Domestic Plans: Indian Army BMP-2 vehicles take part in a military exercise. India will proceed with plans to develop its own vehicle to replace Army BMP-2s and -1s. (US Defense Department)
NEW DELHI — India will not shelve its homegrown $10 billion Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) program in favor of advanced Russian BMP-3 combat vehicles.
The decision was conveyed to the Russian side at the Nov. 18 meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation held in Moscow, officials said.
During Russian President Vladmir Putin’s visit to India last December, the Russians offered to transfer technology for its BMP-3 infantry combat vehicles if India agreed to shelve its indigenous FICV program, which will see production of 2,600 vehicles to replace aging BMP-1 and BMP-2 combat vehicles.
The FICV program will now get rolling as debate over the Russian proposal had pushed the FICV project into the background, said an Indian Defence Ministry source.
An executive of Russia’s Rosoboronexport in New Delhi said the company made the BMP-3 proposal because the Indian Army sought the vehicles, but the Defence Ministry would not agree with the condition that the FICV program be shelved.
The FICV project will be in the “Make India” category, which means only domestic companies will be able to compete. The selected company or consortium will develop an FICV prototype on its own although the government will fund nearly 80 percent of the development costs. Thereafter, production will be done in India by the winner.
The FICV project was approved nearly five years ago. Since then, India’s Mahindra Defence Systems has tied up with BAE Systems, Larsen & Toubro is working on overseas tie ups, and Tata Motors is also working to connect with overseas companies after its tie up with Rheinmetall was stalled following the blacklisting of the German company. State-owned Ordnance Factories Board is also in the race.
MoD now will shortlist two competitors to develop their prototypes, which will be put to trial.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army plans to upgrade the existing 1,400 BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles with advanced weapons and night-fighting capabilities at a cost of $1.8 billion. However, the MoD canceled a tender floated last year to purchase 2,000 engines for the upgrade because none of the domestic vendors fulfilled the engine’s requirements. Now a global tender is likely to be issued for the engines, the MoD source said.
When procured, the engines will be assembled at the Ordnance Factories Board.
The Army requires engines that can generate 350 to 380 horsepower and are easy to maintain and operate in extreme weather conditions. The BMP-2’s existing engine has only 285 horsepower and is not suited for cross-country mobility.
The upgrade of the BMP-2 will include advanced observation and surveillance, night-fighting capability, an improved anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) system and a 30mm automatic grenade launcher. The upgraded combat vehicles will have an advanced fire control system and have the capability of loading two missiles in ready-to-fire mode.
The BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles carry soldiers into battle zones and provide fire support, an Indian Army official said. ■