By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: India is exploring options for selecting a vendor for producing 1,750 future infantry vehicles for its army that will replace the current inventory of Russian-origin personnel carriers. The project may cost up to $7 billion or Rs 52,000 crore, some industry veterans have guessed.
The Indian Army today issued a Request for Information (RFI) — the third in 12 years — to procure Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicles (Tracked), or FICV(Tr), in three variants.
a. FICV(Tr) Gun Version: Approximately 55 per cent of total quantity.
b. FICV(Tr) Command Version: Approximately 20 per cent of total quantity.
c. FICV(Tr) Command and Surveillance Version: Approximately 25 per cent of total quantity.
Several Indian companies are likely to have an interest in the project, including Mahindra Group, Larsen & Toubro and Bharat Forge, among others. Foreign companies including Russian agency Rosoboronexport, American General Dynamics, and German Rheinmetall are expected to be part of the competition besides firms from South Africa and South Korea.
“This Request for Information (RFI) is being issued with a view to finalise SQRs, decide procurement category and identify probable Indian vendors who are capable to commence supply of FICV(Tr) within two years of Award of Contract/Supply Order @ at least 75-100 Fully Formed vehicles per year (sic),” the RFI document said.
The FICV(Tr) is planned to be procured as a ‘Make in India‘ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat‘ programmes, and the likely timeline for induction is at least a decade from now. The Indian Army currently uses Russian-origin BMPs, which are likely to be replaced.
The FICV(Tr) will be employed for cross country (off road) operations including amphibious operations in under mentioned terrain conditions:
a. Plain and desert terrain as occurring along western borders of India.
b. High altitude (up to 5,000 meters altitude)/mountain terrain as occurring along northern borders (eastern Ladakh/central sector/North Sikkim) of India.
The FICV(Tr) main operational tasks will be:
a. Destroy enemy tanks, Armoured Personnel Carriers, combat vehicles, low flying helicopters and other ground based weapon platforms/positions.
b. Protected mobility to its crew and troops (sticks) in the above mentioned terrain and in CBRN environment including across water bodies.
c. Provide fire support to dismounted sticks.
Only seven days time has been given to vendors to express their interest in joining the project. However, they would have eight weeks to submit a completed response to the RFI following the pre-response vendor interaction.
Since 2009, when the Acceptance of Necessity was first issued to the FICV project, the Indian Army has made two attempts to proceed with the programme, but have stuck in bureaucratic rigmarole.
This is the third armoured vehicle procurement plan that the Indian Army has come out with in the last three months.
In April, the Indian Army today began the search for light battle tanks for high altitude deployment in locations such as Ladakh, where it has been battling an aggressive People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since May last year.
Earlier this month, the army began a search for a foreign vendor to meet its requirement for at least 1,770 future battle tanks, for induction beginning 2030, to meet threats from both China and Pakistan.