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By Bulbul Singh

15 Dec 08. The Indian Army has asked the Indian defence ministry to search wider than the domestic market for the procurement of multi-utility vehicles. In a request to the Indian defence ministry, the Indian Army has made a detailed case of why the global market should be searched for procuring multi-utility vehicles, contrary to the current practice of securing bids in the domestic market only, said sources in the Indian defence ministry.

If the request is accepted, it could even lead to the cancellation of a bid floated in the domestic market for procuring bullet proof vehicles for the Indian Army, added the sources.

The request to explore the global market also coincides with the latest Report of India’s autonomous auditing agency, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which has criticized the procurement process of procuring bullet proof vehicles for the Indian Army in 2005 from domestic automaker, Mahindra Defence Systems.

The CAG report tabled in the Indian Parliament on December 11th said that while the Rakshak bullet proof vehicle from Mahindra Defence Systems met the Request for Propoal (RFP) norms, bullet proofing added to the weight and made them sluggish.

The CAG Report on the army’s purchase of bullet proof vehicles illustrates many of the pitfalls that plague defence procurement. The Report examines the purchase of 200 Rakshak vehicles in 2005, and 9 armoured Scorpios in 2007, which protect military commanders while they drive around Jammu and Kashmir states.

The Report concludes that both purchases were unnecessarily hurried, saddling the army with underpowered Rakshaks, which perform so sluggishly that they endanger the lives of the soldiers they are meant to safeguard.

The report observes, “Audit examination disclosed that in both the cases, the procurement process was non-competitive, technical trials were diluted by waiving requirements that compromised the quality of the vehicles.”

The Indian Army is demanding issue of global tender for the purchase of high mobility vehicles, saying the vehicles purchased from domestic vendors are not suitable for their operation and lag in engineering.

In June 2008, Indian defence ministry issued a tender for the purchase of 817 Light Bullet Proof Vehicles. The tender was issued only to domestic vendors including Mahindra Defence, Tata Motors, Ordnance Factories Board, Vectra Motors, Force Motors and Concord.

The Indian defence ministry has earmarked the purchase of one Light Bullet Proof Vehicle for around $24,000, but the vendors are demanding three times the price for the specifications quoted by the Indian Army, said a senior Army official.

The RFP floated in June 2008, still in Technical Evaluation Stage, lists some of the key specification requirements as follows:

1. Crew: Driver plus 5 plus combat loads (total weight: 600 Kilograms)

2. Protection level to be provided to the Vehicle to Withstand direct hits of 5.66mm INSAS, 7.62mm SLR and 7.62mm AK47/56 rifles at a distance of 10m at an angle of 45 degrees.

3. Run-flat tyres will be provided. The vehicle will be able to run a minimum of 2 kilometers after being hit.

Vehicle Specification

(a) Configuration & engine: 4×4 with Common Rail Direct Injection System
(b) Power-to-weight ratio: Not less than 25 Kilowatt/ton
(c) Gross Vehicle Weight: Not more than 4000 kilograms
(d) Steering: Power steering to be provided

The ambient temperature in the cabin should be between plus 22
degrees Celsius to plus 25 degrees Celsius

The vehicle should not be more than 2 meters wide, not more
than 4.5 meters in length and not more than 2 meters in height.

The vehicles should have five firing ports of size 90 to 95mm diameter.

The vehicle must be robust enough to withstand rough handling and travelling shocks in cross-country and should be easy to maintain under field condition

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