Mahindra anti-mine vehicles for Naxal ops - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 25 August 2011

Mahindra anti-mine vehicles for Naxal ops

Brig Khutab Hai, MD & CEO Defence Land Systems India, hands over the key to the first MPV-I to Jharkhand Additional DG Police, BB Pradhan

by Ajai Shukla
Palwal, Haryana
Business Standard, 26th Aug 11

For a decade, hapless jawans travelling across the Naxal belt in shoddy mine-protected vehicles (MPVs) built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) rested their hopes for survival on a single bizarre test. In this, a live pig was strapped into an MPV, which was then subjected to a mine blast at a MoD facility near Chandigarh. The pig survived and so too, it was assumed, would the jawans.

Beginning today, these policemen have more to pin their hopes on. At its production facility near Palwal, Haryana, Defence Land Systems India (DLSI) handed over to the Jharkhand Police the first of 6 modern mine protected vehicles for that landmine prone state. Designed by South African vehicle protection specialist, OMC, the Jharkhand Police’s new Mine Protected Vehicle – India (MPV-I) has been tested in South Africa to global standards, using million-dollar mannequins, and found capable of protecting passengers even when subjected to a blast from 21 kilos of TNT.

DLSI, a joint venture between the Mahindra group and UK-based BAE Systems (Mahindra 74%: BAE Systems 26%), anticipates a burgeoning market for protected vehicles. The Mahindra group began its charge into the defence market with protected vehicles, selling about 1500 smaller models since 2001, including the Rakshak, the Marksman and the Rapid Intervention Vehicle (RIV). But the big money is in MPVs, each of which costs close to one crore rupees. In that, there has been little headway until this first order from the Jharkhand Police.

“The equipping of police forces in the Naxal-affected states with 300 MPVs will reduce casualties by some 90%,” argues Brigadier (Retired) Khutab Hai, who heads Mahindra’s defence business. This year alone, almost 300 security personnel have been killed or injured in blasts from 76 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the crude but powerful devices that insurgents have mastered.

But in the Maoist heartland of Chhatisgarh, MPVs have disappointed. In early 2005, there was euphoria after all 17 policemen travelling in a MPV survived a Naxal IED attack in Narayanpur, in Bastar. But that enthusiasm was short-lived as the Naxals modified their tactics. In their next attack, in Bijapur district in September 2005, they replaced the 10-kilo Narayanpur IED with a massive 40-kilo IED, targeting an MPV procured from Ordnance Factory, Medak. The force of that blast threw the MPV up in the air, killing 24 CRPF jawans whose bodies were barely recognisable. After that, the security forces in Chhatisgarh shrink from travelling in MPVs, except on blacktopped highways where no IEDs can be buried.

“An MPV makes an attractive target for the Naxals and, as we increase the armour, they just increase the explosive in the IED. In Chhatisgarh we use MPVs only for activities like convoy escort, where they can be used as mobile pillboxes from where policemen can fire on insurgents that are attempting an ambush. But for off-the-road movement, the security forces have to rely on smaller, less conspicuous vehicles or, better still, move on foot,” says Brigadier (Retired) Basant Ponwar, who heads the Chhatisgarh government’s Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare (CTJW) college in Kanker.

As recently as 10th June, near Dantewada in Bastar, 10 policemen who were travelling in an MPV at night, were killed in an IED attack.

But the Jharkhand Police, which has already bought 150 smaller protected vehicles from DLSI, is confident that its new MPV-I will serve their purpose. Says BB Pradhan, Additional DG Police, Jharkhand : “Our first responsibility is to protect our men from the explosions of landmines. There is no real foolproof protection from landmine attacks, the world over. But technology is improving everyday…. I am very optimistic that the MPV-I will prove successful.”

Besides purchases by Naxal-affected states, DLSI hopes for orders from the army, a potentially large user of MPVs. There is a viewpoint that MPVs could serve a dual purpose: for counter-insurgency operations in peacetime and to convey jawans into enemy territory during war, for attacks on enemy strong points or important towns. While no army requirement has been formalised, or tender issued, the acceptance of this viewpoint would make the army a major buyer of MPVs.

The MPV-I traces its design back to the redoubtable Casspir MPVs, which the Indian Army used extensively in J&K. The special armoured steel for the MPV-I’s protective body comes from Sweden; it is built into a monocoque body using kits imported from South Africa. The engine and chassis are from Russian Ural vehicles that are manufactured at Haldia, West Bengal. Using these inputs, DLSI has the capacity to build 100-120 MPV-I per year.

The Tatas and Ashok Leyland have also tried to crack the MPV market, but without success. Their MPVs are significantly lighter than DLSI’s and are designed to withstand just 8-10 kilos of TNT, compared to the 21 kilo blast-resistance of the MPV-I. The six-wheeled MPV-I also provides greater safety than the four-wheeled Tata and Leyland MPVs.


  1. So this "customized and manufactured by Mahindra" MPV is in service now! I was thinking it to still be in testing and evaluation. Good to hear, though South African and 'Ural' involvement bringing citrus flavors. Despite over all is a good news.

    Wonder, what would now happen to TATA and AL's MPVs?

