The Ministry Of Defence has demanded 500 specialised high mobility vehicles for rapid deployment of troops, keeping its focus on protecting the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Himalayas.
The ministry is looking for vehicles that have the capability of operating at heights of more than 17,000 feet in the Himalayan terrain and can protect against enemy fire along with being fitted with guns. The information comes just five days after the Ministry of Defence sought to procure quadcopters (small-sized surveillance drones) for operations in the Himalayas.
Specifications demanded by the MoD
The ministry desires the vehicle to have a maximum speed of around 80 km/hr and should be able to operate in temperatures between 40°c and -15°c. The vehicle should be able to carry a minimum of 10 troops with combat loads and have a 4×4 drive mode with automatic transmission.
The vehicle should not weigh more than 14 tonnes and should be able to carry 2 tonnes of payload (men and equipment) at an altitude of 17,000 feet. It is also expected to come equipped with heating and air conditioning.
The army seeks protection against mine blasts and grenade blasts.
The vehicles should be equipped with a weapon mount to allow a 7.62 mm Light Machine Gun (LMG) to be fitted along with a turret with 360-degree rotation for the LMG. Eleven firing ports with five each on the starboard and port side of the vehicle and one at the rear are also required by the vehicle.
The Himalayas have several fast-flowing rivers. The MoD wants the vehicle to have the ability to sail across these rivers, and so the Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) should be able to ford in water with a depth of 1000 mm without any special preparation.
IPMV by Tata
In the previous month, a similar Infantry Protected Mobility Vehicle (IPMV) was handed over to Chief Of Army Staff General Manoj Naravane by the Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), becoming the first private sector company in India to produce and hand over wheeled armoured combat-ready vehicles for the armed forces.
The vehicles inducted include an ultra-long-range observation system developed by the TASL, quick reaction fighting vehicle medium, monocoque hull multi-role mine-protected armoured vehicle developed by Bharat Forge and infantry protected mobility vehicle.
These have been developed on an 8×8 Wheeled Armoured Platform (WhAP), which is indigenously designed and developed by TASL and Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (VRDE), a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Seeking a range of multi-utility vehicles
In the previous years, the Indian defence purchases have turned crisis-driven. Earlier, when tensions between India and Pakistan increased, purchasing of 198 armoured personnel carriers was announced by the government while they said it would replace the Soviet origin Boyevaya Razvedyvatelnaya Dozornaya Mashina (BRDM) combat reconnaissance patrol vehicles.
According to media reports, intelligence officials and forensic experts in 2019 ‘warned of more Pulwama-style improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on personnel in J&K,’ where a suicide bomber targetted the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Convoy and claimed 40 lives. This increased the requirement for military vehicles, both for transportation and fighting. In fact, the trend across the globe is for multi-utility vehicles that provide mobility, safety and fighting capability.
Purpose of having armoured vehicles
Unlike infantry fighting vehicles which provide direct fire support to the troops, armoured personnel vehicles are not used in direct combat, though some have defensive capabilities.
With the increase in sub-conventional warfare that is often conducted in urban, semi-urban and inhabited places, militaries across the world rely heavily on military vehicles. The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have been pouring money into these vehicles. For lightweight bullet-proof armour, Honeywell has come up with bullet-proof fibre and ballistic composite materials like Gold Flex, Gold Shield and Spectra Shield. Apart from vests, plates and helmets, these lightweight materials are also used for armouring vehicles.
According to reports in December 2020, CRPF would soon induct a 4×4 tactical and light armoured vehicle, Sherpa Light all-terrain vehicle, designed by Renault Trucks Defense, France. It is to be noted that even the CRPF started using the MPVs only after the 2016 militant attack, claiming the lives of eight personnel. In 2018, Sherpa was deployed in Kashmir and later in November and December 2020. This vehicle is already in use with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and National Security Guards (NSG).
Even though the MPVs or Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles provide protection from low-grade blasts, they cause major spinal injuries to the onboard personnel as the vehicle experiences severe shock and gets thrown in the air. Due to this, the use of MPVs made by the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) was halted by the CRPF as the MPVs could not withstand the IED blasts in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas.
Meanwhile, The ambitious Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) has taken a backseat. Since the Mark I of the 12-year-old programme didn’t succeed, the idea of a Mark II advanced vehicle was floated by the Indian army. The army chief has said that the army is making efforts to acquire these vehicles by 2026-2027, while Reliance, L&T, Mahindra and Tata are some private industries that are willing to participate in this programme.
Globally, the trend in military vehicles is to combine armoured infantry carriers with fighting capabilities.