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By Bulbul Singh

10 Jan 13. India’s Futuristic Main Battle Tank (FMBT) which proposes to
replace over 3000 tanks with the Army in the long run is facing problems at the drawing room stage as the Indian Army now wants to reduce the weight of the tank to below 50 tones.

“The project is already on the shelf for seven years and changes in Qualitative requirements at this stage is likely to delay the project further, and even make it unviable,” said sources in DRDO.

In 2006, DRDO had claimed that the qualitative requirements of the FMBT had been frozen and the FMBT will be developed by 2020.

Following changes in qualitative requirements by the Indian Army, DRDO which is the lead agency to develop the FMBT on Make-India basis, is finding it difficult to match the requirements of the Indian Army and the design in short time. Some compromises will have to be made if the tank’s weight has to be reduced, which the Indian Army is not ready to adjust, said DRDO sources.

DRDO’s Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) has been entrusted with the contract to design and develop the FMBT project under the “Make India” category.

Expressions of Interest for partnering the FMBT project in the design stage have already been sent to defence companies in United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, United States South Korea and Russia.

While the design and development cost of the FMBT will cost only $1.2 billion, the Indian Army’s requirement is to replace 2000 T-72 tanks and additional purchases to keep the tank fleet strength going. On a rough calculation, around 4000 tanks costing around $4.5 million would work to over $20 billion.

DRDO has evaluated presentations made by Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ashok Leyland amongst other for the FMBT project but none of the defence companies have been found to have the necessary competence to partner in the FMBT project in the design and production phase.

The weight of the FMBT is now expected to be around 40 tones, down from the earlier proposed weight of 50 tones and will be mounted with a 120 mm gun. Six prototypes will be developed by 2020, before the FMBT will undergo bulk production. The Futuristic tank will be difficult to detect by enemy radar.

The 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.

The other highlights of the proposed FMBT will be the tank’s ability shoot down enemy anti-tank projectiles before they strike it, and ability to operate in a nuclear environment.

DRDO scientists said the work on development of a engine for the FMBT will have to be reworked for the lighter tank. Foreign consultancy will required to rework a new engine, added the scientist.

Similarly work on the transmission of the tank will have to be reworked by CVRDE and the active suspension of the tank.

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