Vijayanta – The victorious warrior: specifications, evolution of variants, and unforgettable operations

India’s first home-grown main battle tank, the Vijayanta, was a turning point in the country’s military history. Its manufacturing moved to India in 1965 after it evolved from a Vickers Mk.1 derivative. It was crucial to the 1971 Indo-Pak war and had a 105mm cannon. Its flexibility is demonstrated in a variety of post-retirement jobs and variations, even with phased retirement.

The Vijayanta, which translates to “Victorious,” is India’s first indigenous main battle tank and represents a major turning point in the nation’s military history. Based on a licenced version of the Vickers Mk.1, the prototype was finished in 1963 and entered service with the Indian Army on December 29, 1965. Vickers built the first 90 vehicles in the UK as part of their initial production. Later, they moved to the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi, India, where they produced 2,200 vehicles until 1983. 

Initially designed in the UK, the move to production in India allowed UK-based manufacturing to eventually end. Although the Vijayanta was important historically, attempts to phase it out were initiated in 1997 with the decision to remove 296 “pre-Mark 1A tanks.” Fleet overhauls were stopped from 1999 to 2000 following the authorised withdrawal from service, and a later plan to repower the Vijayanta was shelved in the same year. In 1989, the Vijayanta spares were no longer produced in bulk. 

One example of this military asset’s versatility was the conversion of some tank hulls into self-propelled cannons after retirement. When serving in India, the T-72M1 progressively replaced the Vijayanta. A symbolic move that highlighted Vijayanta’s historical significance was its inclusion on commemorative postage stamps in 2016. 

 

Specifications:

The armoured vehicle has overall measurements of 6.15 metres by 2.42 metres by 2.24 metres and weighs a total of 39 tonnes, or 43 short tonnes. With sufficient space for a driver, gunner, commander, and loader, the crew consists of four people. It has torsion bar suspensions and a 535 bhp (399 kW) Leyland L60 Diesel engine. It is driven by a David Brown Ltd. TN12 semi-automatic gearbox. 

On level ground, this armoured vehicle can reach a maximum speed of 50 kph (31 mph). Its range on roadways is 530 km (330 mi). A powerful 44-round 105 mm L7A2 main cannon is part of the armament, in addition to two 12.7 mm (0.5 in) heavy machine guns and one 7.7 mm (0.3 in) coaxial machine gun. On the glacier front and turret front, the armour thickness is as much as 80 mm (3.1 in). It is a prominent fixture in military fleets, having been constructed in a total of 2,200 units.

 

Variants:

Developed by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, the Catapult SPA is a self-propelled artillery system. It features a Russian M-46 field gun mounted on an elongated Vijayanta hull within an open-topped armoured box superstructure. There are two versions of the Catapult: Mark I and Mark II; the latter has ballistic protection up to STANAG Level II. 

Another invention from CVRDE is the armoured vehicle-launched bridge, or Kartik AVLB, which makes use of the Catapult’s expanded hull. It was first installed in 1989 and uses an Eastern European-style scissors-style bridge that is controlled by hydraulics. With a lifting capacity of 10 tonnes and a pulling capacity of 25 tonnes, the Vijayanta ARV is an armoured recovery vehicle designed to weigh no more than 40 tonnes. 

To replace their old Centurion and Sherman ARVs, the Indian Army has acquired about 200 of these vehicles. For high bank canals up to 4.5 metres, the Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) created the Canal Embankment Assault Equipment (CEASE), a specialised bridging equipment. The Indian Army finally decided on the DRDO Sarvatra bridge, although six tracked CEASE vehicles were created as Vijayanta derivatives. The last variant is the Vijayanta GBT 155 Turret, which combines the British Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited GBT 155 turret with a Vijayanta MBT chassis. Although this combination was put through a rigorous testing process in India for mobility and firepower, the Indian Army decided not to use it.

 

Operations:

The main purpose of the Vijayanta tank’s design was to employ it in conventional tank fighting on battlefields. It was designed to be used in a variety of environments, such as plains, deserts, and other open spaces. Its capabilities and design were more appropriate for conventional armoured warfare scenarios rather than specialised environments such as hilly or densely forested areas. 

Given the name “Vijayanta,” which means victorious, India’s primary battle tank was instrumental in the country’s victory against Pakistan in 1971. The relevance of Vijayanta extended to other wars, such as a restricted role in the 1999 Kargil War and the 2001–2002 Pakistani Operation Parakram. Although it proved useful in certain situations, its design was not specifically tailored to difficult environments like thick rainforests or mountainous landscapes.