When the Defence Acquisition Council headed by defence minister Arun Jaitley meets end of this month, a decision is expected to be taken on one out of three options for the $8-billion Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) project. The options before the DAC include: Withdrawing the earlier Expression of Interest (EoI), all five vendors to go ahead with Detailed Project Report (DPR) or to shortlist two out of five vendors for the DPR. “The biggest challenge for the third option is that none of the five bidders meet the requirements as listed in the present EoI and issued under DPP-2008,” sources told FE. As per the EoI, which could be scrapped, ‘two companies are to be shortlisted, who will build a prototype of the FICV costing about `3,000-4,000 crore. About 80 % of the cost of building these prototypes will be funded by the government. These will be then tested and evaluated by the Army.’ The private companies in the race include Larsen & Toubro; Tata Power (strategic engineering division), Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bharat Forge, Pipavav Defence, Rolta India, Punj Lloyd, and Titagarh Wagons and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). L&T was being seen as a front runner in the programme. In February, L&T former chairman AM Naik had told mediapersons that the company is optimistic to get the huge deal. FICV is a classified project designed to provide certain operational capabilities to the Army. The contribution of the Indian industry in acquiring, developing and indigenizing critical technologies shall be one of the key criteria in assessment of various proposals.
Sharing his views with FE about the delayed FICV programme, an aerospace and defence expert Ratan Shrivastava, said, “The EoI for the FICV has not seen much headway for the last 6 months, as some of the main contenders are non –compliant on essential parameters such as commercial and technical capability, which make up for more than half of the assessment.”
“The MoD has received several representations, which are procedural in nature and the fact that this EoI was released under DPP-2008 whereas the present DPP-2016, Chapter 7, on Strategic Partnership Policy – Para 7 (d) is the segment for Armoured Fighting Vehicles. As the service life of the FICV will be 35 years, if the MoD was to retract the EoI issued under DPP-2008, the FICV programme can be moved to Chapter 7 of DPP -2016,” said Shrivastava, honorary advisor, FICCI space division. Shrivastava added that ‘such a move will be a win-win situation for both the industries as system integrators and the users (Indian Army), with a clear indigenization roadmap, lifetime product support and the identification of foreign OEMs supported by the MoD.’
While the delivery of FICV shall be in a phased manner once the prototype is successfully validated, approximately 2,610 such systems or upgraded systems shall be procured by the MoD. The prototype would subject to a comprehensive evaluation process under operational conditions as per user requirements. Details of evaluation process would be spelt out during DPR stage. FICV will replace the existing BMP2/2K of the Mechanical Infantry units in a phased manner by MoD after successful validation of prototypes. These prototypes would be evaluated for their performance in plain and desert terrain.
Provisions for periodic technology refreshers of FICV equipment shall be carried out for overcoming technology obsolescence and managing future proofing throughout its life cycle. The DA will be responsible for these technology refreshers and will be required to maintain an independent research and development facility for assessing all futuristic technologies before they are inducted into the operational system.