  2. The design of this Mahindra MPV looks good than the Ordnance Factory's Bakwaas product being used now. This will certainly boost morale of security, eliminate fear so that they can plan operations effectively.
    Why not our army use this in JK where IED are used by kashmiri terrorists.

  3. 21-kilo blast resistance is really useless. In Iraq and Afghanistan the insurgents were packing about 40-50 kgs of explosives. Sometimes even MBT's were destroyed by the blast. Also, during war, most of the danger is from high powered mines and RPGs. M&M need to look at at least 50 kgs of TNT resistance.

  4. Col. Shukla-

    Have Mahindra specified what happens if the IED's pack more than the 21kg of TNT?

  5. As already mentioned the naxals will use a larger ide. We need to learn from the naxal. Why would naxal pick on certain vehicle? how are naxal confident that the vehicle would pass on the path they laid a 40kg mine? looks like naxals have a really good recon habits, which seems to be missing in our forces.

    We need dedicated 24/7 surveillance, ambush parties targeting ide teams based on these surveillance. It is a game of "I see you first, i hit you first"

    Let the CRPF have units where they are broken in smaller units, given dedicated surveillance tools and given a specific grid,All these smaller units inter-connected to form a smooth flow of information.
    and based on the size of the target, have teams deployed to get them.

    Concentrate heavily on night based ops. Teams equipped with night vision tools do daily night runs on Naxals. day time be out of sight. Constant night attacks will break the morale.

    It is time we invest in technologies and not send cannon fodders, even if we have billion people in this country.

  6. Explosion resistance alone is not going to help our forces need smart MVT which can detect IEDs. Or else this MPV-1 will fail no differently than OFB Aditya as there is no guarantee that insurgents will pack 21 kg or less of explosive specially when they know about capability of MPVs.

  7. Hmmm. Engine from there, steel from somewhere, rest from elsewhere and still made in India. And naxals have been using 50 KG explosive mines since a long time. How is this vehicle going to change the fate of this war?

    What was needed was a more intensive surveillance and support mechanism using helos, UAVs along with stronger humint.

    Chindu must have made a lot of money on these imported and assembled toys.

  8. @ Abid.

    OFB designed MPV Aditya was not Bakwaas or useless and neither did it failed rather it was defeated by explosive powerful well beyond its resistance specs (10 kg TNT under hull).

  9. Anon@ 16:10 is point to point correct.

    Rather the security forces shall move like a fish in water. They should seem to be approaching from the front, but in reality shall attack from the rear by no more than a group of 3 to 5 commandos equipped with high firing rated weapons and grenade launchers for no more than 5 minutes and then just run away.

  10. Col Sir,

    Indian Army (those who take part in battle) knows it for years that IED can be manufactured for any type of equipment including tanks. The Indian brave hearts lost T-72 tanks, BMPs and score of Bravo vehicle to LTTE, presumably trained by the Indian Army Stalwarts themselves.

    MPVs were employed by the South Africaans for urban but low intensity warfare basically road bound operations. These were quite sucessful during operations in neighbouring countries like SA operations in Namibia. But the SA had to leave a large numbers of those MPVs there.

    Todays Namibian Mechanised Infantry has nothing but MPVs. These machines have also been largely used for demining operations under UNO.

    Using 50 Kgs of TNT can be one operation in an year but what about hundreds of lives it would save against 10 kg IED through out the year. It comes to 24 lives lost virsus 1000 lives saved.

    Unless, the terrorists get a capability to place 50 kg IED by hundreds, there is no case for having MPVs which can sustain 50 kg explosive blast by hundreds.

    Indian police or Army is not American citizens. Notwithstanding that, if todays MPV or Rakshaks can be techinaccally brought to the standards of withstanding 50 kg TNT blast but at the same cost, that could be the game changer.

    One of the subtle aims of SF operations has to be to impose higher and yet higher costs of their operations and bring them to a stage where they become ineffective and loosers purely due to economic reasons.

    Impose higher costs that is one of their tactics. SF have to fight a guerilla like a guerrilla.

  11. (i)Anon@ 16:10 is point to point correct.(/i)


    But is CRPF capable of 1/100th of it ??

    Do not joke.

  12. The MPV looks great, but it can only go so far in defeating an elusive enemy that has shown its versatility in guerilla tactics. What is needed are special forces like the Black Cats (British SAS, American Delta Force, Green Berets) who would be well versed in precision targeting for both reconnaisance as well as attack. Small teams of highly trained professionals are the most effective in getting results that are quick and permanent. Its time to take the gloves off (actually way past); get the real professionals involved; but keep it quiet; real quiet, lest the stupid press get wind of it and the even stupider politicians have one more excuse to drum up foolish sentiment for another self-defeating un-necessary political exercise. That is the only way to defeat these terrorists, IMHO. Jai Hind.

  13. Looks like the South African Marauder..

  14. Col H N Choudhary17 October 2011 at 03:07

    I am not sure if these world standard products.
    21 kg IEDs or 50 Kg IEDs? which one do you opt for under your MPV ? Do they give you an option or a choice ?
    Consider a bettle tested product like the MPAV and give it or a similar product to your troops. they deserve that much from the nation for their lives.
    Col H N Choudhary

  15. Glad, you've posted something like this. This will really be helpful. Keep it up and more power. Hoping for other lists. Thanks!


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