The Ministry of Defence has finally decided to speed-up the long-pending mega ‘Make in India’ project to produce at least 2,610 future infantry combat vehicles (FICVs) for the Army at an estimated cost of about Rs 60,000 crore.
Times of India quoted defence ministry sources in its report who said that two of the five private contenders in the fray, apart from the Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) will soon be selected to design and build prototypes for the FICVs.
Moreover, the government will fund 80 per cent of the development cost, which is estimated to be around Rs 3,000-4,000 crore.
“The best prototype will then be selected for mass production. The ministry's integrated project management team (IPMT) is in the final stage of evaluating the EoI (expression of interest) responses submitted by the OFB and five private vendors,” Times of India quoted a MoD source as saying.
The private contenders include L&T, Mahindra, Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering and two consortiums of Tata Motors-Bharat Forge and Tata Power SED-Titagarh Wagons.
The FICVs are basically armoured personnel carriers which are designed to swiftly transport infantry soldiers into the battlefield behind tanks. These carriers are meant to gradually replace the old Russian-origin BMP-II infantry combat vehicles in the Army.
Till now, the FICV project has failed to kick off due to hiccups and controversies since it was first accorded “acceptance of necessity” under the ‘Make (Hi-Tech)’ category in October 2009.
The previous EoI (Expression of Interest), issued in May 2010, was cancelled by the defence ministry after major faults were found in the evaluation process in December 2012.
The MoD hopes that similar mistakes will not be repeated with the fresh EoI which was issued in July 2015. But while the IPMT has sought repeated clarifications from the contenders, it has not visited and inspected their manufacturing facilities for an on-ground assessment till now.