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The Indian Army Is Searching For A Wheeled APC

December 17, 2019

The Indian Army has retired its fleet of OT-64 Skot wheeled APCs. Photo is for representation only. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Indian Army‘s newest Request for Information (RFI) is inviting vendors to submit proposals for 198 8×8 wheeled APCs by February 17 next year. The vehicles are meant for a reconnaissance and support role in Punjab and Rajasthan, two states along the border with Pakistan where a conventional war may take place at some point. The 20-page RFI does list technical parameters that leave Russia and the US out in the cold; the BTR-82A and the Stryker both fail to match the army’s needs.

India can still boast having strongest mechanized forces in Asia with its estimated 4,000 main battle tanks (locally assembled T-72M Ajeyas and T-90S Bhismas) with an equal number of BMP-2 Sarath infantry fighting vehicles. By comparison, the Chinese PLA’s apparent strength in numbers is diminished by keeping so many aging vehicles in service. The appeal of wheeled APCs with either a 6×6 or 8×8 configuration is spaciousness–more soldiers fit inside compared to a tracked APC–and larger armaments such as automatic cannons matched with anti-tank missiles. Of course, mobility remains an issue for wheeled APCs, with fully independent suspension systems required if they’re to withstand rough travel.

The 8X8 APC described by the new RFI enumerated the following technical parameters:

  • The vehicle must be able to support a two (2) ton payload weight.
  • Transportable by planes like the Il-76 Ilyushin or C17 Globemaster.
  • It’s amphibious with a fording speed og 10 kilometers per hour over water.
  • A power-to-weight ratio of 25 horsepower per ton or 25 hp/ton.
  • Top speed of 80 km/h. Cruising speed is 30 km/h.
  • A mechanical self-recovery winch is installed at the front of the vehicle.
  • Armament includes a 30 mm cannon with 7.62 mm machine gun and two anti-tank guided missiles in a single turret.
  • Additional eight (8) missiles are carried inside along with a portable ATGM launcher.
  • Ballistic protection is at STANAG III on the front arc, STANAG II (withstands assault rifles) on the sides, and mine blast protection is STANAG IIb.
  • The vehicle has CBRNe protection, active and passive protection systems, and night fighting capability.
  • A power assisted ramp is at the back for rear entry of soldiers.
  • Crew number is set at four.

The complete list of parameters is divided among 21 categories and found on the RFI document. Application submissions are due before February 17, 2020, at the Sena Bhawan in Delhi.

It’s clear the Indian Army’s preference for foreign suppliers over local manufacturers is deep-seated and unchanging regardless of the strategic environment it must cope with. This RFI for an “AFV R & SP” is problematic not just because it rejects local efforts at producing a wheeled APC–the TATA WhAP comes to mind–but no single manufacturer outside India can deliver the vehicle without imposing huge costs. The unwillingness to patronize a domestic 8×8 APC is troubling for another reason; smaller countries such as Malaysia and Singapore tailored their own wheeled APCs by partnering with foreign suppliers. The Indian army is doing the opposite.

Another issue is the complete technical parameters. Suppliers will be challenged to fulfill all of the above unless a joint venture is agreed upon with other companies. The best known wheeled APCs in Europe such as the French VBCI, the German Boxer, and the Italian SuperAV are inadequate (the first two aren’t amphibious) since they do need a customized turret with the Indian army’s specified weapons; a 30 mm cannon and tandem missile launchers. Sourcing the turret and protective countermeasures to other countries (Israel and South Africa) further complicates the acquisition process. Today’s wheeled APCs aren’t cheap either and the Indian army’s RFI describes something exorbitant.

Anyone who wishes to review the Indian Army’s complete RFI documents for its wheeled APC can download these from their website.

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