With Tatra deals on hold, BEML revving up on other army projects
It has been a turbulent year for the defence PSU Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML), with its Tatra truck line coming under the spotlight of allegations, and an ongoing CBI probe into the entire programme. Having risked its relationship with one of its largest customers, the Indian Army, the company has now lined up a raft of programmes it is interested in participating in as a developer and supplier. Many of these programmes are critical to continued modernisation of the Army’s infantry units. The requirements run into thousands of speciality vehicles for the Army’s infantry and special forces units. BEML has invited global expressions of interest to cater to Army requirements for 3,500 light bullet proof vehicles (LBPV), 2,500 infantry mobility vehicles, an unspecified number of light armoured multipurpose vehicles, 500-600 light speciality strike specialist vehicles and 228 light strike vehicles – a total of over 7,000 vehicles at the very least. BEML will be looking to acquire technology through a partner and build the vehicles at dedicated lines in country for the Army. The state-owned firm will, of course, compete against private competitors like Tata, Mahindra and others. BEML requires interested vendors or partners to express interest formally by October 9.
The Army has outlined a requirement of 500-600 light specialist vehicles – basically agile infantry vehicles with protection against small arms fire. The Army is looking for a vehicle with a minimum payload of 1,000 kg, and an unladen weight that cannot exceed 3,750 kg. The vehicle must have ground clearance not less than 250mm fully laden, and powered by a turbo-charged diesel engine with a minimum operating life of 1,00,000 km. BEML is looking for vendors who can field platforms with power to weight ratio not less than 25 kW/tonne fully laden with the air-conditioner on, sand and off-road tyres, self-sealing fuel tank with fire suppression features, stowage for 18 belt boxes of 7.62mm belted ammunition or six advanced rifle grade munitions (ARGMs). The vehicle also needs to be able to store at least 120 litres of water in two tanks. The Army also insists on power steering, automatic 4x4 transmission with an internal shift mode to 4x2 mode four forward gears and one reverse. As with most speciality vehicles, the Army requires independent suspension on all four wheels. The light speciality vehicle will need to be capable of operations in ambient temperatures ranging from freezing temperatures to 40 degrees Celsius. The Army wants to be able to push the vehicles to a maximum speed of 100 kmph on level highways and 60 km/h in desert/off-road conditions, with an acceleration of 0-60 km/h in 12 seconds. The vehicle needs to have a range of operation of minimum 400 km for cross country, and a gradeability of 30 degrees fully laden. Obviously, the Army has stipulated protection – stanag 1 on all sides and bullet-proof glass. Each light specialist vehicle will need to carry five passengers apart from the driver.
The largest requirement in the current list is for 3,500 LBPV. With a crew of 2+4 and a payload of 1,500 kg, the LBPV needs to have a kerb weight of not more than 7,500 kg. Operating range of vehicle designs fielded will be similar to the specialist vehicles, at 400 km. The vehicle will need 6-kg under vehicle blast protection in addition to bullet-proofing on all sides. The Army would like space to transport six antitank guided munitions (ATGMs). Transmission needs to encompass six forward gears and one reverse.
Another larger requirement is for 2,500 infantry mobility vehicles, with a seating capacity of 1+5. This will be a vehicle of not more than 9,000 kg unladen, and a payload of 1,800 kg (including 250 litres of drinking water). Similar bulletproofing requirements apply to the IMV as well — stanag 1 and bullet-proof glass. Most other parameters run similar to the LBPV qualitative requirements.
The Army is also looking at an unspecified number of light armoured multipurpose vehicles (LAM). Pre-requisites on this vehicle include mobility, firepower and protection for reconnaissance missions – the LAM need to be equipped with observation, surveillance and communication equipment, and built with a modular upgradable design. Importantly, the LAM needs to have stretch potential to incorporate imperative upgrades and retain functional superiority, according to BEML, which states in its invitation to potential partners, “The future battlefield will be characterised by fast movements and engagements over all types of terrain with fluid and rapidly changing situations. Real time surveillance, integrared C4I2 and precision weapon systems will be the mainstay of forces in conflict. Rapid deployment forces transportable by sea and air. The LAM should allow the mechanised forces to operate in such a wide spectrum of conflict.” The LAM will be a six-tonne (plus payload of 1.5 tonnes) vehicle with a crew of four including the driver. Crucially, the LAM needs to be transportable by air, sea and rail without modifications. For operations, the vehicle needs to have a sensor module incorporating a retractable mast holding a thermal imager and a day camera + GPS equipment. The Army wants the LAM to sport a weapon mount for one 12.7mm machine gun with a 180 degree swivel with front protection for the gunner. BEML has identified critical equipment on the LAM as: automotive systems including engine, drive train and suspension, protection – better metallurgy/armour technology to reduce weight, surveillance – thermal imager-based observation equipment – retractable/telescopic mast and controls, electronics sub-system management, communication, navigation, vehicle diagnostics etc and their integration, design – in-built growth/stretch potential and upgrades.
Finally, the Army is also looking to acquire at least 228 light strike vehicles (LSVs) for its Para (Special Forces) units, to “operate in hostile environment as an offensive weapon platform – in all terrains”. Configured as a 1+5 crew vehicle, the LSV will be a 3,000-kg vehicle with a 950-kg payload. The LSV’s range of operations will be 600 km at a cruising speed of not less than 110 km/h. A weapon mount in the co-driver’s seat for a 7.62mm general purpose machine gun and a weapon mount for a MBDA-BDL MILAN anti-tank missile must be included on the platform. The vehicle also needs to be capable of operations at high altitude without modifications.
StryKer armoured fighting vehicle