TATA MOTORS EYES $10 BILLION FICV MARKET
By Bulbul Singh
11 Feb 14. India’s $10 billion Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV)programme, in limbo for over three years, will see aggressive competition from India’s private sector defence major Tata Motors which has teamed up with state-owned DRDO.
Tata Motors and DRDO have developed a prototype Infantry Combat Vehicle, in both wheeled and tracked configuration, with an eye to tap the $10 billion FICV market. The prototype of the Wheeled Armoured Platform, (WHAP) with amphibious capabilities has been fully developed and, Indian Army officials said, can meet the requirements for the Indian Army’s infantry combat vehicle.
The WHAP platform has been built by DRDO at its Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE) factory and is mounted with a Norwegian-built Kongsberg MCT-30-R medium-calibre remote turret sporting a US-built ATK 30mm/40mm Mk44 Bushmaster automatic cannon as a primary weapon and a secondary FN Herstal M240 7.62mm general purpose machine gun. The Kongsberg turret has been integrated with the Tata Motors vehicle.
The vehicle is also integrated with the Raytheon-Lockheed Martin
JAVELIN anti-tank guided missile system and a commander’s independent weapon station fitted with a General Dynamics 12.7mm machine gun.
India and the United States are already discussing the joint production of the Javelin, an added plus point for the Tata Motors wheeled vehicle. Kongsberg and Tata Motors are now discussing a bigger share for the overseas company in the amphibious vehicle weighs 22.5 tonnes and is powered by a 600HP engine. Tata Motors has already decided to spend $70 million on production facilities for infantry combat vehicles and another $40 million for the development of the vehicle.
India’s proposed FICV will have a Combat Weight less than 20 tones, Power-to-weight ratio 25:1HP per tonne, have amphibious capability, potent fire power including, third generation fire & forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), Automatic Grenade Launcher and co-axial machine gun.
Last year Russia offered India its advanced BMP-3, along Technology Transfer to replace around 1400 aging Russian-made BMP-1 and BMP-2 IFVs. However, Russia’s offer was subject to India putting on hold its indigenous FICV project. The Indian Ministry of Defence has since rejected the Russian proposal. The FICV project is proposed to be built in ‘Make India’ category in which only domestic defence companies allowed to participate. Under the ‘Make India’ category the Indian government contributes 80% towards the cost of prototype development carried out by two domestic developers. After the two prototypes are tested, the developers will be short listed and will also manufacture up to 3000 FICVs at an estimated cost of $10 billion.
The FICV project was approved nearly six years ago. Since then Mahindra Defence Systems has tied up with BAE Systems, Larsen & Toubro is working on overseas tie ups while Tata Motors has developed the amphibious platform after its tie up with Rheinmetall had to be stalled following the blacklisting of the Swedish company in 2009. State-owned Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) is also in the race.
While due diligence of the competitors has been carried out. No development partner has been announced so far delaying the whole programme. Ministry of Defence sources say the FICV is on the shelf and its fate not known.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army is going ahead with the upgrade of the existing 1400 Russian-made BMP-2s which will mount advanced weaponry and night-fighting capabilities at a cost of $1.8 billion. A tender floated in 2012 for the purchase of 2000 engines for the upgrade of the BMPs has been cancelled as the MOD evaluated that none of the domestic vendors fulfilled the requirements. A fresh global tender is likely to be floated to procure the engines for the upgrade.
Earlier the tender had been sent only to domestic auto majors,