NEW DELHI, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- India's domestic manufacturer Tata Motors, best known for cars and trucks, is to enter the combat vehicle market and bid for sales with the Indian army, senior management said.
The announcement was made as Tata unveiled its new Mine Protected Vehicle at the Sixth International Land and Naval Defense Systems Exhibition in New Delhi.
Tata, the country's largest vehicle maker and which has supplied the army since 1958, already manufactures troop carriers and logistics trucks. The addition of the MPV to its lineup is part of company's strategy to widen its defense business to include frontline combat vehicles, a company statement said.
P.M. Telang, managing director of Tata Motors' Indian operations, said the aim "is to participate in the entire defense value chain" and also look for partnerships with foreign and national manufacturers, including other divisions of the wider Tata Group.
Tata's air-conditioned three-door MPV has a V-shaped hull that deflects blasts under the vehicle away from the unit, making it ideally suited for counterinsurgency operations, Tata said.
It includes two roof-top observation hatches, nine firing ports and a 360-degree roof-mounted rotating turret for either light or heavy machine guns. Underbelly protection can be customized to order.
Similarly, it comes in troop carrier, battlefield ambulance and combat post variants with capacity for eight to 12 occupants. Interior space is also available for an ADNAV system allowing night operations and mobility in extremely poor weather conditions.
The 245 PS diesel engine has a top speed of just less than 65 mph and handles a 60 percent gradient with its 860-mm ground clearance. Power-to-weight ratio is 20 horse power per ton.
Operating temperature ranges from minus 20C to 55C and tires are all run-flat systems.
Tata will offer the vehicle also to paramilitary and police forces, the statement said.
Tata officials would not comment openly on numbers of any new contract with the Indian army but a first order is believed to be as high as 1,000 units, a report by the national vehicle news Web site Wheels Unplugged said.
Tata's MPV will be up against a similar unit from Defense Land Systems India, a joint venture between the Indian company Mahindra and Mahindra and global defense manufacturer BAE Systems. It's new Mine Protected Vehicle India, the first product from the joint venture, is based on BAE System's RG family of vehicles derived from mine-protected vehicles from South Africa. The MPV-I was developed for the counterinsurgency work against the communist Naxalite movement in the northeast state of West Bengal.
Also in the running is Ashok Leyland with an MPV based on its Stallion 4x4 armored car, joint development with South African company Paramount Group. It has a maximum road speed of nearly 50 mph and a road range exceeding 600 miles without refueling, Ashok Leyland claims.
Tata displayed several of its production vehicles at Defexpo. These included its mobile 8x8 weapon platform, a light specialist vehicle for fast mobility and its 4X4 LPA 713 light armored troop carrier. The ATC has a maximum speed of around 65 mph and has optional automatic transmission.
According to Wheels Unplugged, another senior Tata official said the company would "participate in production of futuristic infantry combat vehicles which would work as a system integrator, besides participating in the upgrading and overhaul program of the Indian army's T-72 tank."