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Stryker Production under ‘Make in India’?

India explores joint production of Stryker armoured vehicles with the US as part of their Strategic Alliance

Issue 6 - 2023 By Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd)Photo(s): By US Army
General Dynamics’ Stryker Vehicles

News reports of November 10, 2023 quoted Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane to say that India is interested in a US offer for joint production of Stryker armoured vehicles to meet the needs of the Army. He also said the proposed deals for the joint production of GE Aerospace’s F414 engines in the country and the acquisition of next-generation armed drones from the US are on track.

“An initial offer on the (Stryker) infantry combat vehicle has come from the US. We have expressed our interest in discussing it further to take the co-production part ahead,” Aramane said during a joint media briefing with Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra on the 2+2 dialogue co-chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and their American counterparts Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken.

Aramane further said, “Our industrial and military teams will work with their US counterparts and come up with a concrete plan in this regard (joint production of Stryker vehicles.” He also added that discussions on the armoured vehicles were taking place under the roadmap for future defence industrial cooperation concluded by the two countries in June. The roadmap seeks to fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in critical areas such as air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; munitions, and the undersea domain.

Notably, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had embarked on a project to develop the Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) ‘Abhay’ for the Indian Army as a technology demonstrator for the futuristic ICV (FICV), which will eventually replace the Indian Army’s BMP-2s. The design of Abhay was completed by 2001 but the project faced delays due US sanctions after India’s nuclear tests. As of 2005, various systems of this vehicle were in advanced stages of development. The Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) of the DRDO has since completed the task of design, development and Armament integration of the 20-tonne Abhay, which is equipped with three types of armaments, and the main armament can engage both aerial and ground targets. Technology demonstration of the weapon and ammunition system has been successfully completed according to ARDE.

The pre-production prototype of Abhay was rolled out in June 2005 with development of the first armoured prototype in progress. In September 2019, it was announced that the FICV project will be fast tracked. Thereafter in January 2020, the then Army Chief General M.M. Naravane said that induction of FICV is scheduled for 2026-27.

The offer of the Stryker armoured vehicles by the US is actually some three years old, which was reported in these columns earlier. Follow up on the offer was probably delayed, hoping that the indigenous FICV project would get accelerated, which has happened in many earlier cases of defence manufacturing as well; the private industry perhaps would have met the required timelines. Also, decisions like joint production of Stryker armoured vehicles depends on political considerations including the right timing to extract maximum mileage.

Discussions on the armoured vehicles were taking place under the roadmap for future defence industrial cooperation concluded by the two countries in June

The Stryker armoured vehicles are manufactured by the US firm General Dynamics Land Systems. The Stryker comes in many variants. With the exception of some specialised variants, the primary armament of the Stryker is a Protector M151 Remote Weapon Station with .50 in (12.7mm) M2 machine gun, 7.62mm M240B machine gun, or 40mm Mk 19 grenade launcher. Some Stryker are fitted with 30mm cannon.

In September 2017, a Stinger missile was fired from a Stryker-mounted Common Remotely Operated Weapon System (CROWS) to intercept airborne targets in a demonstration, turning the vehicle into a short-range air defence system. In August 2018, 86 Strykers began fielding with a CROWS turret adapted to fit a FGM-148 Javelin tube, allowing the vehicle to fire the weapon without dismounting the troops.

A standard Stryker Brigade of the US Army typically consists of: 130 x 18-tonne Stryker ICVs; nine Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Vehicles; 27 Medical Evacuation Vehicles; 12 Engineer Squad Vehicles; 32 Commander’s Vehicles; 36 120mm Mounted Mortar Carriers; 56 Reconnaissance Vehicles; 13 Fire Support Vehicles; three NBC Reconnaissance Vehicles; and 12 105mm Mobile Gun Systems. American Stryker Brigades have been employed in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US delivered 189 Stryker vehicles to Ukraine, including 20 M1132 engineer squad vehicles, commencing March 2023. Thailand has 139 Stryker vehicles in service and North Macedonia is procuring 54. The US has also offered Stryker vehicles to Argentina, Bulgaria and Chile. However, Canada, Israel and Lithuania did not take the Stryker offered by the US although Israel had received three variants of Stryker for trials.

The Mechanised Infantry of the Indian Army is on the threshold of a critical transformation with the Army setting a brisk pace to equip its combat arms with a range of new capabilities. It would be interesting to watch progress of the proposed co-development of the Stryker vehicles under ‘Make in India’, its time table and its eventual fielding concurrent to the indigenous Project Abhay and the FICV. Looking at the large requirements of the Indian Military, perhaps both projects can be progressed simultaneously. Make in India, Make for the World would also have export potential, especially if the costs are lowered.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, during the recent bilateral meeting with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin discussed a wide range of defence and strategic issues, with particular focus on enhancing defence industrial cooperation and getting the defence industries from both sides together to co-develop and co-produce weapons and systems. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also symbolically handed over to Austin some items recovered in Assam as part of the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation. The items included parts of a parachute, uniforms and an airplane of the US forces from the World War II-era.