Tata Motors in fray for Army's Rs60,000-cr combat vehicle programme

Tata Motors will vie with the Ordnance Factory Board and private companies, including Mahindra, L&T, Reliance and Tata Power SED-Titagarh Wagons combine for the defence ministry's Rs60,000-crore Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme.

Some of the global original equipment manufacturers such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Rheinmetall are also reported to be eyeing the deal as some of the critical technologies have to be acquired globally.

Within a month of taking charge, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has decided to firm up the $10-billion project to procure over 2,300 Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicles for the Indian Army.

The Defence Procurement Board may take up the programme, which was hanging fire for long, next week, say reports.

Besides the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which has been nominated for the project, Larsen & Toubro, Tata Motors, Reliance Defence, Mahindra and Tata Power SED-Titagarh Wagons had responded to the expression of interest (EoI) in 2015.

''This $10-billion FICV programme is mobility-oriented, as is established by the fact that three of the five core technologies and 19 of the 34 critical technologies are mobility related, such as engines, transmission and running gear, which are core to Tata Motors,'' reports quoting Vernon Noronha, vice-president, defence and government business, Tata Motors, said.

The FRCV will replace the T-72 battle tank, as well as the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), to replace the Army's main battle tank, the Russian built T-90.

The defence ministry is believed to be weighing various options, which may include bringing the project under the Strategic Partnership Policy (SPP), which many enable local industry ''an easier and cleaner way'' to firm up tie-ups with foreign companies.

Under the SPP, there are four segments - fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) and main battle tanks. The idea is to bring the FICV project under the AFV segment.

''If the FICV is brought under the SPP, surely the big guys will get it. A small company cannot execute an order of this scale. Whoever wins the deal will have to have a proven track record and healthy financials,'' said an industry expert who declined to be identified.

Besides, Tata Motors has submitted a proposal to supply 3,200 Tata Safari Stormes as a replacement for the ageing and iconic Maruti Gypsy, the order size for which is pegged at about Rs400 crore.

Said Noronha: ''The Tata Safari Storme provides an option of a diesel variant, with a powerful 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine. It also comes with both 4x2 and 4x4 options, which helps the SUV wade through marshy lands, desert, snow, gravel and every kind of terrain in our country.''

Tata Motors already supplies 6x6 high mobility multi-axle trucks, with MHC (material handling crane) based on a larger orders. Tata Motors bagged the order for over 1,800 such vehicles between June 2015 and April 2016.

The FCVA project will take a couple of years to come up since it is a new platform, involving new design and technology.

First a detailed project report has to be prepared, following which a prototype has to be developed. All these will require initial investments worth about $25 million, according to industry sources.