Seeking to bolster its armoured capabilities during wars, the Indian Army is moving ahead with some development for buying APCs, which provide safety to troops from small arms firing in the battlefield, however these are being progressed at a snail's pace.
The battle zones in Indian defence scenario has moved from conventional to unconventional, like terrorist/Naxalite attacks, border incursion and jungle warfare which highlights the requirement of an agile compact transportation medium for urban warfare, reconnaissance activities, along with the border patrolling and counter attacks. Specialist combat vehicles are required for the Military for a quick response to various contingency with effective Maneuverability, Survivability and Combat. The support and reconnaissance vehicles will no longer be just backup vehicles but they will enter the mainstream of the Army and will need to be up armoured as a result of their increased multi-role capacity. The demand for light armoured vehicles in the future will be Modular, mobile and adaptable. The different types of combat will have different demand on combat vehicles, particularly the types of weapons that may be fired at the vehicle and the direction from which they strike the vehicle.
The Indian army has the strongest mechanized forces in Asia with its estimated 4,000 main battle tanks (locally assembled T-72M1 Ajeyas and T-90S Bhismas) with an equal number of BMP-2 Sarath infantry fighting vehicles. Keeping in view the technology development some of the under mentioned development projects being progressed.
Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV)
Procurement of approximately 1770 Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) in a phased manner, to include transfer of technology, engineering support package, training aggregates, spares package and 10 years performance based logistics etc. DGMF had issued an RFI (Request for Information) in November 2017, for Future-Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) under 'Strategic Partnership' model to replace 2,414 Soviet-origin T-72 tanks. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is required to offer technology transfer, with 40 percent indigenous content, and create ecosystems, life cycle costs and upgrade plans to build.
The OEMs responded to RFI include BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Nexter, Polski Holding Obronny, Rosoboronexport, Hyundai Rotem and Ukrain export of Ukraine. Indian companies interested in the project include Mahindra Group, Bharat Forge, Punj Lloyd, TATA Power SED, TATA Motors, Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited, Titagarh Wagons, and Tractors India.
Future Infantry Combat Vehicles
The Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (FICVs) programme worth Rs. 60,000 Crores project under ‘Make Project’, to build 2,610 combat vehicles to replace 1980s vintage BMP-2 with 49 mechanised infantry battalions, each with 51 BMP-2s, gradually reaching the end of their service lives.
The MoD wants the industry to bear the Initial investment to develop prototypes estimated to be around Rs 800 Crores, The Industry on its part can't fund the project, buy or develop the technology because there is no guarantee of getting an order, more so globally, such developments are underwritten by the State. The project was intended to encourage private
sector participation in the defence sector. It would also address a gap in wholly indigenous defence products and kickstart local product development. This suits the OEMs and import lobbies as shelving the indigenous projects brighten the chances to market their platform to be assembled in India as 'Make in India' programmes.
Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC)
Indian Army has issued Request for Information (RFI) inviting vendors to submit proposals for 198 8×8 wheeled APCs meant for a reconnaissance and support role by 17 February 2020. The vehicles are meant for a reconnaissance and support role in Punjab and Rajasthan. The RFI enumerated the following technical parameters:
- Able to carry a 2-ton payload.
- Transportable by planes like the Ilyushin Il-76 Candid or Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.
- Amphibious with a fording speed of 10km/h.
- Minimum power-to-weight ratio of 25 hp/ton.
- Top speed of 80 km/h. Cruising speed of 30 km/h.
- Mechanical self-recovery winch fitted at the front of the vehicle.
- Armament includes a 30mm cannon, 7.62mm machine gun and two antitank guided missiles in a single turret.
- Additional 8 missiles carried inside, along with a portable ATGM launcher.
- Ballistic protection of STANAG III on the front arc, STANAG II (withstands assault rifles) on the sides, and mine blast protection is STANAG Iib.
- CBRNe protection, active and passive protection systems, and night fighting capability.
- Power assisted ramp at the back for rear access.
- Crew of four.
The technical parameters indicated in RFI are stiff and as on date most of the APC such as Russian BTR-82A, US Stryker, Tata WhAP, French VBCI and the Anglo-German Boxer may not meet the requirements. The Indian Army's preference for foreign suppliers over local manufacturers is deep-rooted and unchanging regardless of the strategic environment it must cope with. It rejects local efforts at producing a wheeled APC the Tata WhAP comes to mind but no single manufacturer outside India can deliver the vehicle without imposing huge costs. Smaller countries such as Malaysia and Singapore tailored their own wheeled APCs by partnering with foreign suppliers. The Indian army is doing the opposite.
Light Support Vehicles
India is pursuing Light Support Vehicles programme to enhance its capability in this area. On 30 Oct 2012 approval was accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council for 3000 Light Support Vehicles (LSVs) at a cost of Rs 1500 Crores ($272 Million) for the Army under 'Buy & Make' Category. Following are some of the planned acquisitions under the Light Support Vehicles (LSV) programme, however making slow progress:-
The other Specialist Vehicles include Mine Clearing Vehicle, Mine Protected Vehicles, Daksh- Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) for IED, RUDRA for Surveillance and Recce, Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) for CBRN, Mission Unmanned Tracked (Muntra) UGV are at various stages of trial and development.
Specialist Vehicles Market
As the Indian land forces expand their scope of operations and profile, there is a steep increase in the requirement of armoured and specialty vehicles across the board. Vehicles for the Army and Paramilitary Forces cover the entire gamut of offensive, patrolling, intelligence gathering, battlefield reconnaissance and weapon deployment missions. The army has projected a need for 4000 light armoured vehicles, 1500 light bullet-proof vehicles, 4500 light specialist vehicles, 228 light strike vehicles (LSVs) and 500-600 light specialty strike specialist vehicles for the infantry battalions - a total of over 7,000 vehicles at the very least - for its various roles in external and internal security duties and reconnaissance vehicles for the armoured and mechanised units and NBC units. It is estimated that there is requirement of 300-400 Mine-Protected Vehicles annually by various security agencies including police and paramilitary forces. India clearly emerges as the country with most potential for growth in this field. The customers are Indian Army, CRPF, NSG, Marcos, Border Security Forces and various commando units.
While the Indian private sector has made dramatic headway in the combat, light strike and mine-protected vehicle space, the most visible 8×8 wheeled armoured fighting vehicle on the Indian landscape currently is the Indian Kestrel, a platform developed jointly by the DRDO and Tata Group following a competitive selection. The Kestrel, projected as being as capable as the U.S Stryker, is said to have been developed in 18 months and has been demonstrated at the DefExpo show in Goa. The vehicle has been in user trials this last year, with the Indian Army sanctioning a limited initial order. Tata is looking to export 100 Kestrels to UN missions as well, and recently received clearance to do so.
The demand growth for light armoured vehicles is likely to outrun all other variants due to changing scenario. Such platform requires integration of various weapon stations, communication facilities for command control and multipurpose activities like border patrol, recce operations and quick attacks and ergonomics. In the coming years, defence would turn out to be a huge market and the private players will play a major role. This market potential is also driving Indian firms to set up R&D and ink JVs with foreign defence players eager to offer their products to the Indian military.