India's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the INR134.48 billion (USD1.93 billion) procurement of 464 Russian-made T-90MS main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Indian Army (IA).
Official sources told Jane's that the move by the CCS, which convened in early April and is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is the penultimate step in the process of acquiring the MBTs and will be followed by the signing of a contract between India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Russia's arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, during the next few months.
The MoD's Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of the tanks in November 2016.
IA officers said the new MBTs would be imported in kit form from Russian tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) for assembly by India's state-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Avadi, southeastern India, and are expected to eventually equip 10 armoured regiments.
The officers said the acquisition of the T-90MS MBTs has become necessary following the "slow pace" at which the HVF has been licence-building the 1,000 T-90S MBTs - designated 'Bhishma' in Indian service - it had contracted in 2006-07 to complete by 2020. So far, the HVF has licence-built merely 350-400 units of the T-90S, which is the export version of the T-90 MBT in service with the Russian army.
Since 2002 the HVF has also been assembling some 400-450 T-90S tanks delivered by Russia in kit form.
The T-90MSs are expected to supplement hundreds of Bhishma MBTs deployed in the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan in the north and northwest of the country, at the border with Pakistan.
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