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By Bulbul Singh

12 Apr 12. After the Indian Army Chief revealed last month about the slow pace of defence preparedness in several areas, especially air defence, the Indian defence ministry has agreed to include domestic private sector auto majors in the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) project estimated to cost $3 billion. The FICV project has been stuck in bureaucratic red tape for over a year. The Indian Army’s suggestion of including domestic private sector auto majors in the project along with state-owned defence companies has now been accepted by the Indian defence ministry which will now see the project rolling forward.

The 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, which involves the Indian Army buying around 3000 vehicles over the next two decades to replace the Indian Army’s aging fleet of Russian-designed BMP-IIs.

FICV is the first ‘Make’ category program involving the Indian Army. All the companies have already given their proposals to the Indian Army with the Indian defence ministry making the selection of the vendors.

Under the proposal two OEMs will be selected and charged with the responsibility to produce prototypes in a record time of about 3 years. Major part of the design and development project will be funded by the Indian defence ministry, with the selected OEMs expected to pool in with about 20 per cent of the overall cost and the remaining 80 per cent coming from the government.

The Indian deference ministry has still not decided on who will be the Indian vendor for the Wheeled FICVs.

The FICV project is modelled on the American defence procurement model, in which the Pentagon funds a development competition between two or more private companies for each new weapons system. So far New Delhi has usually nominated the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to develop such systems and the OFB to manufacture them.

However, the performance of the domestic private sector vendors for the first time in the ‘Make’ project will determine their reliability as a partner in ‘Make’ defence projects.

Meanwhile the integrated project management team has completed the due diligence of all four vendors including their infrastructure and technical facilities.

While no formal report is available sources said, the performance of the private sector auto majors compared to the state-owned vendor was better in the final analysis of the due diligence.

The Indian Army intends to conduct trials of the prototypes by
2014, thereafter upgrades will be made on Indian Army recommendations on the two short-listed FICV prototypes. The Indian Army will again conduct trials of upgraded prototypes in 2016-17 and a formal contract will be awarded in 2017-18 to one company.

The broad specifications of FICV Combat are: weight less than 20 tonnes; Power to weight ratio 25:1 horse power per tonne; amphibious capability; mounting of the 3rd Gen fire & forget ATGMs; NBC protection; stealth features and protected from thermal and radar-guided munitions.

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