Beginning with the manufacture of military vehicles for the Allied Forces during World War II, Tata Motors’ defence business has Rs. 1500 crore worth of orders currently.
Tata Motors has bagged an order to supply around 1,239 LPTA 2038 high-mobility 6×6 multi-axle trucks from the Indian Army. Claimed to be the single largest order awarded to an Indian OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) in land systems under the DPP by the Indian army, the order for 6×6 vehicles is for ‘Material Handling Cranes’ for the loading-unloading and transportation of ammunition pallets, spares and other operational equipment. Speaking about the development, Vernon Noronha, Vice President, Defence and Government Business, Tata Motors, said that defence and internal security have been the driving factor, supported by favourable government policies. “A favourable government policy in 2006, which aimed at cutting down the purchase of imported defence equipment from 65 per cent to 30 per cent was the driving factor. Another driving factor was the need for the forces to modernise. We are mobility specialists and therefore decided on Land Systems,” Noronha added.
With earlier Land System vehicles limited to being sourced from BEML-Tatra and government agencies largely, the 6×6 multi-axle truck supply from Tata Motors marks the inclusion of indigenously developed ones. The LPTA 2038 was subjected to a trial run of 25 months. Claimed to have been designed to cope up with extreme on or off-road loads, the LPTA 2038 underwent trials like water-fording, on cross country terrains and plains, and at VRDE’s (Vehicle Research and Development Establishment) torture track.
“The truck was tested in – 22 degree Celsius temperatures and at +50 degree Celsius in deserts. This was in the wake of competition from Tatra and MAN,” stated Noronha. With defence vehicles from the company finding use with US and UN peace keeping forces in Africa, including an order for 1,000 militarised Xenons from Myanmar, and 175 militarised Xenons for Afghanistan, Tata Motors is concentrating on Land Systems. “We are concentrating on combat vehicle range, and this is where an effort to move away from older generation vehicles is on in India. Armed forces floated an EOI to move to newer generation combat vehicles. Armoured vehicles command 30 per cent of the Land Systems market,” expressed Noronha. He drew attention to the FICV project to transfer defence business in India. It is a USD 10 billion anticipated programme to replace old BMPs, and is driven by ‘Make-in-India’ intent based on the need to localise key technologies Noronha added. He said further that his company has good advantage for FICV project as it has access to global technologies; the ability to focus on mobility; the ability to integrate, and the ability to indigenise. FICV is expected to emerge in the next three-to-four months.
Apart from the LPTA 2038, which is designed for easy operability and maintenance as accessing the aggregates is easy, Tata Motors has also developed LPTA 3138 8×8, LPTA 5252 and a mine protected vehicle powered by a ISBe 245 bhp Euro 3 engine with GVW 14,300 kg. Capable of withstanding a blast of 21 kg of TNT, a few mine protected vehicles (MRAP or APC) have already found their way into police forces operating in naxal affected areas. The wheeled amphibious ICV platform (Kestrel) that Tata Motors has developed, is an infantry combat vehicle. It is powered by a 600 bhp ISLe engine. It is also a part of the program that is funded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Tata Motors has received an order for three, and will be fitted with diverse machine kits. It is a modular platform explained Noronha. He further explained that Tata Motors acquired many systems to put in Kestrel. Hydro-pneumatic struts, and electronic systems and architecture with plug and play for example. Group companies like TCS, Tata Cummins helped with the design, said Noronha.
Hoping that the modern Land Systems platforms will have a 30-year life cycle like the ones before, Tata Motors is also supplying kits to the Jabalpur Vehicle Factory (VFJ) to built the LPTA 715 4×4. The company is supplying 2,500 kits per year, and more than 40,000 units have been made by VFJ till date. Tata Motors is also co-operating with Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) and DRDO to enter the defence space. It has bagged an order to supply 702 Light Anti-Mine Vehicles (LAMV) with OFB, and 100 Kestrels with DRDO. Working on a revenue model, the company, according to Noronha, has Rs.1,500 crore worth of defence vehicle orders currently. The 6×6 order was won against two competitive agencies. Apart from the Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS) for mobility in soft sand desert conditions to enable the driver to adjust the tyre pressure from his seat, the LPTA 2038 is also fitted with a self recovery winch, modular cabin with HVAC, and is fully-ready for warmongering. Capable of achieving sustained speeds of 40 kmph on severe cross country terrains, the vehicle can be customised for a wide range of applications like CGT (Common Gun Tower), MBRL (Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher), MFU (Missile Firing Unit), MSV (Missile Service Vehicle), FSV (Field Service Vehicle), SRSAM (Short Range Surface to Air Missile), QRSAM (Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile), LLQRM (Low Level Quick Reaction Missile), and MRV (Medium Recovery Vehicle). The combat vehicle according to Noronha will integrate at least 50 new technologies.
Having done business worth Rs.2,000 crore in the last three years, the company expects to double the revenue in the next three years. It plans to do so on many fronts including a front that is looking at modernising from 500 kg payload platforms to 800 kg payload platforms. “The Scorpio and Safari were selected,” said Noronha. His company has bagged an order for the supply of 3,192 highly modified Safari Storme platform at Rs. 10 lakh a piece approximately. With close to 30,000 to 45,000 Gypsys and Commanders on the verge of replacement, the armed forces according to Noronha are looking at vehicles with more power, auto transmission and independent suspension. Explaining that military vehicles are over designed, and have to undergo numerous trials (like the maintain-ability trial) over fairly longer periods, Noronha opined that it is the price that works to their advantage. He concluded, “In combat too, we expect to penetrate on price. Our vehicles are as good as a MAN or Mercedes-Benz, and cost approximately 35 per cent less.”