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By Bulbul Singh

21 Nov 13. India will not shelve its indigenous Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme for Russia’s BMP-3 infantry combat vehicles. This was formally conveyed by the Indian Defence Minister A K Antony during his Russia visit November 15 to 17, said sources in the Indian defence ministry.

Last year Russia had offered India its advanced BMP-3 along with Technology Transfer to replace around 1400 aging Russian-made BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles. However, Russia’s offer was subject to India putting on hold its indigenous FICV project which would replace the BMP-1 and BMP2s at a cost of over $10 billion.

The Russian BMP-3 offer was lapped up by senior Indian Army officers as they preferred the Russian offer to the FICV fearing the latter may not be made available on time, given the track record of several Indian projects.

The FICV project is to be built under the ‘Make India’ category with only domestic defence companies allowed to participate. The short-listed domestic company or consortium would produce over 3000 FICV at a cost of over $10 billion over the next two decades.

Under the ‘Make India’ category the Indian government would contribute nearly 80 per cent towards prototype development costs by two domestic competitors. After the prototype testing, the short-listed competitor would produce the FICV.

The FICV project, which was approved in 2009, has been in nascent stage only. The Russian offer last year forced the project to be shelved and close to extinction. FICV is patterned on the American defense procurement model, in which the Pentagon funds a development competition between two or more private companies for each new weapons system.

The proposed FICV will have a Combat Weight of less than 20 tonnes, Power-to-Weight ratio 25:1 hp/t, have amphibious capability, potent fire power including, 3rd Gen fire & forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) and co-axial machine gun.

So far four domestic auto majors, Tata Motors, Mahindra Defence Systems, Larsen & Toubro and state-owned Ordnance Factories Board are in the race for the FICV project. All the companies have already given their proposals to the Indian Army based on which the latter has asked the Indian defence ministry to go ahead with vendor selection.

Meanwhile the Indian Army is going ahead with the upgrade of the existing BMP-2s and tenders for purchase of 2000 engines has been sent to domestic auto major Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Force Motors, Ashok Leyland, Marutiudyog Ltd, Crompton Greaves Ltd and foreign companies including MTU of Germany, Thales of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia. The engines will be assembled by the Ordnance Factories Board. The Indian Army requires engines which have the capability to generate 350 to 380HP in object condition, are easy to maintain and operate in extreme weather conditions. The existing BMP-2 engine is 285HP and not suited for cross country mobility.

The BMP-2 upgrade includes providing better observation and surveillance, night fighting capability, fire control system, improved ATGM system and 30mm AGL. The upgraded combat vehicles will have an advanced Fire Control System and the capability of loading two missiles in ready-to-fire mode. In addition, the vehicle will be mounted with a new generation ATGM with a fire-and-forget capability; technology transfer will be required by the user from the vendor.

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