Military & Aerospace

Army’s FICV – Where are we?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 09 May , 2016

Tata's Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV)

Infantry combat vehicle development was undertaken by most allied and axis powers almost simultaneously. But Schutzenpanzer 12-3 (mounted with a 20mm canon and carrying five infantrymen) of West Germany was the first mass produced one that served the German army from 1958 to early 1980.

Presently there are more than 900 BMP-2 units in service. The Indian Army has been looking for a replacement for the BMP-2.

In 1967, the Soviets paraded the BMP-1 armed with a 73mm gun, A-3 Sagger ATGM besides carrying infantrymen. The top 10 ICVs in the world today are BMP-3 (Russia), Kurganets (Russia), M2 Bradley (USA), K-21 (South Korea), Puma (Germany), ZBD-08 (China), Warrior (UK), Freccia (Italy), CV90 (Sweden) and Piranha V (Switzerland). Russia’s Kurganets-25 is a next-generation IFV, successor to BMP-3. Its first batch was delivered in 2015 and full-scale production is slated to begin this year. Production cost of South Korean K-21 is half that of the American M2 Bradley but latter reportedly has better protection.

In the US, the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program has been initiated as part of the US Army’s modernization efforts to deliver its armed forces with a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle.  In February 2010, the US Army issued a formal RFP for a versatile GCV capable of carrying nine infantrymen in IED-threat environments. The technology development contracts were awarded to BAE Systems Land & Armaments and General Dynamics Land Systems in 2011. US Army is to initially procure 1,874 GCVs of the winning design from one of the two contractors. The first production vehicle is scheduled to be rolled out in April 2018. The GCV is planned to be inducted in to service in 2019.

In the Indian Army, the main ICV is the BMP-2 Sarath, built by Ordnance Factory Medak under license from Russia. The first vehicle, assembled from components supplied by Russia was ready in 1987. By 1999, about 90% of the complete vehicle and its associated systems were being produced in India.

Presently there are more than 900 BMP-2 units in service. The Indian Army has been looking for a replacement for the BMP-2.

The FICV project costing some Rs 65,000 crores is to replace 2610 in-service BMP-2 of Army’s Mechanised Infantry units beginning 2022.

It was naturally expected that the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Modi government would lead to display of competition in DefExpo 2016, but such competition was perhaps most intense in the race to qualify for the future infantry combat vehicle (FICV) of the Indian Army.

The FICV is to replace the ICV BMP-2 held by some 50 Mechanised Infantry Battalions. Expression of Interest (EoI) for the FICV project was first issued (post accord of acceptance of necessity in 2009) to four possible development agencies (DAs), including the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in 2010. However, differences reportedly arose while evaluating responses and the project remained in limbo for few years.

Later the project was reopened in March 2014, leading to the empanelment of 10 Indian entities including four empanelled earlier.  The revised EoI issued in March 2014 was responded to by six contenders; TATA Motors, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Mahindra Defence, TATA Power SED (with Titagarh Wagons), Reliance Defence and the OFB; joint venture with Russian MBT Manufacturer – Uralvagonzavod). The FICV project costing some Rs 65,000 crores is to replace 2610 in-service BMP-2 of Army’s Mechanised Infantry units beginning 2022. Needless to mention that the FICV will obviously have enormous potential in terms of defence exports also. The FICV weighing 20 tons will have amphibious capability. TATA Motors exhibited a scale model and a graphic of the proposed FICV at DefExpo 2016, resembling the BMP-2 to large extent.

For the FICV project, government has committed to provide 80% of development costs for two vendors chosen as DAs. It is expected to take four to six months for the two DAs to be shortlisted.

Tata Motors has recently signed a strategic agreement with Bharat Forge Limited and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) of the US as technical partner, for the FICV project. Tata Motors will lead the consortium, with Bharat Forge Limited as a partner, while GDLS will bring in its much proven expertise in combat vehicle platforms. There is possibility of the Samson Remote-Controlled Weapon Station (RWS) and Rafael’s Spike Missile also being incorporated in the Tata Motors led consortium proposed FICV. Both the RWS and Spike Missile too were on display at DefExpo 2016.

Larsen & Toubro so far has not made any announcement as to who will be its partner for the FICV project. They are however confident of coming up with a state-of-the-art FICV incorporating advanced drive-by-wire technology, following successful collaboration on the K9 self-propelled howitzer. In September 2015, L&T emerged finalist for a US$ 800 million contract to supply 100 self-propelled howitzers to the Army. The vehicle is the K9 VAJRA-T, a variant of the K9 specially designed for operation in the desert areas. L&T could team up with Hanwha Techwin of South Korea for the FICV.

Mahindra is teaming up with BAE Systems in its bid for the FICV. Both companies previously had a joint venture to manufacture 6×6 Mine Protected Vehicles and are currently working jointly on the M777A2 light howitzers for the artillery. Mahindra &; Mahindra Ltd. and BAE Systems recently announced naming and corporate structure for their land system focused Joint Venture Defence Company. Based in India, the company will be known as ‘Defence Land Systems India’.

For the FICV project, government has committed to provide 80% of development costs for two vendors chosen as DAs. It is expected to take four to six months for the two DAs to be shortlisted. However, considering the usual slippages, the procedure should likely be completed by October-November or latest by end 2016. Once selection is completed, the DAs will be required to produce the prototype within 24-36 months.

…what the government needs to do is go for the best technology not only in case of the FICV but for all defence procurements.

The private industry feels that despite repeated proclamations of ensuring a “level playing field”, the same has actually been denied because of pre-selection of OFB. Their contention is that if fresh EoI was issued in March 2014, it should have been an open level field, and that retention of the four entities empanelled in response to the previous EoI was only done to accommodate the OFB. They feel that the OFB will surely be selected as one of the DAs, leaving just one remaining vacancy for balance private industry.

The private industry apprehensions appear genuine from their point of view. Logically, if OFB is empanelled as part of the 10 entities for the FICV project, OFB need not necessarily be chosen. But what the government needs to do is go for the best technology not only in case of the FICV but for all defence procurements.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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2 thoughts on “Army’s FICV – Where are we?

  1. Let Defence sector be opened for private sector players… you can see wonders as we get from Software sector and Pharma Sector… Our humble request to government… let our corporate institutions start contributing the localization of production and particularly in war time.. the localized supplies always a point of strength…. Jai hind.

  2. What is missing is the level playing field necessary to procure the best, on time and at lowest cost. This is one of the dimensions of the Augusta Westland caper that enjoyed its moment in the lime light in India’s moribund Parliament.

    Like a fit-for-purpose, standard issue infantry side arm, much is most likely in liquid form in Mauritius, Lichtenstein, Isle of Man or Switzerland is probably in various houses and bank lockers of hundreds of Bharath Sarkar employees, mostly certified to be congenitally backward, spread out around India.

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