Army generals describe biggest-ever arms deal: $25-30 billion tank and ICV buy - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 15 November 2017

Army generals describe biggest-ever arms deal: $25-30 billion tank and ICV buy

1,770 tanks under “strategic partner” policy by 2025-27; 2,600 ICVs under “Make” procedure

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Nov 17

In New Delhi on Wednesday, army chief General Bipin Rawat and a battery of senior generals explained details of India’s biggest-ever weapons acquisition – the on-going twin procurements of futuristic tanks and infantry combat vehicles (ICVs), which they estimated to be worth $12.5-15 billion (Rs 80,000-100,000 crore) each.

Pakistan already feels threatened by India’s vast tank strength. This includes three strike corps, each with hundreds of tanks and ICVs. In addition, eight-to-ten tank-heavy “battle groups”, drawn from defensive corps, are poised to scythe through Pakistan in a “Cold Start” offensive.

While tanks, with their heavy armour protection and huge guns spearhead an advance into enemy territory, tracked ICVs move close behind them, carrying infantrymen to occupy the captured area.

The procurements explained by Rawat, which include new tanks and ICVs, would significantly enhance Pakistan’s insecurity.

Justifying the build up, Rawat stated: “Tanks are expected to operate on western front as well as the northern borders [with China].”

The generals told a defence industry gathering that the mechanised forces would be boosted on three parallel tracks. The first is the manufacture of 1,770 advanced, 50-tonne tanks – termed Future Ready Combat Vehicles (FRCVs) – under the “strategic partner” (SP) policy to replace the ageing T-72 fleet. For this, private Indian firms will bid in partnership with global “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs) to set up a production line in India by 2025-27.

Last Wednesday, the army floated a global “request for information” (RFI) inviting global OEMs to outline what they would offer India. Simultaneously, the ministry is shortlisting Indian SPs that will bid in partnership with the chosen OEMs.

“This process involves identifying a mature, in-service tank in the world, which can be tweaked to meet our requirements”, stated Lieutenant General MJS Kahlon, the army’s planning chief.

While the FRCV will be a derivative of an in-service tank, the “future infantry combat vehicle” (FICV) will be a brand new, futuristic system. It will be pursued under the “Make” procedure, with the defence ministry funding 90 per cent of the development cost, and the private firm paying 10 per cent. Six firms/consortia have submitted proposals for the FICV, and the MoD must select two. These will design competing FICV prototypes and build an estimated 2,600 of the winning design.

“The FICV and FRCV will be game changers for indigenous defence industry”, said the mechanised forces chief, Lieutenant General Ashok Shivane.

Kahlon pointed out that this would be the first time indigenous production would take care of our armoured requirements. “So far, we bought all our armour on a government-to-government basis -- from the west till late 1960s and from the Soviet Union and Russia since then.”

That dependence forced the army to adapt its warfighting doctrines to platforms that had never been designed with India’s tactical needs, geography and manpower in mind. “We bought what was available and adapted our doctrines onto that”, rued Kahlon.

Since the FRCV and FICV projects are time-consuming projects, the army will simultaneously upgrade the existing T-72 tank fleet to remain battle-worthy till the new platforms are inducted. Shivane said T-72s would get more powerful engines, day and night vision thermal sights, and improved guns and ammunition.

“The chosen vendors would also take care of life cycle management of his equipment, with indigenous solutions coming from him. This would make good operational sense for us and good business sense for the vendors”, said Shivane.

The FRCV is intended to carry out roles other than that of a tank. The RFI states it will be the base platform for a range of additional armoured vehicles, including self-propelled artillery and air defence guns, mine trawls, bridge-layer tanks (BLTS), armoured engineering vehicles, etc.

Looking beyond the heavy, tracked FICV, both Rawat and Kahlon raised the need for a wheeled infantry carrier that could move on roads, and in towns and cities, without damaging infrastructure. “Imagine infantry being able to travel in its own transport, with ballistic protection, wherever it needs to go… say all the way up to Leh”, said Kahlon.


  1. Can't help feeling that this kind of procurement and upgrading is not being done keeping India's limited. Budget in mind and also the fact doubt whether it is being done Inna capability enhancing manner. What about ensuring our mountain strike corps has all the equipment , ammunition and stores needed to be a threat in being to China.

  2. Just buy Russian armata. Stupid eggers TV

  3. Basicaly no surprises here. FRCV is not an 'indigenous' platform that was a successor to the Arjun, its just build to print with zero domestic research and development. They are going from Make (Indian) to Buy and Make.

    I hope the government strikes this proposal down and gives the Army 2 options.

    1. Induct future variants of Arjun.

    2. Don't buy anything.

  4. What is the rationale for such huge expenditure? Pak can't do you any substantial harm even with the present armament levels. As for China, you can't stop it even if you double this level. And if one has to rely on such levels of conventional weaponry purely to defend yourself, what use are tac nukes? The whole fairy tale is mind boggling - inf moving upto Leh in carriers! One thing is sure - some companies, some politicians and maybe even some generals are going to become stinking rich as a result of this mad venture. Is it the same country which has no money to pay a few thousand crores to farmers in Punjab and Haryana to not burn stubble and save the people of Delhi from the effects of 50 cigarettes a day without touching even one. Phew. What a country!

  5. The Army is negotiating with the government, so the numbers amy look inflated. If you look at what they are saying and want to do. It seems PA is their major threat. That's where 90% of this will go.

    Are these enough to over-whelm PA, given that they have 1000's of anti-tank weapons that are cheap to produce and easy to use. They also don't have lack of people wanting to kill indians. The surveillance is getting better and better, so the element of surprise is shrinking too. Their forces are very close to the border and response times pretty quick too.

    Off course if these forces break through PA lines then they have NASR with tactical nukes. These tanks need to be NBC protected. How effective will that be once these tanks have been in service with IA?

    Whilst IA looks to buy, PA is making it at home.

  6. How is it that they conveniently chose to ignore the Arjun?


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