NEW DELHI -- Tata Motors, India's largest automobile company, has signed a strategic pact with India's Bharat Forge and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) of the U.S. to for a 500-billion-rupee ($7.4 billion) defense project to develop a futuristic infantry combat vehicle (FICV) for the Indian army.
Tata Motors is to lead the consortium with Bharat Forge, a components maker, partnering and GDLS adding expertise in combat vehicles.
Among companies competing to build the FICV, a high mobility, amphibious combat vehicle and troop carrier, are Mahindra & Mahindra and Larsen & Toubro. The FICV will replace the Indian army's 2,610 Russian BMP-II Sarath amphibious infantry fighting vehicles in use since 1980.
The replacement program was approved in 2009 and an expression of interest (EoI) issued in 2010 but cancelled in 2012. The Indian army reissued the EoI to 10 Indian companies in 2015 requesting responses by early 2016.
Ernst & Young (EY) has reported that two competing project proposals will be selected to go forward, and that local companies have been encouraged to form consortiums that include foreign companies offering licensed technology.
The FICV will be a compact, amphibious, tracked, armored vehicle weighing less than 20 tons that can be transported by other means to combat zones. It will have three crew and capacity for eight combat-ready infantrymen, and be able to fire anti-tank guided missiles with a range of 4km.
The FICV project has been rolled into the Make in India initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sep. 2014 to promote the country as a manufacturing hub. The Modi government was elected in May that year, and has lifted the foreign direct investment limit in the defense sector to 49% from 26%.
Ravi Pisharody, Tata Motors' executive director for commercial vehicles, said the FICV project will complement the Make in India vision by producing an indigenized combat vehicle that caters to "the opportunities available right here in India".
Baba N. Kalyani, Bharat Forge's chairman and managing director, described the proposed partnership as "an important milestone" in strengthening indigenous defense capabilities.
In a statement on Monday, Tata Motors said that as the project's "lead integrator" it will build on its experience in design, development and integration of mobility platforms, Bharat Forge will contribute manufacturing strengths, and GDLS will contribute its proven expertise in "various integrational programs".