Future Ready Combat Vehicle: Indian Army’s Ambitious Expansion to Modernize its Tank Fleet


The Indian Army is all set to move ahead with the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) program to modernize its ageing tank fleet. The following article gives a roadmap about the FRCV program and analyses how the FRCV program can be a game changer for India’s Armored Fighting Vehicles industry.

T-90 Bhishma. Source: rbth.com


The Indian Army plans to acquire state of the art Main Battle Tanks under the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) program to replace the existing fleet of T-72 Main Battle Tanks. India’s Armored Corps currently operates around 2000 T-72 Main Battle Tanks that have come closer to the end of their service life and need to be replaced with more futuristic tanks amidst the growing threats along the eastern and western borders.


The Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) program is a bold move as the final product will be according to the war doctrine and requirements of the Indian Army. Previously the Indian Army purchased the best technology available to them and then formed a war doctrine based on the capabilities of the new weapon system inducted into service.


To make sure that the FRCV program is tailor-made according to the requirements of the Army, it will undergo three different stages of development.


Design Stage: Established tank designers will be invited from across the world by means of a global Request for Proposal (RFP), where a brief design philosophy will be given out for the FRCV.


Prototype Development Stage: The selected tank design will be given to the respective agency to make refinements to the design and come up with a working prototype.


Production Stage: Once the prototypes are successfully trial evaluated, the selected prototype will be given to the nominated production agency for mass production. The FRCV program is proposed under the ‘Make-1’ category of the Defense Procurement Procedure-2016 i.e. the final product will contain at least 40% indigenous components and the Original Equipment Manufacturer will jointly manufacture the FRCV with its Indian counterpart.


It would be required of the FRCV to be able to operate across various terrains both inside and outside the country. The Indian Army wants a modular chassis on which a variety of platforms can be developed. The following variants are planned to be developed from the FRCV chassis:

  • Tracked Main Battle Tank - Base version.

  • Tracked Light Tank.

  • Armored Ambulance.

  • Bridge Layer Tank (BLT).

  • Armored Recovery Vehicle.

  • Engineer Reconnaissance Vehicle.

  • Self-Propelled Howitzer.

  • Trawl Tank and Mine Ploughs.

  • Air Defense Gun/Missile System.


Broad Operational Requirements of the FRCV

Fire Power: The main gun should be capable of firing all types of modern ammunition and should have high first round hit probability, high lethality under dynamic engagement conditions along with a full solution Fire Control System equipped with an auto multi target tracker system. The turret should be capable of tracking and neutralizing the threat simultaneously and incorporate integrated day-night vision devices for complete crew wielding fusion technology and 360-degree panoramic view for the Commander.


Mobility: The Indian Army wants a high mobility vehicle with high power to weight ratio, low ground pressure and higher operating range, keeping in view the harsh conditions in which it operates.


Protection: Technologies to enable high survivability, including active, passive, reactive, ballistic protection, and stealth/signature management technologies catering to a variety of threats faced on the battlefield along with an Integrated Fire Detection and Suppression System (IFDSS).



The Tank Triangle

Source: defenceiq.com


Modern Main Battle Tanks are designed to optimize all three factors listed in the tank triangle and a trade-off is achieved. However, if the user demands an enhancement in any one factor, then other factors will take a hit i.e. if the user wants an increment in the current protection, then the weight of the Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) will increase and the mobility will be thwarted.



Is the Game Over for the Indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank?

Arjun MBT. Source: lifeofsoldiers.com


It could be said that the Indian Army’s hunt for a new and futuristic Main Battle Tank (MBT) means that the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) cannot fulfill the needs of the future. The Indian Army is looking for a tank in the medium weight category (45-50 tons) whereas, the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT)weighs a whopping 69 tons, which means that it cannot be deployed beyond the deserts in case of a conflict with Pakistan. In September 2016, the Indian Army said that there are no advantages from a tactical point of view even if the weight of Arjun is reduced to 65 tons. In addition, the logistical supply chain of the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) is a mess and has been a headache for the Army for over a decade now. The production of the FRCV by Indian companies will not only ensure better logistics but also a good serviceability rate in case of a conflict. The ambitious expansion of the FRCV program means that the indigenous Arjun got squeezed a little more.



How is the FRCV Program the ‘Brahmos Moment of India’?

The FRCV program is included in the ‘Make-1’ category of the Defense Procurement Procedure which means that only Indian companies would be allowed in the mass production of the FRCV. The Transfer of Technology by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is going to be a game changer for India’s private defense manufacturing industry since they will receive the technical nitty-gritty and the much needed experience about the design, development and production of an advanced Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV).


Main Contenders for the FRCV Program

French Leclerc Main Battle Tank. Source: besthqwallpapers.com


Having considered the reply sent by various Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), the main contenders for the FRCV program are Russian T-14 Armata, French Leclerc, Ukrainian T-84 Oplot, South Korean K-2 Black Panther. The South Korean K-2 Black Panther is going through problems related to its transmission system and the failure of its designers to design and develop an in-house engine. However, the Russian T-14 Armata might be the best choice for the Indian Army, since the Indian Army is already using Russian platforms and opting for another Russian platform will result in efficient logistical supply chains and better availability of spare parts.


Possible Date of Induction?

Given, the current pace of the FRCV program is expected to finish its design phase by 2025 and the first prototype is expected to be rolled out in 2027, after successful trial evaluation of the prototypes, the FRCV is expected to enter production in 2029. If things go as planned, then the FRCV will be inducted in 2031.

References

1. Future Ready Combat Vehicles (FRCV): Will it Become a Reality? (defproac.com)

2. FUTURE READY COMBAT VEHICLE (FRCV).pdf (indianarmy.nic.in)



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