Tata Motors, the country's biggest vehicle manufacturer, has signed an agreement with Pune-based Bharat Forge and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) of the US, for the ministry of defence's (MoD's) Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme.
Tata Motors will lead the consortium, with Bharat Forge as a partner. GDLS will bring its expertise in combat vehicle platforms. FICV is billed to be one of the army's biggest projects, worth $11 billion (Rs 78,000 crore).
Tata Motors' strengths are described as in design, development and integration of mobility platforms. Bharat Forge's competence is in fighting platforms and manufacturing. With General Dynamics' expertise as a systems integrator, the idea is to offer an indigenous solution, stated Tata Motors.
Ravi Pisharody, executive director (commercial vehicles), Tata Motors, said: "Defence particularly needs partners with long-term commitments, to see products and solutions through multiple generations of evolution. We (three) have joined hands for a complete FICV solution for the armed forces."
FICV, an armoured battle vehicle for the infantry, needs to be compact, tracked and amphibious, no heavier than 18-20 tonnes, so that it can be air-portable and also transportable by other means to combat zones. The vehicle must fire anti-tank guided missiles to ranges beyond four km, with a crew of three and eight combat-kitted soldiers. It is aimed to replace the army's fleet of 2610 Russian-designed BMP (Sarath BMP-II) series armed vehicles, in operation since 1980.
Baba N Kalyani, chairman, Bharat Forge, said: "(This) partnership will constitute an important milestone, to help meet the government's objectives to strengthen indigenous defence capabilities."
The state-owned Ordnance Factory Board 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 a contract is awarded.
Tata Motors and Bharat Forge were independently pursuing the FICV programme and were among the 10 original bidders, which included Tata Power, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra & Mahindra, Rolta, Pipavav, Punj Lloyd and Titagarh Wagons.
General Dynamics designed and developed a Ground Combat Infantry Fighting Vehicle for the US army.