To Be Replaced: The Indian Army is looking to replace its fleets of Russian-built BMP vehicles. (Agence France-Presse)
NEW DELHI — India’s Tata Motors, along with Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, have developed an infantry combat vehicle that could compete for India’s Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) if the program is relaunched.
A Tata Motors executive said the Wheeled Armoured Platform (WHAP), based on a vehicle developed by state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), fits Army requirements.
Under the FICV program, which has been on the shelf for more than three years, 2,600 combat vehicles would replace about 1,400 Russian BMP vehicles at a cost of more than $10 billion. The project would be in the Make India category, meaning only domestic companies can serve as prime contractor.
While FICV has been on hold, the Army still wants to buy some kind of combat vehicle.
For WHAP, Lockheed and GD serve as technology partners. DRDO developed the basic frame of the vehicle, officials said, while Tata built the transmission, gear box and integrated other systems.
Under FICV, the plan was for the shortlisted company or consortium to develop its own prototype while the government funded about 80 percent of the cost. Thereafter, production would be done in India by the winner.
India last year rejected a Russian proposal to provide its advanced BMP-3 infantry combat vehicle along with technology transfer. Russia’s offer was conditional on India putting aside the indigenous FICV project to replace the BMP-1 and BMP-2 vehicles.
The WHAP prototype is integrated with a Raytheon-Lockheed Javelin anti-tank guided missile system, fitted with a 12.7mm machine gun made by General Dynamics and is also mounted with a Norwegian-built Kongsberg medium-caliber remote turret.
The US has already offered technology transfer on the Javelin and the proposal is still under consideration by the Defence Ministry, according to an MoD source.
The Tata Motors vehicle weighs 22.5 tons and is powered by a 600 horsepower engine. Both wheeled and tracked forms of the amphibious vehicle are being developed.
An Army official said the WHAP is close to the FICV’s specifications of weighing 20 tons and having a 25:1 ratio of horsepower per ton. WHAP also is amphibious, as required under FICV.
The FICV project was approved in 2009, and since then, India’s Mahindra Defence Systems has tied up with BAE and Larsen & Toubro is working on overseas partnerships. Tata Motors had initially joined Rheinmetall but had to abandon the partnership after the company was blacklisted on charges of alleged corruption. State-owned Ordnance Factories Board is also in the race. ■