NEW DELHI --- After a period of forward momentum in 2018, the future of the Indian Army's long-gestating future infantry combat vehicle (FICV) program is now once again beset by uncertainty, as contract controversies and design-oriented disagreements among the program's primary sponsors in the new year have ground progress to a halt.
The FICV program was initially launched by the Indian Government in late 2009 and called for the development of an indigenous tracked armored vehicle platform intended to replace the Indian Army's vast but aging fleet BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, presently numbering upwards of 900 active duty vehicles. Major Indian contractors such as Mahinda, Reliance Defence, L&T, Tata Motors and Bharat Forge have all been involved in the program's development cycle and recent estimates hoped to see the vehicles enter actives service by 2025.
The FICV program has gone through multiple rounds of selection, assessment and collapse in the decade subsequent to its announcement, with successive interruptions to the program's progress stemming from internal debate over government versus private sector burden sharing, since dismissed protests lodged against the government by contractor Mahindra and mundane developmental and technological difficulties associated with the development of a new armored vehicle platform.
The most recent problems stem from divergent views on private versus public financial burden-sharing for the program, worth some 60,000 crore (approximately USD 8 billion).
The Army and Defense Ministry are said to be over duelling over an offer made by an unspecified contractor to develop prototypes without government funding. The Army is likewise increasingly concerned about the lengthy development to deployment timeline under the current indigenous development guidelines, given the perceived strategic necessity of getting modern new vehicles into the field as soon as possible in order to match the evolving combat capabilities of China and Pakistan's armored fleets along India's border regions.
A military official quoted by the Economic Times suggested that given the perpetual hurdles associated with the program's development, an indigenous replacement to the BMP-2 might not be able to deploy to the field until 2050.