Starting Afresh

The government has opened bids for indigenous development of FICVs

Aditya Kakkar

India’s land armoured vehicles are in dire need of upgrade and the government has once again trained its guns on the Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) and Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) programme. The FICV project is once again set to take off after years of indecision and delays as the project worth nearly Rs 60,000 crore has now been approved by a panel of independent expert monitors (IEMs) with the army keen to replace the ancient Soviet-era BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle fleet which had entered into service in 1981.

The government has opened bids for indigenous development of FICVs

Private entities such as L&T, Mahindra, Reliance Defence and companies under the Tata Group bid for the contract to develop 2160 FICVs after the project’s approval in October 2009 but several delays plagued the acquisition process. The FICV project will be developed from scratch under the ‘Make’ procedure with the defence ministry bearing 90 per cent of the development cost. The FICV project is being seen as a building block for R&D in domestic companies.

The FICV is a system of system (SoS) project with advanced operational capabilities and would need innovation and reliable automotive, armament, opto-electronics and armour material. It is to be developed keeping in mind India’s terrain and is intended to safely transport mechanised infantry in the battlefield while providing support to cover their dismounted operations. Additionally, it must also be able to destroy tanks and other weapon platforms.

The Indian Army has put forth the necessary operational capabilities of the FICV as follows:

Fire Power: It should be able to destroy enemy tanks at long ranges and also destroy armoured personnel carrier/ infantry carrier vehicles, soft skinned vehicles and infantry soldiers with accurate cannon and machine gun fire. Destroy or damage significantly field fortifications and should be equipped with enhanced armament to provide direct fire support to the dismounted infantry. Infantry stick should be able to fire from both sides and rear while mounted.

Mobility: It should match the mobility of current tanks and the future main battle tank over all forms of terrain along with being amphibious. The FICV has to be designed such that can be transported by road, rail and in-service aircraft of the air force.

Protection: Transport a combat mechanised infantry section along with crew of three while providing all round protection from small arms fire and medium artillery splinters. It should be able to provide protection from direct cannon fire in the frontal arc along with protection from under belly mines and IEDs. It needs to have active and passive protection systems to include stealth and signature management technologies while being able to operate in NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) environment. Generate smoke to hide its own movement.

Communication: Ability to communicate on two to three radio nets and have intercom facility for the crew as well as the stick while the latter should be able to communicate with the FICV when dismounted.

Navigation: Have an advanced land navigation facility based on GPS and/or Inertial Navigation System.

Repair & Maintenance: It should have high mission reliability and facilitate easy repair and maintenance under field conditions.

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