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By Bulbul Singh

11 Aug 10. India commences its biggest ever programme for the Indian Army, when domestic companies file their detailed proposals, by the end of the month, for the design and development of India’s indigenous Future Infantry Combat Vehicle Program(FICV), estimated to cost around $11 billion.

FICV will be designed and built by domestic defence companies in collaboration with overseas defence companies, in the category, ‘Make Indian’. This category was added for the for the first time in the Defence Procurement Procedures of 2009. Overseas defence companies are not being allowed to compete directly in the project.

Four Indian defence companies, Tata Motors; Mahindra Group, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will submit their detailed proposals to design and build 2,600 new-generation FICVs to replace the Indian Army’s aging fleet of Russian-designed BMP-2s.

The broad specifications of the FICV to be developed include: Combat weight less than 20 tonnes, Power-to-weight ratio 25:1 hp/t, amphibious capability, potent fire power including, 3rd Gen fire & forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), Main gun firing Armoured Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) and HE ammunition, directed energy weapon, Automatic Grenade Launcher and co-axial machine gun. In addition the FICV will also have an Integrated Fire Detection and Suppression System (IFDSS), stealth features, Battlefield Management System, IFF and Defensive Aid Suite (DAS)to protect against laser/thermal/radar guided munitions.

The FICV will also perform the functions of target acquisition, tracking, data, computation and engagement control, primarily using electronic means assisted by electromechanical devices. Besides, it will provide fire-on-the-move, operate in various modes and will have a dual control through gunner and commander joysticks with override facility to commander.

The FICV will replace the Russian BMP-2 Infantry Combat Vehicles which are also being proposed for upgrade. The upgraded BMP-2M model will be an all-weather, all-terrain vehicle capable of operation in temperatures varying between -10 degrees and +48 degrees Celsius. The gunner’s day and night sight will enable a day optical channel, thermal imaging channel, ATGM channel and laser range finder. The thermal imaging sight would have a detection range at minimum 5 kilometres and recognition range at 3 kilometers.

The four Indian companies in their FICV proposals will outline the key features, estimated capital expenditure, the technology they will use and the process of design and development they will undertake.

The Indian defence ministry will fund 80 per cent of the cost of developing the FICV, while the selected vendor will pay the remaining 20 per cent. Two of the four vendors will be selected to design the FICV and their offerings will be evaluated in field trials.

The Indian defence ministry will then chose competitors who will design FICV prototypes. The final winner will be selected from these prototypes after field trials and evaluation. With a development time of 7-8 years, the FICV should be ready by 2018. The production will be carried out at one of the designated state-owned Ordnance factories.

So far the Indian government has nominated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop weapon programmes and the ordnance factories to manufacture them. The FICV will see the participation of domestic private sector defence companies for the first time in a big ticket programme.

It is estimated that the FICV programme will generate outsourcing worth over $4 billion for state-owned, and overseas companies.

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