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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Up For Grabs - Indian Army Contract For 200 Armoured Recovery Vehicles

Muddled, unimaginative acquisitions?

[Indian Army VT-72B]
via Bharat Rakshak
[Polish Army WTZ-3M]
via Wikipedia

The Indian Army has issued a Request For Information [RFI] to acquire, possibly, 200 Armoured Recovery Vehicles [ARV] 2. The primary role of these platforms are to carry out emergency repairs of battle tanks & armoured Troop carriers right in the middle of the battlefield, including freeing them from position where they've become stuck due to topography. An ARV is, thus, primarily, equipped with a crane, winch & dozer blades, including space to carry men & material for the job. The general practise is to modify an existing tank platform, thereby providing the vehicle with the required muscle, speed & protection needed for the task.


India's existing inventory of these vehicles have all consisted of adapted variants of the T-series tanks 1. Its natural, considering India's Armoured formation would've made Stalin, beaming over the Red Square, proud, the latest being the unceasing induction of T-90 tanks, with its "modular" acquisition [search T-90]. The Army's ARV fleet consists of the,

  • T-55-based Polish WZT-2 [near obsolescence]
  • T-72M1-based Slovakian VT-72B & the WZT-3 of Poland

Recent reports indicated the Army's desire to place a follow-on order for 200 more WZT-3 estimated to be worth $247.6 million USD. However, given the aspersions cast on the earlier contracts, apparatchiks must've thought its best to maintain safe distance "till matters cool down" or, the mundane, they perhaps couldn't reach an agreement. The Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment [CVRDE] has announced plans to develop a MBT Arjun-derived repair & recovery vehicle. It could, however, be a little while away. Moreover, incompatibility involving logistics for supporting the T-series & the Arjun, would ideally require that the ARV be based on the same tank chassis. Hence, perhaps, this RFI.

Some creative thinking, however, should've been exercised. A winch & crane-equipped vehicle to lift & pull the heavy load of a tank isn't, what one would describe as, the frontiers of Technology. Quite the opposite. The country has been license manufacturing these T-series set pieces since, possibly, even before the Big Bang occurred, and continues to do so today. It defies charitable explanation for not roping in established Indian private sector entities with proven credentials in developing Hydraulics-based solutions & material handling equipment to design, test & assemble a recovery platform fashioned out of the T-90 chassis being churned out from Avadi in ever increasing numbers. If needed, the GoI could then have signed a follow-on contract with the OEM to license manufacture those additional number of tanks that have been modified to make ARVs, or much better still, replace those Russian hardware with the same number of desi Arjun MBT.

A clear-sighted vision for acquisition would've envisaged the need for more T-Series ARRV a decade or so back & contracts should have been awarded to initiate indigenous efforts, leading to a finished product by now. Muddled shopping spree, the end-user is on. A project like this would've been ideal for pursuing through a Govt-Private partnership model. One is already hearing admission of omission, be it for a tangential case, from Government representatives themselves. Then again, it may well be the case that this RFI is the Govt's way of pressurising the existing Polish vendor, to gain an upper hand in negotiations. One does hope, however, that decision-makers see the merits in pursuing an indigenous course of action to meet this requirement - capacity building, capability enhancement, self-reliance,................


1 = some number of the ARV version of the indigenous Vijayanta Tanks could be in store

2 = alternately referred to as Armoured Repair & Recovery Vehicle [ARRV]

Also Read: Radical New Tank Camouflages Unveiled During Military Games In Russia