The Indian Army has received six bids for the Rs 60,000 cr Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme for development of prototypes and subsequent procurement of 2,610 tracked armoured vehicles for rapid movement of troops into battlefield.
These six competing bids were submitted on Monday, February 15, by eight of the 10 companies which were invited to participate in the programme via an Expression of Interest (EoI) issued by Army Headquarters on July 16, 2015. Technical bids were opened on Tuesday in the Delhi Cantonment by the FICV’s Integrated Project Management Team.
Out of the field of 10, Punj Lloyd and Rolta have not responded, and dropped out of the competition, this reporter has learnt from highly-placed sources.
Significantly, two Tata entities - Tata Motors and Tata Power SED - will be competing against each other in separate consortia. While Tata Motors has submitted a joint proposal with Bharat Forge, Tata Power SED has tied up with Titagarh Wagons Ltd. to form the second consortium. Rules restrict formation of consortia among only those companies invited to bid for this project.
Individual bids have been submitted by Mahindra Defence, Larsen & Toubro, Pipavav Defence & Offshore Company - now Reliance Defence & Engineering Limited - and the Government-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the last having been controversially guaranteed a free pass through nomination five months after the commencement of the competition.
The competition involves short-listing two of the five bids by the private sector for the development of a prototype by both of a modern, tracked FICV, meant to replace the Indian Army’s Soviet-origin BMP-II armoured vehicles for meeting troop mobility needs in a contemporary battlefield.
The OFB and two shortlisted private sector bidders will be declared development agencies. The Army will fund 80 per cent of the development cost of the prototypes under the 'Make' category of the Defence Procurement Procedure. The development process will be followed by competitive trials of prototypes and consideration of rival commercial bids before award of contract for supplying 2,610 FICVs to the Indian Army.
In their respective technical bids, the companies were required to present the concept and spell out details of technology tie-ups for development of the prototype. The bidding entities are free to select foreign partners for design, technology and funding.
A recent report in the Business Standard indicated the likelihood of the Bharat Forge-Tata Motors combo roping in General Dynamics of the US as the technology partner, and also of Tata Power SED and L&T leveraging their existing partnerships in ongoing programmes with South Korean companies Doosan and Samsung Techwin respectively for the FICV project.
The opening of bids on Tuesday is a signal that the Army and Ministry of Defence have ignored multiple objections by the private sector probables, and decided go ahead with the decade-old programme under Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2008 rules.
An earlier attempt with the FICV programme was aborted after allegations of irregularities during the tenure of the previous Government. This second attempt will be one of the most keenly watched Make in India programmes in the defence sector. Similar ‘Make’ programmes for the Army’s Battlefield Management System (BMS) and Tactical Communication System (TCS) have evoked a lot of interest. Two industry consortia - Tata Power SED- Larsen & Toubro, and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL)- Rolta – have been down-selected as development agencies.