capabilities China demonstrated during the Galwan face off in 2020.

Defence establishment sources stated that around ten months back the government more or less decided to switch over to a Cummins engine for a Zorawar prototype after the Germans did not relax the export control regime despite the fact that the MTU was ready last October to supply its version of the engine to power indigenously-designed light tank. At the highest level in the central government, including the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the matter was taken up with the Germans but the issue remained unresolved prompting the shift towards Cummins, said defence establishment sources.

businessline had exclusively reported on June 7 that during India-Germany defence bilateral talks held here, Rajnath Singh requested his German counterpart Boris Pistorius to clear hurdles frustrating the supply of sub-systems and spares that the defence industry wanted, delaying productions and maintenance of tanks and other military hardware such as submarines.

Though the MTU engine deal could not materialise, it is said to have helped the government negotiate better terms of engagement with Cummins. After helping procure one engine for the Zorawar prototype, the government is exploring the option of getting the American firm to assemble them here in India to meet the Indian Army’s requirement of 354 light tanks, pointed out defence sources.

The prototype version of Zorawar is in the last phase of assembling at L&T’s heavy engineering plant at Hazira, Gujarat, and it would undergo track trials later this year at its in-house facility for testing all parameters, said defence sources. After that, the Army and the DRDO would decide when to take Zorawar to the desert for the next round of live trials. Later, the vehicle would move to the high altitude locations of Ladakh to make it an all-weather and all-geography friendly light tank that is swift and agile and has better fire power, informed defence sources.

The light tank project fructified nearly 19 months after L&T, who has been working on the new tank for the last three years, went with the proposal to the DRDO to see the birth of the armoured vehicle, said sources while pointing out that this was a quicker industry response to the need of armed forces.

Once inducted, it would empower Army to face Chinese threat which had deployed its light Type 15 tanks along the LAC in Ladakh during the stand off in May, 2020 which had lead to casualties from the both the sides.