TATA Motors Looks To Add An Amphibious Vehicle To Its Defence Arsenal
The defense division of TATA Motors Ltd., India’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, plans to have a prototype of its much-hyped futuristic infantry combat vehicle (FICV) ready in 2-3 years, if it emerges as a successful bidder for the contract. The Vice President of the defense division, Vernon Noronha, is confident the TATA Motors-led consortium will make it to the list. The FICV, an amphibious combat vehicle, is expected to replace the ageing fleet of BMP armored vehicles procured from Russia.
The successful bidder will finalize the nitty-gritties with respect to technology-related demands in consultation with the government – a process that will take at least 2-3 months. A detailed project report can be prepared only after that.
The FICV segment has a projected annual revenue of Rs 3,500 crore, and TATA Motors wants to deliver 2,100 units over a period of 30 years. “Even at our fastest pace, delivery will take 30 years,” Noronha said.
Bharat Forge Ltd. which is also a part of the consortium bidding for the defense contract, will initially focus on its area of expertise – guns, wheels and tracks – but TATA Motors is open to any other inputs that the consortium partner may have, Noronha said. The automaker already sources several components for its existing range of passenger and commercial vehicles from Bharat Forge.
The FICV, being manufactured under the government’s Make in India program, will manufacture and develop 30 percent of its parts indigenously, while the rest will be sourced from foreign players. The project will have 20 percent equity participation from private players down-selected, with the balance coming from the government. Noronha said TATA Motors’ investment in the project is likely to be around Rs 1,000 crore.
The project has seen several delays over the years, but Noronha said he felt it was time to put it on track now. “I don’t think government has an option now. The present fleet of BMPs is at the end of full capability, and therefore the FICV’s time has come. The present government is extremely keen to kick-off these programs, that’s why I’m sticking to my three years for prototype,” he said.
Army To Ride The Safari Storme
TATA Motors has also won the contract to replace Indian Army’s fleet of ageing Maruti Suzuki (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.) Gypsy with its sports utility vehicle Safari Storme. The company expects to sign the final deal after the winter break. The contract would require the company to supply 3,192 units of the vehicle, customized to suit the Army’s needs. The customized Safari Storme, code-named GS800, offers a new platform and several modern-day benefits such as climate control over the Gypsy, which is based on a 33-year-old platform.
The company expects the vehicle to be developed over six months, Noronha said, adding that TATA Motors would be in a position to supply 100-200 units of the vehicle per month.
A Complete Refurbish
Speaking about the BMP armored vehicle, Noronha said TATA Motors had put in a bid to upgrade the ageing vehicles. The company will pitch in to upgrade the engine of the armored vehicle to one that churns out 360 horsepower compared to the 260-horsepower unit presently on duty, and will also provide upgrades to the gearbox, wheels and tracks of the BMP. The need for a more powerful engine was felt as the Army plans to install additions to the vehicle, including those for added protection.
Going forward, TATA Motors also plans to go beyond its current skill set to develop a future-ready combat vehicle (FRCV). The Indian Army had in June issued a Request for Information (RFI) to companies to design FRCV tanks to replace its fleet of T-72 battle tanks, a project which would include research and development by the Defense Research and Development Organisation, but would also involve private players.
Noronha admitted that the jump from FICVs to FRCVs was a steep one, but hoped the company would be ready by the time the government needed them developed. Presently the FRCV project does not have strategic partners finalized.
“FICV to FRCV is a steep climb up, but when it comes, maybe four-five years down the line, we would have acquired the expertise to take on the FRCV project,” Noronha said.