Uncertainty continues over the $8-billion Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) project, with differences due to procedural issues being highlighted by the stakeholders.
Highly-placed sources told FE on condition of anonymity that “the Defence Procurement Board was to take a decision related to the FICV programme last week. However, the programme has been put on the backburner as the government is trying to address concerns pointed out by various companies who have responded to the expression of interest (EoI).” Responding to a question, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said in February during Aero India that “everything has been discussed about the project and there are certain aspects that are to be finalised.” He had also announced that the stakeholders would be meeting in New Delhi soon.
The MoD was keen to announce its final decision last December, early January. However it could not happen due to various representations made by companies who have been keen to participate in the programme. Sources also said that senior leadership from Mahindra & Mahindra had met senior officials in the MoD recently to make a representation. The companies have been meeting with the defence minister independently and making representations.
The Indian Army had issued a request for information (RFI) in June 2015 to design and develop a new-generation combat vehicle platform called the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). Under the project, 2,610 FICVs are expected to be built. The RFI is for the development of a base platform for the main battle tank, which is planned to replace the existing T-72 tanks in the armoured corps. It is also planned to subsequently develop other need-based variants on this platform.
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The nine 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. L&T was being seen as a frontrunner in the programme. In February, L&T chairman AM Naik had told mediapersons that the firm is optimistic to get the huge deal.
However, a lot of issues, mostly procedural in nature, seem to be hampering further progress in the project. There also seems to be no clarity over the number of development agencies (DAs) the MoD would need to have for this programme. Project FICV will have an expected life span of 32 years. As reported earlier by FE, “FICV EoI was issued under the DPP-2008 and it has recommended a minimum 40% indigenous content as compared to the 30% indigenous content.”
The FICV is a high-mobility armoured battle vehicle for ferrying infantry. It will replace the army’s fleet of 2,610 Russian-designed BMP-series armed vehicles in operation since 1980. Once the prototype is successfully tested and validated, around 2,610 such systems or upgraded systems shall be procured by the MoD, and the delivery will be in a phased manner.
Despite the finalisation of several chapters for the amended Defence Procurement Policy (DPP-201), there has been no further action on the FICV project, said sources. The MoD, which invited 10 companies in 2015 to submit proposals to develop the FICV under the ‘make’ procedure, had earlier specified that two development agencies would be chosen.
The FICV programme was approved in 2009, whose EoI was first issued in 2010 but was subsequently cancelled. Last year, the army re-issued the EoI after a gap of three years to 10 Indian companies and had sought responses by mid-January 2016.