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India to buy more than 1,700 tanks to replace T-72 fleet

Indian Army wants 'proven armoured fighting vehicle' to serve as basis for Future Ready Combat Vehicle family

India’s Ministry of Defence published a request for information to develop and build 1,770 multipurpose Future Ready Combat Vehicles for the Indian Army to replace its fleet of around 1,900 T-72 main battle tanks.

Published on November 8, the RFI invites original equipment manufacturers to submit details of a proposed 50-tonne tracked FRCV, which will be the base platform for the main battle tank and a family of other armored vehicles which would have a minimum service life of 40-50 years.

Phased introduction of the FRCV is planned, and the army is seeking induction by 2025-27, Economic Times reported.

The RFI calls for “a proven Armoured Fighting Vehicle” on which the deign will be based, and stipulates that the vehicle should be usable in all terrain on the Indian sub-continent in a temperature range from -30°C to +50°C and at speeds of at least 45km/h cross country and 70km/h on roads.

Indian Army T-72 main battle tank
Indian Army Armoured Corps T-72 main battle tank, March 9, 2006. Image: cell105/flickr/CC BY 2.0

The main weapon will be a smooth bore 120mm/125mm gun capable of firing gun tube-launched anti-tank guided missiles. Secondary armament will include a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun capable of being remotely operated and able to engage low-flying manned and unmanned rotary wing aircraft.

For survivabilty, the vehicle will have 800mm-1,200mm RHA armor and the belly must be able to survive improvised explosive device and mine blasts equivalent to 15kg of TNT.

The FRCV should lend itself to a family of vehicles including light tanks, bridge-laying tanks, mine trawl tanks,  and armored recovery vehicles. Jane’s reported that the family is also expected to include self-propelled howitzers, self-propelled air defence guns, mobile artillery observation posts, engineering reconnaissance vehicles, and armoured ambulances. Economic Times reported that the extensive vehicle family could mean that more than 2,000 vehicles are manufacted.

Substantially focusing on technology transfer and strategic partnership, the RFI says that, based on a design provided by the foreign OEM to an Indian strategic partner, “Indigenous Content … shall not be less than 40% on cost basis of the Make portion of contract.” On October 25, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is willing to provide advanced technologies to help India modernise its military, saying that the U.S. “supports India’s emergence as a leading power.”

Responses must be submitted by December 20, and the Request for Proposal for the acquisition is likely to be issued by mid 2018. Serial production will be “not less than 150 tanks” per year.

Indian army to buy around 800,000 small arms

Separately, the process to acquire around 700,000 assault rifles, 44,000 light machine guns and 44,000 carbines for India’s armed forces has been finalized, with the cost estimated to be around 400 billion rupees ($6.14 billion), PTI reported on October 29.

A request for information to procure “approximately 45,000” 7.62mm LMGs was published on October 31, with an RFP issue date of May 2018.

An unnamed offical told PTI that the requirements for the new assault rifle to replace the army’s INSAS rifles were finalised and a procurement plan would be issued soon. In June, the Indian Army rejected an indigenous assault rifle after the weapons failed firing tests.

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