India's future main battle tank (FMBT) is projected to start replacing the Army's T-72 tanks starting 2020. Feasibility study on FMBT is being carried out by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
As on January 2, 2012, the Indian Army was still finalizing the Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR) for the FMBT.
On December 6, 2010 in a written reply in parliament, Defense Minister Shri AK Antony announced that Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirement (PSQR) of Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) has been formulated by the Army.
Feasibility study on FMBT is being carried out by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). The tank is projected to start replacing the Army's T-72 tanks starting 2020.
The tank will feature an indigenous 1,800 HP engine and transmission, collectively called Bharat Power Pack.
S. Sundaresh, Chief Controller (Armaments and Combat Engineering), DRDO, told The Hindu in November 2010 that the first prototype of the new engine will be ready in four to five years.
"For engine development, we have formed a national team comprising members from the academia, the user, industry and the DRDO. We have also gone in for an international consultant," said S. Sundaresh.
"We are confident that we will be ready with the FMBT prototype in five to seven years," he added. "We are trying to involve all the stakeholders — the user [the Army], quality control personnel and the production agency — in this project and the industry will be our partner. We will go for a modular design so that we can always upgrade the tank when new technology comes in."
The Business Standard reported on January 2, 2012 that CVRDE will develop a 1,800 HP engine for the tank. A 1,500 HP engine is adequate to power a 50 ton tank, but DRDO expects the weight of the FMBT to creep up and so is developing an engine with extra 300 HP.
From the academia, the IITs would be asked to participate. Automotive Research Association of India, Pune is also a likely participant.
Industry participants in the engine project include Kirloskar Oil Engines, BEML, and the Mahindras.
DRDO has received consultancy proposals from Ricardo of Britain and AVL of Austria.
Simultaneously, DRDO is identifying an Indian manufacturing partner or prime contractor. The Indian "prime contractor" would assemble the FMBT engines from engine components supplied by a network of sub-contractors.
CVRDE director P Sivakumar told the Business Standard that the consultants will finalize the engine design within 12 months, and take 18 months more to build the first prototype.
"Within 30 months, or three years maximum, the first engine would be ready for testing," he said.
"Both Ricardo and AVL have proposed that they design and build the first prototypes. But the Indian industry will work alongside the consultant. The first design is never perfect; so the consultant will make the changes needed in design, tolerances, or materials to refine the engine. Then, in the second phase, the Indian partner will produce the engine," Sivakumar added.
CVRDE will develop the transmission for the engine independently, but the design will be vetted by one from amongst the following three consultants: AVL; or US-based South West Research Institute.
CVRDE had earlier developed a 1500 HP transmission for the Arjun, but it was not fitted on the tank because the engine design was changed.
To begin with, the FMBT will feature a hydro-pneumatic suspension like the Arjun Mk-2. CVRDE proposes to develop an active suspension for the tank by 2030.
An active suspension has sensors to see the terrain ahead and make anticipatory adjustments to the suspension ensure a very smooth ride.
The Arjun Mk-2 will feature a hydro-pneumatic suspension to smoothen its ride, allowing it accurately hit a suitcase sized target 2 km away even when traversing uneven cross country terrain at a speed of 30 kph.
The FMBT will be armed with India’s first smoothbore 120-millimetre tank gun that would allow it to fire anti-tank missiles and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds.
DRDO currently uses a rifled gun on its tanks.
Speaking to the press on January 6, 2013, in Pune DRDO Chief VK Saraswat said DRDO was focusing on minimizing the weight of the FMBT.
"The idea is to reduce the weight of the tank. Developed nations such as the United States of America and Israel have been working on reducing the weights of battle tanks. Heavy weights of tanks affect their maneuverability. We are therefore looking to reduce the weight of FMBT to 50 tons each."
Saraswat was in Pune to attend the valedictory function of Post Induction Training School (POINTS) - 17 at the Defense Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) at Girinagar in Khadakwasla.
In an interview with India Today in April 2012, DRDO Chief VK Saraswat detailed the progress made towards developing the FMBT
"We are holding discussions with the army for this. We will finalise the specifications of the tank in six to eight months. We are looking at industrial partners for this. We want new technologies for weapons, mobility and signatures for the FMBT. We have to decide on the type of armour to use for it, whether active or passive. The FMBT will be a tank complimentary to the Arjun. It will not replace it. Each tank has its own theatre. The T-90 MBT (used by the Indian army) has its theatre, the Arjun has its own theater."