For the first time, an Indian vehicle manufacturer will deliver heavy duty, high mobility vehicles for the Army’s Russian-built Smerch Multi-Barrel Rocket launchers (MBRL) as well to carry strategic missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
In April, Ashok Leyland was awarded a ₹100-crore contract for 81 high mobility 10x10 vehicles by the Army to replace the Russian vehicles which currently carry the Smerch launchers.
“The delivery will start in this financial year and will be completed in the next financial year,” said Amandeep Singh, head of Defence, Ashok Leyland.
To reduce imports
The tender for the vehicles was floated by the Army in 2015 and trials were completed in 2017-end, with three contenders in the race. The 10x10 vehicle is powered by the Ashok Leyland 360HP Neptune engine and can carry a maximum load of 27 tonnes at a maximum speed of 60 kmph. Some of the vehicles will be fitted with rocket handling cranes.
“This will reduce dependency on imports. It [the vehicle] has undergone extensive trials by the Army. The feedback is that our vehicle is superior to the Russian vehicles in use. These are fully designed, developed and built in India,” Mr. Singh said.
Ashok Leyland also won a tender from the DRDO to develop an even heavier 12x12 vehicle to mount the country’s long range strategic missiles. These vehicles can carry a maximum load of 34 tonnes.
An Army source observed that indigenising vehicles is a key step in improving the maintenance and efficiency of the Army’s logistics chain. In recent years, Indian vehicle manufacturers have managed to develop a variety of heavy and specialist vehicles required by the Armed Forces, thereby reducing import dependency.
India initially procured two regiments of the 12-tube, 300 mm Smerch systems from Russia under a ₹2,600 crore signed in end 2015, and later procured additional systems under a second deal in 2007. Each regiment has two batteries of six launchers each. The Smerch has a maximum range of 90 km.