DRDO and Tata Motors have jointly developed multi wheeled armoured amphibian vehicle with state of art tactical & technical features which showcases the capabilities of Indian industries.
Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) are used as means of armoured transportation to move the infantry men into the battlefield to follow up the mechanised forces as quickly as possible. Due to inherent characteristics of the ICVs, the Mechanised Infantry while retaining the basics of Infantry has been endowed with certain additional characteristics, viz, mobility, fire power, protection, communication, flexibility and shock action, which make it potent and versatile. Many countries are seriously thinking of discarding heavy tanks in favour of lighter and more flexible combat vehicles. Even today most of the armies have approx 50 % of their forces in armoured vehicles for a swift deployment. Earlier concept of deploying mechanised forces only in plains has changed and today they can be deployed in any terrain due to improved infrastructure of border areas and increased mobility of armoured vehicles.
The Indian defence forces have a huge requirement of both tracked and wheeled ICVs, light recce vehicles, light tanks and other specialist vehicles. The likely requirements of these platforms may go over 6000+ to include 2610 ICVs; 300-500 wheeled & tracked light tanks, 100-200 wheeled APCs, a large number of light armoured multipurpose vehicles, 500-800 light strike specialist vehicles including light strike vehicles and may be 3000-4000 light bullet proof vehicles. The future may see more of these, if the standard infantry battalions are also equipped with armoured vehicles for enhanced role. These specialist vehicles are likely to be procured by the Indian Army during next 5-10 years. Accordingly, MoD has gone ahead with EOI/RFI for ICVs, wheeled APCs and light tanks.
Recently, DRDO's VRDE and India's Tata Motors have jointly developed multi wheeled armoured amphibian vehicle with state of art tactical & technical features, the Wheeled Armoured Platform (WhAP), an infantry combat vehicle, which was unveiled during DEFEXPO- 14. WhAP concept can be a precursor to the development of the FICV and other specialist vehicle platform. Its modular approach with interchangeable snap-in modules will ease the customisation and self reliance in achieving its roles. The major features have optimised its survivability, all terrain performance and increased lethality. It has a low cycle cost due to its high indigenised content. The capability demonstrated by the Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE), a DRDO organisation jointly working with private sector in this field, can bridge the technology gap with the state of the art systems, and this can be a beginning of a viable roadmap to “Indigenisation”.
The WhAP platform, developed jointly with the DRDO's Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE) in Pune, is a mobility platform, Tata built the transmission, gear box and integrated other systems with Lockheed and General Dynamics being the technology partners. The WhAP features a Norwegian-built Kongsberg MCT-30-R medium-calibre remote turret (RCWS) with the ATK 30mm/40mm Mk44 Bushmaster automatic cannon as a primary weapon and M240 7.62mm general purpose machine gun as a secondary weapon from FN Herstal. WhAP also featured with Raytheon-Lockheed Martin JAVELIN anti-tank guided missile system and a commander's independent weapon station along with a M2HB 12.7mm machine gun from General Dynamics. The WhAP is comparable to BOXER of Germany,RG41 of BAE systems, PIRANAH class3 of General Dynamics, BTR-SR 8808 of Serbia, etc.The other characteristics of WhAP are:
|Weight (T)||22.5 - 26|
|Ground Clearance (m)||0.45|
|No of wheels x Driven wheels||8X8|
|Power to Wt ratio||26.6 to 23|
|Max Speed||100 Km/hr|
| Max Grade climbing Ability (Degree)||30|
|Min Side Slope (degree)||20|
|Min Verticle Step Climbing Capability (m)||0.7|
|Trench Crossing (m)||2|
|Turning circle radius (m)||19|
|1Tyres||Run Flat capability|
|Amphibious Capability||10 kmph, Requires no preperation|
|Protection||Stanag I to Stanag IV, Bottom Stanag III, NBC Protection|
|Fire Power|| 30mm RCWS, Fire & Forget missiles, 7.62mm co-axial MMG,|
Automatic Grenade launcher
|Variants|| Modular (Ambulance, NBC Recce, Command Post, Engineers|
|Navigation||INS with GPS|
|Communication||Modular (UHF, VHF, HF)|
|Logistic Support||Low cycle cost, High indigenisation content|
The Kongsberg RCWS turret duly integrated with WhAP was unveiled to the Indian defence forces for the first time. The long-term potential of this integration with RCWS will depend on the requirements of such systems by the users. The Army authorities have shown keen interest in RCWS even for their upcoming project of FICV as this concept provides protection and enhances both survivability & situational awareness. The WhAP is being projected as:
- A joint venture between a state-owned entity, a private company and a foreign contractor emphasising that the JVs can not only work together for state of the art defence equipments, but can also produce results within a specified time frame.
- It showcases the ability of private sectors to field specialised vehicles for the Army's huge requirements.
- It also highlights the way forward for Indigenisation for advanced systems.
Modernization of the mechanized infantry is another priority project for the army. Its inventory consists of BMP-2 (which have replaced the BMP-1) & BRDMs, which are of old vintage and are due for upgrade. These will eventually be replaced by the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) currently awaiting the re-issue of EOI. Indian MoD is undertaking an ambitious step to replace its entire fleet of 2600 ICVs with advanced weaponry, night fighting capability and better mobility as one of the first programs under 'Make Indian' category. First EOI was released in Nov 2009 to invite relevant information from selected Indian Companies (Tata Motors, L&T, Mahindra Defence Systems and OFB) for the supply of 2610 FICVs valued at approximately Rs 50000 cr ($10 billion). However, it was withdrawn and is likely to be reissued by end of 2014. Even if 50% indigenization is achieved it still opens a Rs 25-30 thousand crs ($ 5-6 billion)) market over the next 10-15 years. Further, a global RFI was issued by Army in Nov 2009 for procuring the wheeled APCs. The plan is to acquire at least 100 APCs, to be followed by indigenous production after transfer of technology to an Indian firm. Also in Sep 2009, a RFI has been issued for 300 (200 wheeled and 100 tracked) light tanks and subsequently a follow-on RFI was also issued for the same. The tanks are expected to weigh around 22 tonnes and be capable of operating at heights of over 3,000 metres. This requirement of 300 could further increased.
Given a chance the Indian Private sector can deliver the best and are willing to invest, if they are allowed to play a strategic and leading role in defence indigenization, and the government creates the right conditions on the ground by introducing competitiveness in the defence sector.