Wednesday 03 June 2020, 07:11 PM
Indian Army Tanks: From Night Blindness to Far-sightedness
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 1/23/2019 1:41:03 PM
Indian Army Tanks: From Night Blindness to Far-sightedness

Indian Army’s tank fleet and the also the infantry carrying vehicle, the  BMP,  now have literal ‘far- sightedness’ with world- class night vision capabilities. India is trying to play catch up with China and Pakistan to have  24X7 armoured warfare. Pakistan’s 80 per cent and China’s 100 per cent armoured is night capable, India aims to be match China in the next two years.

The Ministry of Defence in April 2013 had okayed  major projects. Some 2000 pieces of thermal imagers also called the ‘Ti sights’ in Army parlance were okayed at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore for the 2,000 T-72 tanks. Another 1,200 pieces were okayed for the T-90 tanks for Rs 960 crore. TI sights numbering 1,780 were okayed for the BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles for Rs 860 crore.

The issue of ‘night  blindness’ of tanks and BMP’s was first highlighted in 2010 by  the then Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor.  

Five years after the MoD okayed the project, Gunners on the Russian origin T-72 tanks of the Indian Army, using the night vision, can now identify targets upto 3 kms away. All thanks to new kit that has been fitted in India by Bangalore –based Alphas Design Technologies (ADT), the off-set partner of Israeli company Elop-Elbit. The original night vision range of the tank was 300 metres. Work on fitting the Thermal Imager Fire Control Systems (TIFCS) commenced in November 2014 and is now complete on the entire fleet of 2000-plus T-72 tanks.

Also the Army had a set plan for improving the existing T-90 tanks' warfare capabilities.  This includes  1,400 un-cooled thermal imager-based driver's night sight (DNS) with fusion technology for T-90 tank to assist the driver in tank operations at night. This tender was issued in December 2016 to replace the existing image intensifier sights used in T-90 tanks over the next five years. 

The upgrade includes the most complete range of cameras available globally for target acquisition and weapon engagements by land vehicles — the Catherine family of thermal imaging cameras. They are now an integral part of the Indian Army’s T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs).

Catherine thermal imagers are made by from Thales of France. The same company’s thermal imager is already in service with the Indian Army. The  French defence and aerospace company Thales won a new order for which it had tied up with Beltech, a  European firm for integration.

Thales is making a transfer of production to integrate 260 compact LWIR (longwave infrared) thermal imaging (TI) Catherine into Beltech’s TI Sights, that will be installed on the T-90 battle tanks of Indian Army.  The tanks have a guided weapon system and computer facilities to ensure accurate firing.

The TI is form-fit replacement for the existing Image Intensifier sights currently used in T-90 tanks. It should facilitate driving during pitch dark nights with no ambient light. The T-90 tank driver will be able to clearly view the area in-front with adequate depth perception while driving over undulating terrain with the help of an un-cooled thermal imaging sight. The un-cooled imager is less expensive and relatively maintenance free and are used for instant operations.

The thermal imager can work in a networked battlefield and improves battlefield situational awareness, while the high definition TI with megapixel resolution offers flexibility and reliability where extreme performance is demanded on land, sea and air platforms.In case of the BMP, the work to upgrade the 969 such vehicles is going on track. The ADT is also the offset partner in the Indian Army’s BMP upgradation. Already 1000 thermal imager standalone kits (TISK), which improves night vision for main gun firing and also missiles, have been provided. 


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