Vijayanta: The armoured hero of the 1971 War
Chennai : True to its name Vijayanta (victorious) India’s main battle tank in the 1971 war against Pakistan had an important role in the war victory.The Vijayanta tanks also played a limited role in the Kargil War in 1999 and Operation Parakram (2001-2002) against Pakistan.After the 1962 war with China, India felt the need for an indigenously built battle tank and signed up an agreement with British company Vickers-Armstrong.While Vickers made and shipped about 90 tanks from the UK, it also agreed for transfer of technology to India which led to the birth of the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF- now called Armoured Vehicles Nigam Ltd) in Chennai.”The three main attributes of a battle tank are: Armoured protection, Firepower and Mobility and Vijayanta had them in good measure,” retired Colonel Anandkumar KV,VSM told IANS.Anandkumar, who retired as a Director from the Army Headquarters, was involved deeply in the tank projects at HVF. He was also involved in the repair, maintenance, overhaul and development of other battle tanks.The Vijayanta tank’s hull and turret front were protected with 80 mm steel plates. The robustly constructed tank weighing about 39 ton was powered by a supercharged engine and automatic transmission.
The tank’s auxiliary engine supplied power when the main engine was not in operation, Anandkumar added.Vijayanta’s firepower consisted of one 105mm gun, 12.6 mm anti-aircraft gun, a ranging gun and smoke grenade launchers — to create a smoke screen to hide from enemy’s eyes. Similarly, the engine also has the capacity to create more smoke at the back when needed, he added.The tank had infrared devices to fire at night and for the driver to see within 50-100 metres range.The Vijayanta had a range of about 530km on a full fuel tank.The tank crew capacity was four – driver, gunner, loader and commander. Most of the components were made in India.”Vijayanta was good to drive as compared to T55 tanks,” Anandkumar said.There were also upgrades and variants of Vijayanta tanks — catapult self propelled artillery Gun, Kartik armoured vehicle launched bridge, Vijayanta armoured recovery vehicle and Canal Embankment Assault Equipment (CEASE).About 2,000 Vijayanta tanks were rolled out of HVF and by late 1980s production was stopped.According to Anandkumar, some of the features of Vijayanta tank were incorporated in tanks like Arjun after upgrading.Meanwhile, the Indian Army was using the functional Vijayanta tanks in the border areas as pillboxes or limited mobility bunkers.