FRCV: India’s Mega Future Battle Tank Contest Opens

The Indian Army has just signaled what could finally be the start to a major contest for the country’s next battle tank platform to replace an ageing fleet of 2,414 Soviet-origin T-72 tanks. The Army this week invited interest from industry across the world to develop of a Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), an armoured platform that will be the base, primarily, for a main battle tank, but also other fighting vehicles in the future, totaling nearly 2,000 units.

The Army hopes to see the first of these enter service in the 2025-27 time frame. The FRCV isn’t to be confused with the similarly large Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme, that involves a contest to build and supply over 2,000 new vehicles to succeed the Army’s BMP-IIs, a contest currently being fought by Indian private sector firms  including L&T, Tata, Reliance and Mahindra.

India currently operates fleets of Russian origin T-72 and T-90 tanks, with a much smaller fleet of indigenously developed Arjun tanks. The latter platform has fought for years for relevance and numbers in a system that appears bent on moving on from the troubled programme. The FRCV, in many ways, only amplifies the Army’s push for a big refresh in the fighting vehicles sphere, stripped of past afflictions and cross-purposes. To acquire a sturdy and modular base platform that can quickly be spun off into a variety of specialised fighting vehicles.

The Army’s request for information published this week calling the attention of interested vendors is only the latest leg of a process that gathered pace over two years ago. In June 2015, setting down the contours of its interest, the Army had said it was seeking “[D]evelopment of futuristic combat vehicle for induction by
2025-27. This fighting vehicle needs to be developed on a modular concept as part of a family of combat vehicles. The Tracked Main Battle Tank will be the primary/base variant and the entire project will be called the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). A ‘Future’ Combat Platform design must cater for ‘future’ battlefield environment and technological possibilities. To address the future battlefield scenario and the envisaged force profile in the coming years, the FRCV needs to be developed on a modular concept with a high degree of flexibility in a manner that, as a tank platform, it can address the varying requirements of different terrain configurations. At the same time it can provide the base on which a ‘Family of Vehicles’, catering to the operational needs of various arms of the Army, can be developed.”

To be driven by the ‘Make’ category under the MoD’s Make in India rules, the Army describes the FRCV as a ‘medium weight (45-50 ton) platform required to operate across developed / semi desert/desert terrain and in high altitude areas across the entire spectrum of conflict’. The three-stage contest begins with a design competition, for which global tank houses will drawn in through an RFP. The Directorate General of Mechanised Forces will then then choose a winner, passing them down to a prototype development and production stage. The three-stage process is unprecedented in Indian Army contracting history.

The FRCV programme is, in essence, the Army’s rejection of a handful for indigenous proposals that it clearly isn’t comfortable with.. The existing efforts include the DRDO’s Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), which tentatively looks to give the Army a brand new indigenous main battle tank, and the short-lived Tank-X effort. The FMBT’s thrust has been severely hampered since it had hoped to draw momentum and energy off the success of the Arjun project. The latter, now in a delayed Mk.2 development trial process, will never be fielded in large numbers. Certainly nowhere near the economics necessary to amortize investments in it, or to brandish it as a reason to look forward to the proposed FMBT.

With the FRCV in the mix, the Army’s new armoured orbat settles as follows: the T-90/T-90S tanks remain the overwhelming mainstay followed by a much smaller fleet of modernised/modified T-72s. A handful of Arjun Mk.1/Mk.2 regiments — more more than four — will form the tail end. The FRCV’s ambitious expanse means the Arjun just got squeezed a whole lot more.

13 thoughts on “FRCV: India’s Mega Future Battle Tank Contest Opens”

  1. parshu narayanan

    JBA…..Just Buy Armata – make it under license – we can never indigenize if our Generals don’t believe in backing DRDO ( What whatever reason)

    1. DRDO has failed Army on Arjun by not keeping up with the changing scenario and deadlines…Army doesnt want to go through it again

  2. With the way big ticket procurements are handled by the Indian armed forces, I can bet on the fact that the FRCV will not see light of day until 2037. That gives the Arjun a 20 year window of opportunity.

  3. This is really disappointing. I think we should have contracted a German or an Israeli firm and focused on making the Arjun MK.2 MBT better and lighter. The Mk.2 had good potential. On the flip side, DRDO is to blame itself for this situation since it’s history of jumping timelines by a monumental time frame is notorious. We are still struggling to get a basic battle tank rolling out in the 21st century. Quite a shame.

    1. DRDO should have roped in a major defense player such as Nexter of France (OEM for Le Clerc) or Hyundai Rotem (OEM for Korean Black Panther) as a development partner. DRDO should have also realized that it would not be able to rope in these foreign corporations unless DRDO agree to guarantee background IP protection and allow these companies a say in future production revenue stream. DRDO’s current attitude is similar to what a GOI babu exhibits while awarding a contract to a L1 bidder ( i.e. doing a favor) and that attitude is not going to cut any ice. This would have been a mutually beneficial relationship with DRDO having more to loose ( the foreign MNC would have merely lost new business but DRDO would have lost the entire investment they have sunk in Arjun)….unfortunately it will never happen.

  4. This stinks of corruption. I have some questions for the Army top brass :

    Why did Army send the DRDO on a wild goose chase to incorporate “182 improvements” on the Arjun Mk.2 ? Agar Mark 2 chahiye hi nahin tha, then why waste DRDO’s time and effort on the Mk 2 ?

    If the weight was such a pressing concern, why didn’t the Army approach the DRDO to trim down the Arjun to 50 tons ? It’s not difficult to add an autoloader and reduce space for the fourth personnel.

    When there is agreement that the Arjun exerts lower ground pressure than the T-90, and is actually MORE mobile and agile than the sluggish T-90, does the weight really matter ?

