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16 Aug 10. The Indian Army is to begin yet another big ticket indigenous weapons programme, with a market potential of over $20 billion if Indian defence scientists are allowed to go ahead with the design and development of the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT). The Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO, has sought permission of the Indian defence ministry to allow it to go ahead with the design and development of the FMBT.

While the FMBT design and development cost will cost only $1.2 billion, the Indian Army has a potential requirement for over $20 billion, over the next 15 years as it phases out over 2000 aging T-72 Main Battle tanks.

The Indian Army begins the Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle(FICV) programme this month. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.12 ISSUE 33, 11 August 2010, INDIA TO BEGIN BIGGEST EVER ARMY PROGRAMME)

However, unlike FICV, DRDO is seeking to get FMBT for itself and not allow either domestic or foreign companies in the competition. However, defence companies from home and abroad will establish tie-ups for various FMBT sub-systems, which will be produced by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

Indian private sector defence companies, using lobbying agencies are trying to get onto the programme, as in the FICV, where they will be allowed to enter into competition along with DRDO.

Sources said, ”The FMBT is proposed on the lines of the Arjun tank project, which was first conceived in 1973, and took over three decades before the Indian Army decided to place orders for the tank, and that too after series of controversies surrounding the technical parameters of the tank.

The FMBT is planned to be lighter than the Arjun tank weighing around 60 tonnes mounted with a 125mm gun.

Six prototypes will be developed by 2020, before the FMBT will undergo bulk production.

“FMBT will be difficult to detect by enemy radar,” said a CVRDE scientist.

FMBT will have several advanced features such as capability to fire kinetic weapons and missiles, active protection system, active Armour and hybrid Armour against improvised explosive devices. The tank will also have night fighting capability, surveillance and reconnaissance capability and strategic mobility.

The tank will have third generation transmission system, integrated fire control system with laser finders, battlefield management system and mine detection system.

Other highlights will be the tank’s ability shoot down anti-tank projectiles and an ability to operate in a nuclear environment.

In May this year the Indian government gave an additional order for 124 Arjun tanks on top of the existing order for 124 tanks, but only after comparative trials between Russian T-90 and Arjun in the desert plains of Rajasthan.

“The latest order has given a big push to DRDO to go ahead with the FMBT programme,” said a senior Indian defence ministry official. The Indian Army and DRDO have been battling for over ten years over the Arjun’s performance. “After rejecting the Arjun on technical performance, the Indian Army finally accepted that the Arjun had performed to their satisfaction in comparative trials with the T-90,” added the official.

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