Tata Motors & Bharat Forge tie up for $11-bn defence bid

Tata Motors, Bharat Forge and General Dynamics have forged an alliance to bid for the $11 billion (Rs 78,000 crore) project of making combat infantry vehicles for the Indian Army under the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) Programme. Responding to a query, Tata Motors said: "We confirm partnering with Bharat Forge for local manufacturing of guns, ammunition and such other elements of fire power that form part of the FICV Programme."

With two of the front runners, Tata Motors and Bharat Forge, joining hands, the number of total bidders has come down to nine from 10. The alliance now stands higher chances of making it to the final three prototype manufacturers, bids for which were given on Monday, according to a senior Bharat Forge executive.

Baba Kalyani, chairman and managing director, Bharat Forge said, "We have tied up with Tata Motors, they are part of the consortium. Today (Monday) is the bid submission day. We will build certain part of the FICV. Tata Motors has lots of knowledge of vehicle engineering, so they will build the drive system, General Dynamics is the third company in the consortium, which has got expertise in building FICVs. They have also come on board."

The FICV is an amphibious, tracked, armoured vehicle, operated by a crew of only three. It has to be compact, so that it can be airlifted and dropped in combat zones while being armed with anti-tank guided missiles with range up to four kms. The FICVs will replace Indian Army's fleet of obsolete 2610 Russian BMP-2 carriers.

The state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and two private companies will make it to the final list of prototype manufacturers which will then be put to extensive evaluation and testing by the army before getting the contract.

Tata Power, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra & Mahindra, Rolta, Pipavav, Bharat Forge, Punj Lloyd and Titagarh Wagons are the other bidders to the FICV project. A number of international defence companies such as Oshkosh Corporation, Lockheed Martin, AM General, Rosoboronexport and Nexter are ready to supply technical know-how through joint ventures for the project.

General Dynamics, a US-based aerospace and defence company, successfully designed and developed Ground Combat Infantry Fighting Vehicle for the US Army. The company was chosen for India's FICV programme by Tata Motors and Bharat Forge for its experience in developing such a complex vehicle.

Mahindra and BAE Systems too have reportedly joined hands for the same project. L&T has already worked with Nexter for a long range gun system. A unit of truck manufacturer Ashok Leyland formed a consortium with L&T and Nexter for mounted gun system.

Asked if a new company would be formed to bid for the project, Kalyani said, "It will become a new separate company when production starts. Right now, we are building prototypes. In that each one will have its work share. We have made the bid for the project jointly. There are three players who are going to get the prototype award. One of them is the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The other two will be private players, for which there are 10 contenders."