    Can’t there be an effort to modernize the British era bridges, pontoons and railway carriages ? They probably are due for an overhaul anyway.

    The Army must answer all this to citizens. This, and the sly effort to kill the Tejas cannot be allowed to continue.

  5. Let’s face it.The Arjun with a 4-man crew is a dinosaur in the context of current and future trends,which include unmanned AVs.The emergence of the Armata family of AVs with a crewless turret was a shocker for everyone.Arjun-2 which is more than 6t heavier than Arjun-1,is a logistical problem restricting the terrain where it can operate in.3 decades on,the Arjun simply took too much time to develop and had it arrived a decade ago,perhaps some 500+ Arjuns could’ve been built.The most optimistic possibility is for another 120+ Arjun-2s to be ordered,since the Army wants even more MBTs in its inventory.

  6. Robert,

    What a clueless post – unless you’re an IA troll. The emergence of the Armata was also a shocker for its own self – it had to be towed from its first display itself. So IA should buy twice the number of tank tow trucks if it wants the Armata.

    Arjun-2 being 6 tons heavier than Mk-1: Again you’re clueless – The IA specified 90 – 100 improvements on a tank that beat their beloved T-90 in a competition rigged in favor of the T-90. DRDO complied with the IA’s request of adding ERA on top of a very well armored tank. What did the army think the result would be?

    Arjun took too much time to develop – Boss, unless you just dropped in from outer space, the Arjun took too much time because the IA committed fraud – like sabotaging the transmission and accusing it of torsion bar failure (which the Arjun does not have). Remember the Tank biathlon where the IA took its beloved T-90 and left the Arjun behind? Remember the outcome, IA’s tanks had to be towed to the repair shop failing miserably to complete the courses.

    Does the IA really want to fight in such derelict tanks or bring its rust bucket T-72 to air so that they can pretend to have a large force. IA needs to behave responsibly and immediately buy 500 Mk1 Arjuns.

  7. Robert John – the comments you post are clueless – to day the least.

    The Armata had to be towed from its first public display – a pathetic record for a system that wants to be the mainstay of “fighting” forces. This was in line with the record of the T-90. You will remember that the IA’s 2 T-90s sent to the Tank Biathlon performed “ingloriously” to say the least and neither was able to complete the course. Unless the IA is planning to request Pak or China to make the path for these tanks into their territories easier, the performance of Russian tanks should warn the IA to stop further acquisitions and work with the suppliers for better performance.

    The Arjun on the other hand is the most tested Tank in the world. Its hydro-pneumatic suspension makes it a comfortable ride. And forget about the bogey of Arjuns not making across the derelict bridges in North India. The bridges are 50-60 years old and will fall apart any day. The newer bridges can all support the Arjun.

    When the Arjun beat the T-90 in the IA’s biased comparative trials 90% of the time, should the IA then not have selected the winning tank? That is the practice the world over where you pit two products against each other and buy the winning one. In this case, the IA relegated the Arjun to further improvements while placing orders for 1000s of T-90s. Surely Abhiman (poster above you) is then proven correct?

    IA needs to phase out all the derelict and crumbling apart T-72s and replace them (one to one) with Arjuns. That is, if India is still the land of Arjun.

  8. let us first take future infantry combat vehicle i ask who were the idiots who chose a wheeled vehicle as ICV — these babus even the mechanised infantry chaps who made the QR as they have never fought a mechanised battle or war — this aside we require an IFV that is around 35 tons to keep up with the tanks in the battle environment of mechanised warfare — and for that reason why do we require AMPHIBIOUS capability it would be much better to resort water crossing with helicopters or amphibious wheeled vehicles
    Next wheeled AFV should not be discarded and used to raise /convert motorised divisions the TATA’s seem to have done a good job
    and now finally the FRCV = the Tank — why is a lighter tank required who visualises tanks racing at 60 70 or kmph in the battle field dear sir a tank generally CATERPILLARS on the battle field and if someone is talking about BATTLE RUNS in cross country at best any tank can achieve around 45 kms and if our tankmen are concerned about negotiating terrain then INCREASE THE L/C RATIO AND REDUCE THE GROUND PRESSURE BECAUSE WHEN THE BALLOON WILL GO UP THESE ARMOURED CORPS PEOPLE WILL REQUIRE A LOT OF ARMOUR IN ANY CASE GROUND PRESSURE OF ARJUN IS THE LEAST IE 0.84KG/CM2 OF ALL THE BATTLE TANKS IN THE WORLD
    to conclude reduce the weight as much as it is possible but these armoured corps people also require a kick on their back side

  9. there is no corruption or any thing wrong with our present past or future tanks it is the users who are at fault that is the armoured corps people you give them Abrams or Armata tanks and even they will fail in India just like the US famous howitzer fh 777

  10. further to my above comments these armoured corps people found faults with tanks as follows Centurion tank == very good gun but useless engine/ t55 tank== good engine but useless gun (even upgrading it with 105 mm gun did not work) /vijayanta tank a light tank = was never taken into reckoning by them and Arjun tank they have purposely FAILED it now they are asking for 40 YEARSa light tank when all the tanks in the world are in the region of 60 to 65 tons —– i only wish there is someone there to kick them hard on their backside
    only solution is to work on Arjun tank reduce its weight in terms of armour protection — one cannot have all the best specifications in the world and keep the weight down a good tank is a compromise of one quality for another in any case if they want mobility then compromise has to be made in armour protection and if its fire power then again some come compromise has to be done with weight =armour protection one must remember russian tanks carry very little main gun ammunition which would be used in few hours of engagements –ALL I WANT TO EMPHASISE IS THAT IT IS IN THE MIND OF THE USER WHO HAS NOT FIRED A ROUND IN ANGER IN LAST 40 YEARS WHICH MUST BE CHANGED DRASTICALLY

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