The Indian-made Arjun Main Battle Tank is a machine that grabbed our attention by the scruff and had us wishing we were behind the wheel.
With a combined weight of 58.5 tonnes, the Arjun needs some serious muscle to help it get going. The initial plan was to develop a low cost, indigenous 1500bhp air-cooled motor, but the project was shelved as it would have taken too long to develop the engine fully.
The new power-pack, as the engine, transmission and differential are called, may not be Indian, and may be horrendously expensive at Rs 3.8 crore a pop (without duty) but the Indian Army loves it. It is made by famous heavy-engine maker MTU of Germany, who also supply the powertrain for Germany's Leopard 2, the French LeClerc and the export version of the M1 Abrams. MTU, incidentally, was founded by Karl Maybach of uber-limo fame. The colossal 40-litre V10 that sits behind the turret sends out a brutish 1400bhp via a four-speed semi-automatic transmission, and it even has a torque converter. A seriously large piece of kit, this 39,700cc monster is about the size and height of the average dining table. Two watermelon-sized turbos garnish it on each side, with massive suitcase-sized intercoolers and air filters packed along the flanks. Torque is 445.6kgm (an Ikon makes 13!), huge in isolation, but only sufficient when you see how much weight that torque has to shift.
Importantly, the powertrain is easy to service: the entire 5.2-tonne unit can be lifted out of the rear and replaced by another one in the field in 45 minutes. Tanks also need to wade and snorkel, and the Arjun is no slouch in this area. It can 'shallow ford' up to a height of 4.5 feet without preparation, and can duck under rivers not more than seven feet deep after the tank has been sealed, the big diesel breathing through the commander's hatch.