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Indian Army seeks new 4×4 soft-top vehicle for operations, to replace aged Maruti Gypsy

Source : The Print

Indian Army seeks new 4×4 soft-top vehicle for operations, to replace aged Maruti Gypsy
Mahindra AXE, the frontrunner in Indian Army's search for 4x4 soft-top vehicle for operations

After serving the forces for decades through deserts and mountains, the good old Maruti Suzuki Gypsy of the Army is set to be replaced, ThePrint has learnt. Sources in the defence and security establishment said a Request for Proposal (RFP) is set to be placed in the coming months seeking new 4×4 vehicles with soft-top that will replace the over 35,000 Gypsy cars in service in a phased manner.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, last week cleared Army’s proposal to acquire Light Vehicles GS 4X4. The Army has received clearance for purchase of 4,964 such vehicles and more would be bought in phases, sources said.

The DAC also cleared the tweaking of minimum kerb weight of the vehicle from 500 kg to 800 kg, the sources said.

“These vehicles will replace the Gypsy. An RFP will be issued in the next few months and then a trial would take place to see which vehicle suits the most,” a source said.

The source added that the Army is looking at a soft-top 4×4 that can be used in plains, deserts and rugged terrain like the mountains. A soft-top allows the soldiers to place rifles, recoilless guns to be mounted besides allowing easy movement of Quick Reaction Teams.

Asked about the possible replacements, sources said it will be an open tender and companies could very well present a brand new vehicle developed based on existing platforms. It is possible that the contract could be split between the lowest and the second-lowest bidder if both vehicles clear the trials.

The Gypsy weighs about 985 kg and is considered as the most dependable vehicle with easy maintenance. While Maruti Suzuki had stopped manufacturing the Gypsy since it no longer met the safety and emission norms, the Army had in 2018 got a special permission to order more of the same.

“The time has now come to replace the Gyspy with more modern and sturdy vehicles,” a second source said.

Safari and light strike vehicles to continue

Sources said that the hard-top Tata Safari Storme ordered by the Army in 2017 will continue to be in service. While it was speculated at the time that the Safaris would replace the Gypsy, sources said this was never the case as the Safari belongs to a different category.

The Safari was much bigger and heavier (around 1,800 kg) than the Gypsy and hence can’t be expected to perform like the Gypsy in specific terrains, they said.

The Safari is more used by senior officers of the local formations for movement rather than for specific operation-related roles.

While both Safari and Mahindra Scorpio had cleared nearly 15 months of trials, Tata emerged as the lowest bidder and won the contract for 3,192 units.

The Army also purchased light strike vehicles from Force Motors for its specialised units – Parachute and Para SF units in 2018. The need for these kind of specialised vehicles was actually envisioned in 2002 as part of a study conducted by the Army for modernisation of Special Forces.

Last year, the Army had also ordered 27 M4 armoured vehicles from Pune-based Bharat Forge of the Kalyani group, which has a tie-up with the South African firm Paramount Group.

Later, the Army also signed a contract with Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd for supply of 1,300 light specialist vehicles at a cost of Rs 1,056 crore. These armoured light specialist vehicles has carriage for medium machine guns, automatic grenade launchers as well as anti-tank guided missiles.

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