After having developed a first-of-its-kind multi-axle truck, which can carry and launch the supersonic BrahMos and Prahar missiles and the subsonic Nirbhay missile, the Mumbai-based company is working on future infantry combat vehicles (FICV).
The firm, which has 70,000 operational mobile units in the Indian defence forces, is also the largest supplier of vehicles to the three Indian defence forces and the paramilitary forces. However, the high-end sofisticated units used by the Indian Army are usually made by BEML-Tatra, MAN and Volvo.
Tata Motors' product line-up include bullet-proof troop carriers, armoured buses, mine protected vehicles, mobile hospital, water bowser and even unmanned aerial vehicle launchers, amongst others.
With increased focus now laid by the defence forces on procuring products developed within the country as against the earlier practice of imports, thus allowing them to save on buying and servicing costs, Tata Motors is eager to cash in on the growing demand. Tata vehicles carry an overall cost advantage of 30-40 per cent over BEML-Tatra trucks.
V S Noronha, vice-president (defence and government business), Tata Motors, said, "Tata Motors has been very proactive in the defence segment, so it is not that we wait for the order. We knew that somewhere down the line, there would be a better focus on indiginisation and keeping that in mind, we went ahead and developed the (LPTA 5252) 12X12. They are the military versions of the Prima truck."
The multi-axle Tata LPTA5252 (12X12) with a nine-speed automatic and manual gearbox showcased last year at the Defence Expo in New Delhi is the only vehicle of its kind developed by an Indian company capable of carrying missiles.
"The field trails for the 6X6 and 8X8 is over and we have told the Army that our 12X12 is ready and this will be initially required for the BrahMos programme and they have sent across people to have a look at the vehicle and we expect the trails to start this year. It took us two and half years to develop that vehicle," added Noronha.
Currently, the share of defence sales in the consolidated turnover of Tata Motors is minuscule. However, it has registered a robust growth despite the slowdown in company's passenger and commercial vehicle segment.
In the last financial year, the company reported a turnover of around Rs 1,000 crore from the defence segment with a growth of 50 per cent, compared to the previous year. This pales in comparison to the company's annual turnover of Rs 165,000 crore. However, efforts are on to make create a larger share for the segment.
"Amongst Indian companies, we would have 50 per cent market share in the military and about 70 per cent share in the paramilitary and police forces. We supply about 10,000 vehicles to the defence sector including to the police. In terms of revenue, we would want to increase the share of defence. We are aiming to notch up a couple of thousand crores (in revenues)," added Noronha.
The company is also investing Rs 600 crore for the development of FICV and a new manufacturing unit in Dharwad, Karnataka, with a capacity to produce 200 vehicles a year. Over the next six months, the company is hopeful of the government inviting tenders for the FICV project, which has the potential for deliveries of around 2,000 units. Mahindra & Mahindra is also amongst the companies short-listed for the FICV.