Domestic Requirements Drive Indian Tactical Vehicle Production

by Thomas Dolzall, Defense Analyst, Forecast International.

6×6 High Mobility Vehicle (HMVs) from Tata Motors

Domestic procurement by the Indian armed forces will account for the majority of Indian tactical vehicle production through 2028.

The Indian Army is simultaneously pursuing the fulfillment of several outstanding tactical vehicle requirements.  The Army is poised to continue to acquire locally manufactured tactical vehicles on a large scale over the course of the coming decade as it modernizes its vast transport, logistics and utility vehicle stocks to a more modern standard and replaces its remaining stocks of foreign designs with high-quality indigenous vehicles.

In 2015, the Indian Army ordered 1,239 6×6 High Mobility Vehicles (HMVs) from Tata Motors, whose headquarters are based in Mumbai.  The HMV variant will perform as a material-handling support platform, equipped with a crane to facilitate transport and field use of artillery ammunition stocks.  It will also feature communications and surveillance equipment, and provide technical, engineering and vehicle maintenance support.  In mid-2016, the Indian Army signed a follow-on order for an additional 619 HMVs.

The HMV will serve as a long-term replacement for the Czech-designed Force series of trucks, previously produced under license by Indian state-owned manufacturer BEML Ltd in order to fulfill the same operational functions as the new HMVs.

In 2016, the Indian Army awarded Tata Motors a contract for the procurement of 3,192 GS800 (General Service 800) Safari Storme tactical vehicles.  The military-build Safari Storme is adapted from Tata’s civilian sport utility vehicle of the same name.  It features an improved payload capacity (0.8 tonnes) and power profile relative to its civil counterpart and can operate in 4×4 or 4×2 mode as demanded.

The new Safari Storme vehicles are intended to initially complement and eventually replace the service’s large inventories of GS500 (General Service 500) Gypsy vehicles produced by Suzuki Motor Corporation’s Indian subsidiary Maruti Suzuki.  In August 2018, Tata announced that it had delivered 1,500 Safari Storme vehicles to the Indian armed forces.

The Gypsy replacement program is to be implemented gradually.  The current procurement rate of the Safari Storme will ensure that the GS500 class, which the Indian Army placed follow-on orders for as recently as 2014, remains in service in large quantities beyond 2027.

In 2016, Ashok Leyland executives outlined recent Stallion series orders by the Indian Army in a television interview with local media.  The most recent specialized purchase consisted of 450 Super Stallion vehicles and 850 4×4 ambulance variants.  According to the executives, Ashok Leyland delivers an average of 2,500 Stallion vehicles to the Indian military on an annual basis.

In 2018, Ashok Leyland received an order to provide 81 Super Stallion 10×10 vehicles to the Indian military.  The contract is reported to be worth approximately $14.5 million.  The 81 vehicles will provide an indigenous replacement for the launch/support vehicles that host the Army’s Russian-made 300mm Smerch rocket artillery systems.

Local news reports indicate that an equivalent order of new Ashok Leyland 12×12 vehicles for the Army’s strategic missile carriers is expected to arrive within the next several years.

The long-term requirement to procure large quantities of modernized, locally manufactured vehicle stocks will ensure a steady stream of follow-on orders for tactical vehicles by the Indian military through the next decade and beyond.

Indian tactical vehicles also generate considerable sales on the international defense market, particularly in Southeast Asia and Africa, although the reporting of orders and finalized deliveries in this domain remains largely opaque.

Reports indicate that Ashok Leyland tactical vehicles were sold to Zimbabwe to the tune of over 600 units in 2016, and Malawi was rumored to be on the verge of signing a similarly large deal with the company that same year.  However, it is unclear if an order ultimately materialized.

Although domestic requirements will remain the primary driver of demand for Indian tactical vehicles through the next ten years, medium-scale export sales of defense products to countries in Africa and Southeast Asia are an increasingly important and profitable source of additional revenue for Indian automotive contractors.