Indian Military to Procure 149 Russia-Licensed BMP-2 Combat Vehicles

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The BMP-2  is a second-generation, amphibious infantry fighting vehicle introduced in the 1980s in the Soviet Union, following on from the BMP-1 of the 1960s.

Faced with the continued delay of efforts to select a domestic company to upgrade its BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle fleet, the Indian Army had no choice but to buy 149 of the same outdated Russian-designed ICVs from the Indian government-owned Ordnance Factory Board, an Army official said.

“As the Ministry of Defence has not been able to [finalize] the procurement process of upgrading the outdated BMP-2 ICVs, the Indian Army had no choice but to buy 149 BMP-2 ICVs to replenish the inventory of around 1,200 BMP-2 ICVs,” said  the official, who like other Army sources quoted here asked not to be  named.

“Upgrading the BMP-2 ICVs in inventory will take time, and in the interim this order will replace the ones which have lived their life and are to be condemned beyond repair,” a second  Army official said.

However,  the need to upgrade the Army’s BMP-2 ICVs is urgent, the second official said, noting the demand  was raised a decade ago.

No MoD official would comment on the status of the BMP-2 upgrade. But an MoD source said the 149 additional  BMP-2s  purchased last month were to meet  “urgent requirements of the Indian Army.”

“As per the current doctrine of the Indian Army, BMP-2 meets the requirement of the Army,” the second Army official said. “However, as history has shown and recent conflicts around the world involving BMP-2 (the wars in Chechnya and Syria), BMP-2 as a weapon platform is extremely vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and even second-generation anti-tank guided missiles. In asymmetric warfare the BMP-2, without modern battlefield awareness sensors like laser warning systems, is a suicidal platform for the crew and Infantry stuck inside.”

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The BMP-2s ordered by the Army last month for US $140 million will be new vehicles but the same outdated model as the existing fleet.

After coming to power last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government chose against issuing a global tender to upgrade the Army’s Russian-made BMP-2s and instead issued a request for information (RFI) to domestic companies. But the response has been poor, the MoD source said.

“To explore the private-sector route, the Indian Army released an open RFI for comprehensive upgrade [of its existing BMP-2s] in 2014 wherein major private-sector companies such as Tata Grop, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge, Punj Loyd, etc., responded,” the ministry source said. “However, to date there hasn’t been much progress in this case.”

But no Indian company could upgrade the vehicles as specified without a foreign partner, and an executive of one domestic company offered the RFI said there has been “poor response from overseas companies as they await a formal request for proposal [RFP], which is now overdue after the RFI.”

US company General Dynamics, Britain’s BAE Systems, France’s Thales and Russia’s Rosoboronoexport have expressed interest in the project, but so far none have signed agreements to work with any domestic company on the BMP-2 upgrades, the executive added.

Under the proposed upgrade, the BMP-2’s current power pack will be upgraded from 285 horsepower to 380. The upgrade also will provide better observation and surveillance, night-fighting capability, fire control system and  anti-tank guided missile system. The  vehicle will gain a capability of having two missiles loaded in ready-to-fire mode, allowing the  gunner to fire missiles of his choice.

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The fire control system would have a ballistic control with sensors to monitor wind and temperature, and should have an advance accurate firing capability. A new turret is required to increase firepower  and to fire new types of ammunition, and there is a requirement for a comprehensive electro-optic fire control system.

The 149 BMP-2s ordered  last month also will be upgraded at a later stage, defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle said.

“The BMP- 2 ICVs on order are likely to be included in the BMP-2 upgraded block which has been floated to companies in India and abroad over a period and the tender is not finalized,” he said.

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