India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved the INR24 billion (USD371 million) upgrade of 693 Indian Army (IA) BMP-2/2K Sarath infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) to BMP-2M standard.
This includes equipping the licence-built ICVs with advanced thermal imaging sights for night-fighting capabilities as well as with modern integrated fire control systems.
India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, awarded the ICV upgrade on 8 July to Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), both of which are state-owned companies.
The OFB unit in Medak licence-built around 1,250 BMP-2/2Ks between 1987 and 2007, all of which needed upgrading.
Industry sources said that by awarding the contract to OFB and BEL, the MoD has contravened its own Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2016 that dictates competitive bidding in the acquisition process.
Senior IA officials told Jane’s that the ICV upgrade was “arbitrarily” awarded to the two state-owned companies without user trials, and that the approval of the OFB/BEL-designed fire control system was sanctioned merely on a “performance demonstration”.
Mandatory maintainability, quality assurance, and electro-magnetic interference trials were not carried out, a senior industry executive told Jane’s on condition of anonymity.
“Under pressure from the army, which wanted the ICV upgrade to be fast-tracked, the MoD also ignored several indigenous private sector companies who had developed assorted technologies for the BMP-2 upgrade,” the source said.
Many of these potential vendors were involved in the MoD’s long-pending Future ICV programme and wanted to try out their technologies in the BMP-2/2K upgrade project, the source added.
The IA and MoD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.