NEW DELHI — Keeping its US $10 billion Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) program on the shelf, the Indian Ministry of Defense instead will accelerate the upgrade of its Russian-made BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles and will issue tenders to buy 2,000 engines for the program, Defense Ministry sources said.
The Indian Army’s more than 1,500 BMP-2s will be upgraded at a cost of more than $1.2 billion in the next three to five years, and the program last month received formal MoD clearance, the sources said. Though this move doesn’t necessarily shut down the homegrown FICV project, it is less likely to see the light of day because the decision has already been delayed, said an Army official.
The tender for the purchase of 2,000 engines to power the upgraded BMP-2 has been sent to domestic auto majors Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Force Motors, Ashok Leyland, Maruti Udyog and Crompton Greaves, and to MTU of Germany, Thales of France and Rosoboronexport of Russia.
The Army requires engines able to generate 350 to 380 horsepower and are easy to maintain and operate in extreme weather conditions. The existing engine of the BMP-2 has 285 horsepower and is not suited for cross-country mobility.
The upgrade will improve observation and surveillance, night-fighting capability and fire control, and will provide an improved anti-tank guided missile system and 30mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Russians last year offered their BMP-3 vehicles to replace the FICV, but no decision was made.
The proposed FICV project would be the first built in the “Make India” category, which means only Indian companies would be allowed to participate.
The project would involve participation by the Indian government and Indian companies. Two short-listed companies would be asked to make an FICV prototype, and after field trials of the prototype, the winning company would produce up to 2,600 FICVs.
After nearly two years of discussions, no final decision has been made about which companies will participate.
The Defense Ministry had selected state-owned Bharat Earth Movers and a consortium of Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra Defense and Tata Power, but former Indian Army chief general, V.K. Singh, questioned the ability of the Indian companies to take on such a big project, MoD sources said.