A tussle between the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Indian Army has virtually brought back the Army’s proposal to equip its 50 Mechanised Infantry with the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) to the drawing board after eight years in the process.
Initiated in 2009, the project has been stuck since the Defence Acquisition Wing of MoD objected to the Army’s proposal to engage two private players to develop the prototype along with the Ordnance Factory Board. The ministry wants that at least five private should get opportunity.
Now the file has come back to the Army Headquarters asking for a detailed project report.
The Army has been pushing for the combat vehicle as it badly needs to replace the four-decade-old BMPs.
According to proposal, the government will fund 80 per cent of the development cost, i.e., around `3,000 crore to each of the companies, to build the FICV prototypes. The one selected will be finally awarded the contract for mass production.
The Army brass feels that the inclusion of three more companies would lead to a massive cost escalation to
15,000 crore just in developing the prototype. The total cost of the project is65,000 crore.
However, a ministry official said: “We have been receiving representations from some private players and it seems due process was not followed in shortlisting the two players. So, we have asked the Army to engage all five players, who had initially responded to Army’s proposal.”
The Army was initially slated to induct 835 new FICVs by 2017, with another 1,479 coming in by 2022. But now it will take another decade, according to a defence official.
The ministry is also of the view that the project should now first be taken up by the Defence Production Board, headed by the Secretary, Defence Production. Under normal circumstances, the Defence Acquisition Council takes decision on matters related to procurement.
New Indian Express