Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the first of 118 indigenously built Arjun Mark 1A battle tanks to the country’s army chief on Sunday.
“I am proud to present Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A). Tamil Nadu [a southern state] is already one of the largest automobile manufacturing states of the nation. I can now see the region becoming the largest tank manufacturing state,” he said during the inaugural event in the capital New Delhi.
The tank has been developed by 15 academic institutions, including the Defense Research and Development Organization’s Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment.
Formerly known as Arjun Mark-2, it was initially built in 2012 but due to the army’s dissatisfaction the project remained pending. Despite being upgraded several times, the tank failed to impress the military. It re-launched in 2018 with the ability to fire a missile from its main gun and a battlefield management system.
Modi also paid tribute to 40 Indian soldiers who were killed in the Feb. 14, 2019 Pulwama attack in southern Kashmir.
“No Indian can forget this day… We pay homage to all the martyrs. We are proud of our security forces and their bravery will continue to inspire generations,” he said.
India had accused Pakistan-based militants for the attack, and launched air strikes targeting the town of Balakot in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province in retaliation.
In response to the raid, Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft and held a pilot, who was later released as a “goodwill gesture.”
Earlier this month, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh also inaugurated the production of Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. He said the goal was to encourage local defense production, and reduce defense imports by at least $2 billion by 2022.
The development comes days after India and China decided to pull back troops from part of their disputed Himalayan border. Tensions had been high since last June.