Indian Army Tata Kestrel 8x8 Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier


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Oct 20, 2015
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by Anupama Airy
Tata Motors is betting big on Future Infantry Combat Vehicles or FICVs for the Indian Army even as contenders including L&T, Mahindra and Mahindra, Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd and Titagarh Wagons Ltd are equally sure of the order that could run close to Rs 60,000 crore over the next few years. In an Exclusive Interview to DefenceAviationPost, V S Noronha, Vice President-Defence and Government Business, Tata Motors, spoke in details about his companies plans and strategy on the defence side going forward.
Q: How bullish are you over securing the FICV bid?

A: Well, like others, we too have put in the bid for the FICV project. The EoI has been submitted on the 15th of February. The integrated project management teams are evaluating the six EOI’S that have been submitted and they will take about 8 to 9 months to down select two private players. After that, they will give us six months to submit a detailed project report and after its evaluation, the companies selected will get a go ahead to start building a prototype. Being a “Make” program, only Indian companies with foreign technology partners have participated
Q: Will you restrict the supplies of FICV to India or will you also export?
A: Variants of the FICV can be exported. Obviously, Tata Motors have created this huge military portfolio. But then the orders from the military don’t come every year and say, if they will place orders for at least one of the vehicles every year. Now, as even we need to build on revenues so whenever there are lean periods, we are protecting ourselves by going in for the export market. So when the Indian government doesn’t place orders, then we have a chance to export in that way we can keep our lines running.
Q: Can you give an update on the recent orders won by Tata Motors from the armed forces?
A: So we won this 6×6 vehicle last year in March we signed a contract for 1239 numbers out of that we have already supplied the first 100. Then few days ago, we signed another follow-on contract for another 690 and we are told that shortage for the Indian army for that kind of vehicle is couple of 1000 more, so we are hopeful.
Q: We hear that you already have inquiries from elsewhere in the world, for this particular project?
A: Yes, we are getting a lot of enquiries for Kestrel–the wheeled amphibious vehicle. There is a lot of interest on the Kestrel especially after it was demonstrated recently at the opening ceremony of the DefenceExpo 2016 at Goa. During the live demonstration, when people saw it moving behind the Arjun tank, I think everyone became clear in their minds that the next Indian Army’s platform is going to be Kestrel that is a great effort of cooperation between Tata motors and DRDO. The wheeled amphibious platform has been developed in a record time of 18 months along with the DRDO. I can see a lot of mission kit suppliers such as Elbit and others adapting their mission kits on to this wheeled amphibious platform, Kestrel.
While KESTREL has amphibious capabilities, at the same time it has been designed for being used in various missions also…so it is based on the platform concept and from the same platform, you can conduct various mission specific drills at the same time. The biggest strength of the Kestral platform is that it is scalable, modular and upgradeable. For instance, the same vehicle can be used for different uses— the same can be used as an ambulance with little modification as also a missiles carrier, launcher and all those various operations like a CBRN Vehicles can be used from the same platform. Again, it has state of the art hydro-pneumatic suspension that gives this vehicle the power it has.
The entire power pack is designed in India, the under chassis drive mine of this vehicle is also designed in India. Another thing that I can mention is that this system has been offered with a firing port, typically these vehicles will not have the firing port according to international specifications but Indian Army wanted this vehicle with firing port so we built it.
Q: How are your supplies to Myanmar and Thailand shaping? This indeed is a great opportunity for Tata Motors as these two markets have so far been dominated either by Chinese or Japanese supplies respectively.
A: Myanmar market is for our pick-up-trucks and we have already supplied more than 1200 pick-up trucks. We are expecting a repeat order of the same. we are also getting enquiries for other vehicles but there is nothing very concrete at the movement. Indeed, relations between India and Myanmar have improved. In fact, from Manipur we are just 150 Km away from the Myanmar border…something that I look as a great opportunity for Tata Motors overall business interest to be in Myanmar and for the defence business starting with the small pick-ups, we look forward to much larger supplies. We are already getting enquiries for vehicles other than pick-up trucks but there is nothing very concrete at the movement. Indeed, relations between India and Myanmar have improved.
Thailand is interested in our wheeled amphibious platform—Kestrel. Thailand Army tried and evaluated TATA 2.5 TON. The competition was TATA 2.5 ton and ISUZU military vehicle and we are happy to report our vehicle passed all the tests, and we are now just at a step away from signing a contract for supplies. Our vehicle stands approved and ready to be inducted into the Royal Thai Army and it is a matter of time before we start commercial negotiations.
Q: DPP policy has already been announced. Your quick take on the policy?
A: One is the Make program that stands simplified in the new DPP. Then, the government has given the private sector an equal platform to participate, along with the defence PSUs. Things like exchange rate variation etc, which was only allowed for DPSU’S has now been allowed for private Indian companies also. Another great move in the new DPP is the issue of handling of a single tender. Under the new policy, a single tender will be allowed under certain circumstances….of course there are certain players in this field but it is not that every time you will get 2-3 competitors. So now single tenders will be allowed to go forward. The third is very transparent outlook on blacklisting…so now companies would be penalised in various stages instead of being blacklisted. So this issue of sudden death for foreign companies will no longer exist. Therefore when we do partnerships, we will know in time whether there has been any issue. Then giving private sector access to the testing facility, for a fee, is another excellent addition.
Q: What’s your take on the new entrants vis-à-vis the existing players like you or the L&T and others?
A: If you see India’s imports, our military imports are at 70%. So there is a lot of room for everybody. There is a huge scope.
Q: You said this has jointly been developed with the DRDO. We have seen with the other armoured vehicles where they have taken a very long time? So what was your experience working with DRDO?
A: I would see the association bringing together the synergies between the private sector and public sector, which in this case –was the speed of the private sector and the knowledge and the experience of the DRDO. The two experiences were combined in a way that it could compensate the timelines. The whole team tasks were defined, there were always timed reviews with the Army and other stakeholders and all things were planned in a nice way. I would rather say that the biggest thing was that the chemistry of both the teams (TATA and DRDO) that helped in working together, thereby establishing a good shining example of public and private partnership .
Q: How does Kestrel put you in a position of advantage given the competition for the FICV development?
A: There is no other Indian company that has given a live demonstration of its model. We are the only Indian company who has so far developed a live combat platform (Kestrel)–that will be the stepping stone for the FICV. You also know that the government is in the process of down selecting strategic partners and with the demonstration of the Kestral, from design to live testing in a short period of 18 months, this vehicle can thus put Tata Motors in a good position to be the strategic partner for armoured vehicles. We have already showcased our technical capability as also our work capability with the DRDO. Undoubtedly, we have given the Indian army a very very modern platform .
Q: How much does this weigh?
A: Based on the mission and specific requirements the weight will differ. If it is used as an ambulance the weight will be less, if it is going to low-intensity fighting then the weight will be less than when it goes into this mode of fighting then it will aggravate. With the entire design we are going with the low weight all the way up to 18.5 ton and the highest being 25 tons.
Q: Now you have a tie-up with General Dynamics and what do we understand that the concept of the FICV will derive from this vehicle or will there be considerable influences from General Dynamics as well?
A: Now Kestrel is a platform and on this platform there will be integration of various mission kits — somebody will put a turret; somebody will put a missile launcher; it can also be converted into an ambulance. But when you talk about it in the FICV category, it is a very futuristic tracked platform — this is a wheeled platform and the integration of 34 critical technologies is where we will be taking a lot of help and assistance from General Dynamics.


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