The friendship between India and Russia is long-standing and has stood the test of time. Recently, Russia assured India that the S-400 missile defence system would be delivered to India on time in the last quarter of 2021. More recently, Russia has taken another decision that further deepens the age-old relationship between the two nations. Russia has given India access to trials of Sprut light tanks. So far, India is the only nation allowed by Russia to be a part of under-development product trials.
India is considering Sprut light tanks for deployment at Ladakh and other high-altitude places. Both India and Russia are clear that the proposed purchase is aimed at China.
What makes Sprut a feasible option for India is its lightweight compared to India’s existing T-72 and T-90 tanks. Sprut weighs only 18-tonnes while T-72 is 45-tonnes and T-90 is 46-tonnes. This feature of Sprut gives it much-needed manoeuvrability in mountain warfare. Moreover, it can be airlifted or even parachuted with the crew to the battlefield. What gives Sprut added advantage is its ammunition. The cannon used in Sprut is similar to that of the T-90 tank and fires the same kind of ammunition. T-90 is also Russian by origin. It means a lot less logistical and maintenance hassles as the Indian Army will not be needed to reinvent the wheel.
Already, the tanks that China has deployed opposite Ladakh are lighter compared to the Indian tanks. The Chinese army has opted for ‘Type 15 Black Panther’ tanks that weigh 36-tonnes.
Meanwhile, India has also floated a Request for Information for 350 light tanks that weigh not more than 25-tonnes. The prerequisite justifies India’s combat needs in the Himalayas. However, it automatically rules out many of the Western light tanks.
The rare Russian approval to India to be a part of pre-launch trials is believed to have come from their ‘highest authority’, claim many media sources. Considering the India-China standoff and the possible objection that could come from China, the move highlights the trust between the grand-old friends India and Russia.